If you want to improve concentration, try sipping tea. While any tea may help, the white or green varieties may be the best. All teas come from the Camellia sinensis plant, differing only by how they are harvested and processed. All contain the amino acid L-theanine, which, according to a May 2011 article by Dr. David Blyweiss, promotes relaxation and improved mental focus. However, in a 2009 study at Anhui Agricultural University in China, published in the "Journal of Food Composition and Analysis," researchers found the most L-theanine in white and green teas, suggesting either may be the best choice for improving concentration. Consult your doctor before using any herbal product.
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Tea Promotes a Relaxed State of Alertness
If you meditate, you are familiar with the relaxed state of alpha. Individuals who ingest L-theanine experience alpha brain wave activity, which is similar to the type of relaxation and mental alertness experienced by meditators, reports Blyweiss. This relaxed, though awake, state may explain why Buddhist monks described in a 2008 Boston College paper drank tea to stay calm and alert during long hours of meditation.
L-theanine Plus Caffeine Promotes Concentration
In a 2008 study conducted at Northumbria University in England, researchers report that L-theanine's benefits may be enhanced when taken with caffeine. Published in the journal "Biological Psychology," the study showed that when given both L-theanine and caffeine at the same time, participants were more alert, less tired and more accurate when completing various tasks than were those who received a placebo. Since both white and green tea also contain caffeine, this study further supports their usefulness in promoting concentration.
If you suffer from anxiety, you know it can impair your ability to concentrate effectively. Fortunately, sipping tea may help with this condition. Blyweiss reports that L-theanine is important in the formation of a neurotransmitter called GABA, which affects the release of dopamine and serotonin. According to Dr. C. George Boeree, a retired professor from Shippensburg University, GABA "acts like a brake to the excitatory neurotransmitters that lead to anxiety." This means drinking green or white tea may help you concentrate by calming your anxiety.
Tea appears to have few if any side effects for most people. The Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center states there are no reported side effects from taking L-theanine. However, consumption of large amounts of green tea may cause nausea, irritability and stomach upset in some individuals. Always consult with your doctor before using any new herbs.