It’s no great secret that my brain is somewhat defective, and that I respond better to holistic treatment than medication, at least over time. A regimen of SAMe has done a bang-up job of helping my depression. I didn’t have nearly the usual problem with seasonal depression last winter. On the other hand, I’ve continued to suffer from anxiety. A few months ago, I switched to a lower-stress job without the panic-inducing commute. I had hoped this would resolve my anxiety, but that hasn’t been the case.
Since the depression responded so well to supplements, I’ve been researching options for anxiety. I used to drink Yogi’s “Kava Stress Relief” tea. One cup did induce a “calm, relaxed and focused” state. However, two cups turned me into a human koala. Also, taking a lot of kava, especially combined with alcohol, can trash your liver. I happen to like my liver. So I will probably keep some on hand for emergencies, but won’t drink it on the regular.
It looks like it’s time to (GRUDGINGLY!) give up alcohol and caffeine again. Even moderate caffeine aggravates anxiety, and alcohol doesn’t play nicely with anything that might help it. This makes my bourbon, wine, craft beer and coffee lovin’ heart sad. The heart wants what it wants, you know? But my heart is up against the United Organs of My Brain and Liver. Sorry, heart. You lose this round.
My research uncovered a likely suspect worth testing. L-Theanine has a “moderate evidence” rating, which means “several well-designed studies in humans have shown positive benefit.” Like SAMe, it doesn’t have any known side effects, so it’s not going to make anything worse. There’s also some science-y stuff regarding alpha waves, GABA and dopamine levels, and unlike most anti-anxiolytics, it doesn’t have a sedative effect.
You can take supplements of L-Theanine, but it’s a naturally-occurring amino acid. Guess where it’s naturally found? Black and green tea. Eight cups of black tea have the same amount you’d get in most supplements. Of course, tea also has caffeine, so you need to drink decaf. But how hilarious would it be if all I needed to do to stop my brain from freaking out was switch from coffee to (decaf) tea?
It reminds me of the episode of Doctor Who where the Tenth Doctor is recovering from regeneration. A flask of tea straightens him out, thanks to the effects of “super heated free radicals and tannins” on his synapses. Evidently the British are on to something there.
So, yeah. TL:DR version: Bye-bye bourbon and coffee, because apparently I’m a Time Lord.