Theacrine – An Overview
Theacrine (1,3,7,9-tetramethyluric acid) is the predominant purine alkaloid extracted from the tea plant, Camellia kucha.
According to research, it may provide a number of mental and health benefits to people who take it.
You can get theacrine from drinking kucha tea, or from supplements.1Xu JK, Kurihara H, Zhao L, Yao XS. Theacrine, a special purine alkaloid with sedative and hypnotic properties from Cammelia assamica var. kucha in mice, J Asian Nat Prod Res. 2007
Structurally, it is very similar to caffeine, which is also found in the kucha plant. People use theacrine as a nootropic for:
- Increased energy
- Better sleep
- Reducing inflammation
- Improved athletic performance
Theacrine vs Caffeine
Interestingly enough, theacrine can counteract the stimulation of caffeine.
Many users report that it can offer smooth, sustained energy without the jitters associated with other stimulants. 2Zheng XQ, et al. Theacrine (1,3,7,9-tetramethyluric acid) synthesis in leaves of a Chinese tea, kucha (Camellia assamica var. kucha), Phytochemistry. 2002
For this reason, taking theacrine and caffeine together has become a popular nootropic stack.
What Does Theacrine Do?
Theacrine has multiple research-backed benefits for the body and mind.
Energy and Performance
Theacrine is structurally similar to caffeine, so it’s not surprising that it can have an acute effect on energy, physical performance, and focus.
One small study on healthy participants saw that “energy, focus, and concentration increased from baseline” after taking this nootropic.
Researchers continued that “willingness to exercise, anxiety, motivation to train and libido increased” while on theacrine. They also noted a lack of side-effects. 3Ziegenfuss TN, et al. A Two-Part Approach to Examine the Effects of Theacrine (TeaCrine®) Supplementation on Oxygen Consumption, Hemodynamic Responses, and Subjective Measures of Cognitive and Psychometric Parameters, J Diet Suppl. 2017
Another study found that theacrine can “favorably impact multiple subjective feelings related to energy and mood.”
That said, they did not see any concrete improvement in cognitive performance. 4Kuhman DJ, Joyner KJ, Bloomer RJ. Cognitive Performance and Mood Following Ingestion of a Theacrine-Containing Dietary Supplement, Caffeine, or Placebo by Young Men and Women, Nutrients. 2015
Many sports supplements now contain theacrine for its supposed ability to increase physical activity.
Anecdotally, many athletes report an increase in performance while taking it, but there are not yet any high-quality studies on this.
Theacrine reportedly has a positive effect on mood and may even have some antidepressant properties.
Although there is not much evidence from human trials, one study looked at theacrine and young, healthy participants.
They found that theacrine “does appear to favorably impact multiple subjective feelings related to energy and mood compared to caffeine and a placebo.”5Daniel J. Kuhman, Keanan J. Joyner, and Richard J. Bloomer. Cognitive Performance and Mood Following Ingestion of a Theacrine-Containing Dietary Supplement, Caffeine, or Placebo by Young Men and Women, Nutrients. 2015
Animal studies show that it has a noticable antidepressant effect on mice.
This could be because theacrine potentially influences monoamine neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine.
These neurotransmitters are all heavily involved in emotional regulation.6G. Xie, et al. Experimental study of theacrine on antidepressant effects, Chinese Pharmacological Bulletin. 2009
When compared to other stimulants like caffeine and amphetamines, theacrine exhibited no tolerance or sensitivity issues.
This indicates that doses do not need to increase with longer-term uses. So, you can use theacrine for a mood boost without worrying about burnout or negative side-effects. 7Feduccia AA, et al. Locomotor activation by theacrine, a purine alkaloid structurally similar to caffeine: involvement of adenosine and dopamine receptors, Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2012
Many people stack theacrine with caffeine and find that they have a synergistic feel-good effect.
Hopefully, there will be more high-quality studies on this particular combo in the future.
Theacrine has proven abilities to reduce inflammation. It shows significant anti-inflammatory effects in vascular permeability.
