GABA in Tea

GABAGABA, short for γ-Aminobutyric acid, is an important inhibitory neurotransmitter (meaning that it calms nervous activity).

It is also found in plants, and the tea plant is one of them.

This chemical is naturally produced in the brain and acts as a tranquilizer. Although this would have many applications as a supplement, there is one problem: research has proved that orally ingested GABA can’t cross the blood-brain barrier.

But it has another application. Studies have shown that GABA can lower blood pressure, so there has been an interest in GABA rich teas.

GABA tea

Tea in general has low amounts of GABA. However, in 1987 Dr. Tsushida Tojiro discovered that if the picked tea leaves where exposed to anaerobic conditions, such as filling the room with nitrogen gas, the glutamic acid in the leaves turns into GABA.

The process works for green, oolong and black teas. GABA teas have at least 150 mg of GABA per 100 grams of tea leaves, and they can be found both in loose leaf and powder form.

There seem to be many GABA products in the market, but in my opinion most of them exaggerate the health benefits of GABA.

If you want to see my review of a GABA tea, click here.

Sources:

Interview with Dr. Tsuchida (in Japanese)

12 Comments

  1. Dee Sallows
    October 28, 2014

    Thanks for another intelligent, well researched article, Ricardo.
    Looking forward to your next review on GABA tea.

    Reply
    1. Ricardo Caicedo
      October 28, 2014

      Hi Dee

      Thanks for your kind comment. I’m also looking forward to taste my first GABA tea 🙂

      Reply
  2. James at Chanoyu
    October 30, 2014

    Interestingly, L-Theanine can increase the amount of GABA in the brain.

    But from what I’ve read (and now cannot find the source..) it also has a slight affinity for GABA receptors in the brain (meaning that because both are similar in shape, Theanine by itself can have a very slight gaba-like effect).

    Ironically, because it can’t cross into the brain, tea without GABA but high in Theanine would have more of the GABA-like benefits in the brain. Hah!

    It would be interesting to see how the amount of GABA in tea fluctuates with increased time in anaerobic conditions, and thus how it changes the flavour, if much at all.

    Hope you enjoy it!
    James

    Reply
    1. Ricardo Caicedo
      October 30, 2014

      Hi James

      You’re right, L-theanine does the trick regarding the GABA calming effect.

      I haven’t reviewed the GABA tea yet but will publish the review in two weeks.

      Reply
  3. Geoff (Steep Stories)
    October 31, 2014

    I had no idea that the Japanese were doing GABA teas. All the ones I’ve had came from Taiwan.

    Reply
    1. Ricardo Caicedo
      October 31, 2014

      Hi Geoff

      I didn’t know they had GABA teas in Taiwan 🙂

      Reply
  4. Noli Ergas
    October 31, 2014

    Great article as always, Ricardo!
    I had just grown curious of GABA recently, and it was great to see you treating it in a post!

    Reply
    1. Ricardo Caicedo
      October 31, 2014

      Thank you Noli.

      I didn’t know much about GABA until just some weeks ago that I decided to research the subject. Hope that GABA tea tastes good, I haven’t had time for the review yet.

      Reply
  5. MITE CO LTD
    November 1, 2014

    Hola Ricardo,
    GABA tea is the tea that has been newly developed in Japan by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of vegetables and tea industry Experiment Station in 1986.
    Researcher, (current vegetables, tea industry Experiment Station) has been research efforts and whether those that can not be stored for a long period of time the leaves without compromising the flavor of green tea at that time.
    Then the GABA was born, it was Omori Shoji Professor of Otsuma Women’s University that its has been component research named Gyabaron tea because it contains a lot of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).

    Reply
    1. Ricardo Caicedo
      November 1, 2014

      Hide san, thanks for the comment.

      Can you tell me where I can find the information regarding Professor Omori Shoji and GABA tea? Then I can update post.

      Reply
      1. MITE CO LTD
        November 1, 2014

        Hola Ricardo san,

        There’s a couple of website to check GABA tea, but very unfortunately always in Japanese version.
        Gyabaron tea is also called “green tea of the elite”
        National Institute of Advanced Food Research Institute has been developed for the purpose of “blood pressure suppression”
        GABA is very suitable for blood pressure suppression.Therefore, more than 20 – 30 times than in green tea and tea, contains GABA.
        Moreover it stabilizes the spirit and also good effect for relaxation.
        It is also a popular diet tea from such reduction of body fat.

        But for me the most important factor is following;
        Gyabaron tea and green tea is originally of 2nd or 3rd Bancha, crop or usually can not be more effective use to make the many tea, but its tea leaves that would be dropped or cut. However the results of various studies, (for short Gamma Amino Butyric Acid GABA) γ- aminobutyric acid is contained more than other tea leaves which are used for making tea.

        Regarding Porf. Omori, sorry it’s also some information in Japanese only. http://www.gakuin.otsuma.ac.jp/news/2013/2013-0925-0843-4.html

        Reply
        1. Ricardo Caicedo
          November 1, 2014

          Hola Hide san.

          Thanks for sharing more about GABA.

          In the page from Otsuma Gakuin it says that professor Omori wrote a book about GABA tea, but it doesn’t say that he developed it.

          However, he does appear in another study, his name is Omori Masashi, and professor Tsushida is also there:
          https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/nogeikagaku1924/61/11/61_11_1449/_pdf

          Reply

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