Is Theanine the Magic in Tea?


by Imperial Tea Garden July 20, 2017

Tea's ability to calm and stimulate has been recorded in Chinese lore and seen in practice among Buddhist monks during meditation.  How can one beverage cause the brain to react in both ways?  During studies, researchers have found that theanine is absorbed by the small intestines and crosses the blood brain barrier where it affects neurotransmitters and increases alpha brainwave activity. These alpha brain rhythms are known to induce a calmer, yet more alert sate of mind. Increasing alpha brain waves can stimulate creativity and minimize depression according to many leading researchers. 
Brain waves are divided into five different bandwidths that create a spectrum of human consciousness. Our brain waves change throughout the day and are part of a feedback loop that is influenced by what we’re doing.  While we are sleeping, daydreaming, thinking and while we sleep the brain is in a "state of Mind" and varying brain waves can be measured.
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  • Delta waves range from .5 to 3 Hz, delta waves are the slowest brain waves and occur primarily during our deepest state of dreamless sleep.
  • Theta waves range from 3 to 8 Hz and occur during sleep but have also been observed in the deepest states of Zen meditation.
  • Alpha waves (8 to 12 Hz) are present when your brain is in an idling default-state typically created when you're daydreaming or consciously practicing mindfulness or meditation. Alpha waves can also be created by doing aerobic exercise or jogging.
  • Beta waves (12-30 Hz) typically dominate our normal waking states of consciousness and occur when attention is directed towards cognitive and other tasks. Beta is a ‘fast’ wave activity that is present when we are alert, attentive, focused, and engaged in problem solving or decision making. Depression and anxiety have also been linked to beta waves because they can lead to "rut-like" thinking patterns. 
  • Gamma waves (25 to 100 Hz) typically hover around 40 Hz and are the fastest of the brain wave bandwiths. Gamma waves relate to simultaneous processing of information from different brain areas and have been associated with higher states of conscious perception.

Alpha Waves, Biofeedback, Meditation, and Mindfulness

Alpha waves took center stage in the early 1960s with the creation of EEG machines used to to teach practitioners how to create alpha brain waves.  Techniques were developed to consciously alter brain waves using direct feedback provided by an EEG type of device.

When alpha waves are prominent, your sensory inputs tend to be minimized and your mind is generally clear of unwanted thoughts. When your brain shifts gears to focus on a specific thought—in either a positive or negative way—alpha oscillations tend to disappear and higher frequency oscillations begin to dominate.

Alpha wave biofeedback has been shown to be a useful tool for treating anxiety and depression. Because alpha waves are linked with relaxed mental states, an increase in alpha wave activity is the goal of most biofeedback training. EEG can be used to provide moment-to-moment feedback when alpha waves increase or decrease.  

Mindfulness training and meditation tend to produce noticeably more alpha waves without the use of technological machinery.




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