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A tea that helps you sleep, wouldn’t that be nice? GABA tea might be the answer.

 [ IMAGE: Healthy GABA teas from Taiwan  ] It is funny how encounters often happen at specific moments. An encounter last week reminded me of a plan I had a while ago but forgotten all about.
One day last week, someone contacted me to purchase some blooming teas. When he came round to pick up his assortment of blooming teas, he mentioned that his pregnant wife had difficulties sleeping and asked me whether I had a tea that would help her sleep. Well, yes… maybe, was my reply. I gave him a sample of the tea I had in mind and told him to let me know if it worked. A couple of days ago, he came back to buy some of the tea I gave him since it did indeed work the miracle of allowing his wife to sleep better. The tea I gave to him was a GABA oolong.

UPDATE: I’ve just posted some more real world experiences with GABA tea from our customers.
You might think: Tea to help with sleep, how should that work? Tea contains caffeine, so it should keep you up, rather than let you sleep, right? It’s not that easy. For example, L-Theanine, an amino acid found abundantly in tea, acts as a calming agent by increasing the production of GABA.

So, what is this GABA? A little bit of background

GABA stands for gamma-amino butyric acid, an amino acid that acts as a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. The role of neurotransmitters is to help nerve signals to ‘jump’ from one nerve cell (neuron) to the next – to transmit them, by firing a nerve impuls. GABA acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter, it blocks nerve impulses. Since a high level of nerve signal transmissions constitute a state of anxiety, GABA is basically an anti-anxiety medication produced by the brain itself.

Low GABA levels are linked to many anxiety disorders, such as seizures, epilepsy and panic attacks, as well as other conditions including addiction, Parkinson’s syndrome, headaches, and cognitive impairment. Maintaining high GABA levels in the brain has a calming effect and helps us keeping a level head in stressful times.

GABA is produced naturally in the brain from glutamate, but the release is often hindered by GABA inhibitors like caffeine. Certain supplements (tranquilizers such as benzodiazepine), increase GABA‘s effect – but usually with a considerable amount of side effects. A better solution would be to add GABA directly to the brain. While it is still debated in the medical community whether orally supplemented GABA actually reaches the brain, there is anecdotal evidence (1, 2) that this does indeed happen – or at least that the effects are observed.

The secret of GABA tea

There are many GABA-producing foods, for example nuts, bananas, lentils, oats, whole grains, citrus fruit and spinach. Fish and wheat bran contain especially high levels of GABA. But none of these come even close to the levels contained in GABA tea. While all tea contains relatively high levels of GABA, GABA teas contain 5-10 times higher concentrations of GABA than regular teas through a specific twist in the processing technique.

GABA tea was discovered in 1987 by Dr.Tsushida Tojiro (3) in Japan during his research on food preservation. He discovered that the amount of GABA in tea leaves increased substantially when processed in a nitrogen (as opposed to oxygen) environment for a period of 6-10 hours. At the time of his discovery, the importance of GABA in the human brain had been well established and the tea that he discovered was quickly taken up in Japan as a natural health supplement. Today, Japan and Taiwan are the two most important producers of GABA teas. While the original GABA tea in Japan is based on a green tea, most of the Taiwanese GABA teas are oolong (with the addition of recently developed black GABA teas). But other tea-producing countries, like Kenya, have started investigating the viability of GABA tea production in recent years.
To qualify as a GABA tea, Japan has strict regulations on the minimum content of GABA in the tea: at least 150mg of gamma-amino butyric acid per 100g are required for a product to deserve the name GABA tea. Our Ali Shan GABA oolong was tested to contain more than 250mg GABA per 100g!

Other benefits of GABA

Apart from its positive effect of counteracting anxiety, GABA has been proven to have the following health benefits:

  • – Lowers blood pressure
  • – Promotes alcohol metabolism, i.e. eases hangovers
  • – Helps with insomnia
  • – Lowers blood sugar through stimulation of insulin production
  • – Increases the production of human growth hormone (HGH)

From personal experience, the effectiveness of GABA tea as a sleeping aid varies from person to person. While the tea most definitely had a positive effect on my customer’s pregnant wife, it doesn’t work on me. But it has worked for other people I have spoken to. The best way to figure out whether it works for you is to try it. Since it is a natural product and as safe to drink as any other tea, there shouldn’t be any concerns.

We carry 2 different GABA oolongs, both from Taiwan: Organic GABA oolong ($14.30) and Ali Shan high mountain GABA oolong ($24.00).

If you have tried GABA tea and would like to share with us whether it worked for you or not, please do so by leaving a comment below.

(1) Braverman, E. & Pfeiffer, C. The Healing Nutrients Within (1987). Keats Publishing, New Canaan, Connecticut. pp. 191-210
(2) Cheng, T.-C. & Tsai, J.-F. (2009). GABA tea helps sleep. Journal of alternative and complementary medicine New York NY.
(3) Tsushida,T. , Murai,T. , Omori, M. & Okamoto, J . (1987). Production of a new type tea containing a high level of y-aminobutyric acid. Nippon Nogeikagaku Kaishi 6: pp. 817-22

4 Responses to A tea that helps you sleep, wouldn’t that be nice? GABA tea might be the answer. »»


  1. Comment by Pohanginapete | 2011/07/27 at 21:21:47

    Well, I can’t vouch for whether it helped me sleep, because I avoid tea late in the evenings, but I loved the flavour of the high mountain GABA oolong sample. Very distinctive — to me, it had a luscious dried fruit flavour like muscatels. Another one on the list for when I get back here at the end of the year.

  2. Jo
    Comment by Jo | 2011/07/28 at 10:34:47

    Hi Pete,
    fruity is the word I would use for the flavour as well. Very, very ripe apples, maybe? But the condensed flavour of dried fruit is probably an even better approximation.
    On a different note, you must be leaving for your big trip soon. I wish you many happy adventures and hope to hear of them sometime.

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  1. Pingback by GABA tea enables people to relax | Ya-Ya’s Tea-Board | 2011/09/21 at 08:14:52

    […] My article on the calming properties of GABA tea piqued Michelle’s interest and she ordered some of our organic GABA oolong about a month ago. Yesterday, I’ve received an email from her and she wrote the following: Can I please order 200 grams [GABA oolong] this time. The tea has been wonderful! I found the tea very, very good for my anxiety, sometimes even experiencing ‘great elation’ which is unusual for me! I would definitely recommend it to anyone who inquires after something to help with anxiety. To get the desired effect I drink 2-4 cups a day. […]

  2. […] various aspects of GABA tea. Most of these have been published in the time since I published my initial post on GABA tea almost 3 years ago. As if that wasn’t reason enough to revisit this very special type of tea, […]

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