Could a Cup of Green Tea Be Your Dose of Calm and a Way to Tame Stress?

Green Tea and Stress Relief

It’s relaxing to brew a cup of fresh tea, pause for a moment, and enjoy the fragrant aroma and satisfying flavor. But now you may have another reason to enjoy a cup of tea when things get rough and stress rears its ugly head. Research shows that drinking green tea may relieve symptoms of mental stress.

What makes green tea a stress reliever? Green tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant and is made by steaming fresh leaves of the plant to stop them from oxidizing before drying them. Although both black and green tea come from the same plant (Camellia sinensis), green tea, being less oxidized, contains more antioxidant-rich polyphenols than black tea. Therefore, there’s a lot of focus on its potential health benefits.

However, green tea may have calming properties too, making it an ideal beverage to drink when you feel stressed out. Here’s what research shows about this popular beverage and its effect on mental health.

Green Tea: Does It Have Stress-Relieving Benefits?

In Japan, Researchers at Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine looked at the effects green tea drinking has on mental stress and anxiety. The researchers used a standardized psychological distress scale to measure mental stress in the study participants when did and didn’t drink green tea. Their findings?

Green tea drinkers who sipped at least 5 cups of green tea per day scored lower on measurements of mental stress and anxiety relative to not drinking green tea. The benefits held up even when they excluded other factors that could explain the results. What’s less clear is why green tea reduces anxiety and other stress-related symptoms. Some component in green tea appears to have a calming effect and scientists have a theory as to what it is.

Green Tea Contains a Calming Chemical

When you sip a high-quality cup of Japanese green tea, you consume substantial quantities of a compound called theanine.

Theanine is a naturally occurring amino acid found in green teas and other plants. It can cross the blood-brain barrier, which means it can enter the brain. Once entering the brain, it helps promote relaxation and the physical and psychological manifestations of stress. Theanine works by boosting a brain chemical called GABA, which activates brain waves called alpha waves that bring about a sense of calm.

Some research also shows drinking green tea reduces stress hormones like cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine which contribute to the symptoms of stress. These hormones increase when we experience stressful situations and further worsen anxiety.

Its effects on the brain make theanine a natural anxiety reliever. Unfortunately, most low-grade teas do not contain enough theanine to reduce mental stress symptoms; therefore, whether green tea reduces mental stress symptoms depends on the quality of the tea you drink. To maximize the benefits, choose Japanese green tea of high quality.

What about the caffeine in green tea? Green tea contains caffeine, although less than black tea or coffee. Those who drink high-quality Japanese green tea feel relaxed rather than energized because theanine offsets the stimulatory effect of the caffeine in green tea.

Other Health Benefits of Green Tea

Green tea isn’t a one-trick pony. It also contains compounds that could help fight disease. Preliminary studies show compounds in green tea are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, some cancers, and type 2 diabetes. However, this is an area that needs more research to show that green tea directly contributes to the risk reduction. Studies are also looking at whether green tea may play a role in protecting against or mitigating non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. (NAFLD) Green tea also contains caffeine, which may contribute to some of the benefits.

The most powerful polyphenol antioxidant in green tea is epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), The amount of green tea needed to get health benefits depends on factors including age, weight, gender, and personal health history. Most studies show drinking three cups of green tea per day or more is enough to offer some benefits.

Be aware that consuming large amounts of ECGC could cause liver damage. Consuming the equivalent of 8 cups of green daily or more has been associated with a rise in liver enzymes, a marker of liver damage, in some individuals. But you don’t need that quantity to get the calming benefits of drinking green tea.

Maximize the Quality of the Green Tea You Drink

Look for high-quality loose-leaf Japanese green teas (not bags) sourced from a reputable supplier and store it in an air-tight container. Bottled green tea is high in sugar and most of it doesn’t contain substantial quantities of theanine or ECGC.

What you consume green tea with affects its absorption and bioavailability. For example, adding a squirt of citrus, like lemon juice, to green tea, boosts the number of polyphenols, like ECGC, your body absorbs. But if you’re iron deficient or take an iron supplement, don’t take your iron supplement and green tea at meals. Some of the polyphenols in green tea reduce iron absorption.

Also, don’t reduce the health benefits of green tea by adding sugar. If you like your tea sweeter, add a small amount of a natural, calorie-free sweetener like Stevia.

The Bottom Line?

Could green tea be your cup of calm? Next time you’re dealing with mental stress or anxiety, why not try a soothing cup of green tea? It may be the natural stress reliever you’ve been looking for. Beyond being a panacea for anxiety, green tea has other potential health benefits as well. It’s a “better for you” beverage.


  • Williams JL, Everett JM, D’Cunha NM, Sergi D, Georgousopoulou EN, Keegan RJ, McKune AJ, Mellor DD, Anstice N, Naumovski N. The Effects of Green Tea Amino Acid L-Theanine Consumption on the Ability to Manage Stress and Anxiety Levels: a Systematic Review. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2020 Mar;75(1):12-23. doi: 10.1007/s11130-019-00771-5. PMID: 31758301.
  • Tang G, Xu Y, Zhang C, Wang N, Li H, Feng Y. Green Tea and Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG) for the Management of Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Diseases (NAFLD): Insights into the Role of Oxidative Stress and Antioxidant Mechanism. Antioxidants (Basel). 2021 Jul 5;10(7):1076. doi: 10.3390/antiox10071076. PMID: 34356308; PMCID: PMC8301033.
  • “EGCG (Epigallocatechin Gallate): Benefits, Dosage, and Safety.” 26 Apr. 2019, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/egcg-epigallocatechin-gallate.
  • Zijp IM, Korver O, Tijburg LB. Effect of tea and other dietary factors on iron absorption. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2000 Sep;40(5):371-98. doi: 10.1080/10408690091189194. PMID: 11029010.

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