Tea has potential benefits for most parts of the body, but one of the most important is tea’s impact on brain health. Studies show that tea can boost brain function, and regular tea drinking over the long term can improve cognitive function and memory in older adults.
Any tea made from the Camellia sinensis plant, which includes all black, green, oolong, and white teas, contains an amino acid called l-theanine. On its own, l-theanine can reduce stress and anxiety, but combined with tea’s caffeine, can improve brain function. Several studies have found that the combination of caffeine and l-theanine is more effective than caffeine alone in increasing subjects’ self-reported alertness and energy, as well as improving performance during demanding cognitive tasks. These effects were greatest in older adults and people with existing neurological conditions.
Improved cognitive function isn’t the only benefit of the combination of l-theanine and caffeine, though. Research shows that along with boosting caffeine’s best effects, l-theanine can also decrease caffeine’s unwanted effects. L-theanine mitigates caffeine’s interaction with the brain and can prevent the jitters and crash that some experience when consuming caffeine alone.
The amounts of l-theanine in a cup of tea can vary significantly, but green tea tends to have the most. Matcha stands out as the type of tea with the most l-theanine; up to five times more than regular green tea. The tea leaves used to make matcha are grown in the shade, which enhances the l-theanine content.
Want to try matcha? Here's a few of our favorites:
Along with being a great productivity booster, tea also shows promise for long-term cognitive improvement. A study in Singapore compared the brains of people who drank green, oolong, or black tea at least four times a week for at least 25 years with the brains of non-tea drinkers. They found that the brain regions of tea drinkers were interconnected in a more efficient way than non-tea drinkers, even when adjusting for lifestyle and general health.
To illustrate the significance of this result, Assistant Professor Feng Lei, the team leader of the study, compared the paths of the brain to roads. “When a road system is better organized, the movement of vehicles and passengers is more efficient and uses less resources. Similarly, when the connections between brain regions are more structured, information processing can be performed more efficiently," he explained.
Some herbal teas have also shown promise in improving brain health.
A study of Melissa officinalis, more commonly known as lemon balm, found that Alzheimer’s patients significantly increased their scores on Alzheimer’s and dementia scales when they consumed lemon balm daily over the course of four months.
Want to try lemon balm tea? Here's our favorite blends:
Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, is attributed to improving brain function and working memory. Like lemon balm, studies also suggest that it could be effective in Alzheimer’s patients.
Want to try turmeric tea? Here's our favorite blends:
In a study of middle-aged women, participants who consumed ginger daily for two months exhibited enhanced working memory. Studies of ginger in animals also suggest that it can decrease brain inflammation and protect against age-related decline in brain function.
Want to try ginger tea? Here's our favorite blends:
BRAIN-BOOSTING TEA BOX
Is there a better study aid than tea? As back to school season begins, Sips by is helping you get the grade with the Brain Boost Tea Box. This box includes teas to energize your body and spirit and boost memory. $1 from sales of each box goes to the Alzheimer's Association.
About Sips by: We’re a female-founded and led startup that makes discovering tea fun, personalized, and affordable. The Sips by Box is the only multi-brand, personalized tea subscription box. Each month, we match tea drinkers across the U.S. with delicious teas from over 150 global tea brands that we’re sure they’ll love. Based out of Austin, Texas, we are adept at savoring a hot mug even when it’s seasonally inappropriate.