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The Best Teas to Improve Your Mood, According to Science

With everything going on in the world right now, you may be feeling a little anxious or uneasy.

You may also be fighting off the blues or dealing with extra stress in your coronavirus isolation. 

You’re not alone! That’s why we wanted to show you how to use tea for mood enhancement when you’re feeling less than your usual self.

We’ll also touch on how to combine tea with aromatherapy to boost your mood and banish your jitters.

How can a simple cup of tea accomplish so much?

Many say it’s all thanks to l-theanine.

What is L-Theanine?

L-theanine is a powerful amino acid that naturally builds up in the leaves of Camellia Sinensis tea plants. Japanese researchers first discovered L-theanine in green tea back in 1949.

There are so many reasons we keep talking about l-theanine on this blog.

L-theanine can affect everything from your sleep, stress, focus, and brain health to your immune system.

And that’s still just the beginning of its incredible health benefits.

How L-Theanine in Tea Works to Affect Your Moods

L-theanine is considered the hero behind tea’s extraordinary mood-boosting effects.

Research has shown that l-theanine may have a positive impact on your psyche because it’s able to cross your blood-brain barrier, which is where it begins to work its magic on how you feel.

According to studies, l-theanine:

1. May Boost Important Neurotransmitter Levels

Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that deliver information from different parts of your body to your brain. 

Messages can be sent from one brain cell to the next, or a neurotransmitter may send a message from your brain cells to your muscles, for example [1].

Certain neurotransmitters influence how you feel.

For instance, serotonin helps regulate positive feelings, and a lack of it may lead to depression. 

Dopamine functions as a neurotransmitter and gives off a happy, “rewarding” sensation. And GABA, which is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, can regulate anxiousness by blocking things that cause stress.

According to research, l-theanine acts as a relaxing agent and increases all three of these critical neurotransmitters to naturally improve moods [2]. 

2. May Help Provide Calm

Scientists from nine peer-reviewed studies uncovered similarly positive benefits of l-theanine for mental health. 

When l-theanine was taken daily, researchers saw improvements in participants’ moods and healthy regulation of their stress and anxiety symptoms [3].

Another meta-analysis of studies highlighted that l-theanine helped support a sense of calm in participants who usually responded poorly to stress and anxiety [5].

3. May Support a Healthy Stress Response

In one double-blind study, researchers gave participants a drink containing l-theanine or a placebo. Then they measured the participants’ cortisol stress response after a stress-inducing multitasking test [4].

Participants who were more anxiety-prone had a healthier cortisol response after drinking l-theanine. This type of improved stress management was noted within one hour of taking the test and continued past the three-hour mark [4].

These positive results have also been experienced by people who aren’t typically high-stressed [6].

So drinking teas may be enough to help lift your spirits. But there are specific types of tea to reach for:

The Best Teas for Mood Enhancement

Which types of teas should you keep on hand when you need a mood reset?

When you’re feeling down, stressed, or anxious, brew yourself a cup of:

1. Green Tea

Drinking green tea may support a healthier mood, according to 21 reviewed studies on the topic [10].

Scientists say that green tea’s l-theanine, along with caffeine, may support lower stress levels, improved memory, and healthier brain function too.

Another body of research noticed that women were better able to relax when drinking green tea as well [11].

2. Matcha Tea

Matcha tea, which is made from grinding whole green tea leaves, contains higher levels of l-theanine than regular green tea. This means it may have even more powerful mood-boosting effects.

Scientists in one review of 49 studies found that the l-theanine and caffeine combination in matcha tea may help support relaxation, decrease tension, and promote feelings of calmness [9].

The l-theanine/caffeine combination also means you may experience a state of “relaxed alertness” where you’re both calm and ultra-focused at the same time.

3. Black Tea

Researchers learned that drinking black tea for at least six weeks helped participants decrease their cortisol (stress) levels. They also noticed a boost in relaxation after acute stress in healthy men [11].

The best black teas to keep in your rotation include English breakfast, chai, and oolong tea (which is like having the benefits of green and black tea in one).

4. Chamomile Tea 

Chamomile tea is often used to bring about drowsy feelings for sleep. 

But studies show that chamomile tea may be beneficial for helping with depressed mood and anxious feelings [15] [16].

Along with chamomile, many herbal tea blends geared for stress relief also include relaxing herbs and roots like lemon balm, passionflower, valerian, lemongrass, and ashwagandha.

5. Turmeric Tea

Turmeric, which is part of the ginger family, has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda for thousands of years. It contains over 200 phytochemical compounds, with the most well-studied being curcumin. 

Research shows this polyphenol may support healthy BDNF levels, which may improve your mood and help you better deal with stressful situations. 

In a meta-analysis of nine studies, scientists discovered curcumin may improve depression and anxiety symptoms too [17].

To make your own turmeric tea, all you need is fresh or ground turmeric and hot water.

Along with teas and tisanes, studies are also starting to prove that aromatherapy may be beneficial for your mental health.

Aromatherapy for Better Moods

Aromatherapy is the practice of using fragrant plant extracts and essential oils to promote improved health. 

These are our favorite mood-boosters:

Menthol. When researchers examined the menthol in peppermint and ylang-ylang extract, they learned that the peppermint helped enhance memory and alertness while the ylang-ylang increased calmness [12]. 

So sipping on peppermint tea may help you breathe in these powerful aromas and relax.

Lavender extract helped improve both mood and anxiety in a small study of neurology patients in a long-term intensive care unit [13]. Researchers found that the lavender contributed to better mood scores and lower psychological distress [13].

Bergamot extract, which emits a citrus smell, has also been shown to combat stress and anxiety when inhaled via aromatherapy [14]. You’ll often find bergamot in earl grey tea. 

You can either sip teas with these extracts or add them to your essential oil diffuser while drinking the calming teas mentioned earlier. 

You’ll double your mood-enhancing efforts and quickly slip into a state of stress-free bliss.

Final Thoughts on Drinking Tea for Mood Enhancement 

If you’re looking to boost your mood naturally, or need a quick pick-me-up, don’t underestimate the power of tea leaves and aromatherapy to melt away your stress.

Find comfort in the ritual of brewing the perfect cup of tea, inhaling the calming aromas, and taking a minute to meditate and find your center again. 

These natural remedies have been shown to support better moods. And they may be enough to lift your spirits in these uncertain times, like a rainbow after a terrible storm.

What if you’re feeling sluggish at home and need an energy boost? Check out the 7 best high-caffeine teas next!

The Best Tea to Improve Your Mood, According to Science

The Best Teas to Improve Your Mood, According to Science
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The Best Teas to Improve Your Mood, According to Science
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Jessica Ederer, JD, CPT, FNS, RYT
Pique's Head of Content & Wellness Education, is a Certified Personal Trainer, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, RYT, and holds a JD from UC Berkeley. After 10 years as a practicing trial lawyer, she shifted gears and has spent the past 8 years as a health coach, educator and writer. It's her passion to help people learn sustainable, effective ways to unlock their full wellness potential. When she's not teaching or writing, you can find her hiking, mountain biking, cycling, backcountry skiing, camping and drinking anywhere from 5-7 cups of tea per day.
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