This may have a membrane-stabilizing effect that reduces capillary permeability. 8Wang Y, et al. Theacrine, a purine alkaloid with anti-inflammatory and analgesic activities, Fitoterapia. 2010
According to animal studies, theacrine can significantly increase the pain threshold, acting as a natural analgesic. (9G.J. Amabeoku. Effects of Tarchonanthus camphoratus and Eriocephalus africanus on nociception in mice and pyrexia in rats, Phytomedicine. 2000
This could mean theacrine has neuroprotective and anti-aging properties.
Theacrine For Sleep
This nootropic has potent sedative and hypnotic properties, making it distinct from similar alkaloids like caffeine. 10Xu JK, Kurihara H, Zhao L, Yao XS. Theacrine, a special purine alkaloid with sedative and hypnotic properties from Cammelia assamica var. kucha in mice, J Asian Nat Prod Res. 2007
In fact, according to one animal study, theacrine counteracted the insomnia effect of caffeine. This was reflected by increased sleeping time. 11Zheng XQ, Ye CX, Kato M, Crozier A, Ashihara H. Theacrine (1,3,7,9-tetramethyluric acid) synthesis in leaves of a Chinese tea, kucha (Camellia assamica var. kucha), Phytochemistry. 2002
Theacrine has been shown to increase the effect of adenosine, which is the molecule largely responsible for making you sleepy.
It can also decrease the enzyme that destroys adenosine, adenosine deaminase, allowing it to stick around in your synapses longer.12Basheer R, et al. Adenosine and sleep-wake regulation, Prog Neurobiol. 2004
The results of one brain-imaging study demonstrated that theacrine could effectively induce sleep by shortening sleep latency and increasing total sleep time.
They concluded it could potentially treat insomnia. 13Tarja Porkka-Heiskanen, et al. Adenosine: A Mediator of the Sleep-Inducing Effects of Prolonged Wakefulness, Science. 2013
How Theacrine Works In The Brain
Theacrine is synthesized in a three-step process.
According to research, adenosine is converted into caffeine, and then into theacrine via methylation. 14Zheng XQ, Ye CX, Kato M, Crozier A, Ashihara H. Theacrine (1,3,7,9-tetramethyluric acid) synthesis in leaves of a Chinese tea, kucha (Camellia assamica var. kucha), Phytochemistry. 2002
Theacrine works by modulating adenosine in the brain. This is one of the primary hormones that regulate sleep in your body.
It inhibits adenosine deaminase, the molecule that breaks down adenosine and clears it from your body. This means adenosine takes effect longer when it is present.
This nootropic can also up-regulate dopamine, which is a major “feel-good” neurotransmitter. This can have an effect on mood, motivation, and sense of wellbeing.
It can also increase locomotor activate i.e. physical activity and performance.15Allison A.Feduccia, et al. Locomotor activation by theacrine, a purine alkaloid structurally similar to caffeine: Involvement of adenosine and dopamine receptors, Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior. 2012
Theacrine can also inhibit the inflammatory response and reduce vascular permeability. This can reduce inflammation and the perception of pain. 16Wang Y, et al. Theacrine, a purine alkaloid with anti-inflammatory and analgesic activities, Fitoterapia. 2010
How Much Theacrine Should I Take?
Theacrine has been shown to be safe in doses up to 400mg a day. It can be stacked with caffeine for extra effect.
Theacrine Potential Side Effects
There are no known side effects with this nootropic.
Do you have questions about, supplementing with Theacrine? Do you have experience supplementing with Theacrine? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
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About the author:
Erik Levi is a co-founder of HolisticNootropics.com and a certified holistic nutritional therapy practitioner.
As an NTP Erik takes a nutrition first approach to health. He has worked with many different people to help them use nutrition to optimize their quality of life.
Erik believes that mental health is a physiological process and cognitive enhancement is not something that can be achieved by just taking some pills with good Amazon reviews.
Instead, true cognitive enhancement comes with the right balance of nutrients, movement, and gratitude. Erik continues to stay up to date with the most current nootropic and holistic health research and promises to deliver the best solutions possible.
You can check out his personal health blog/podcast/YouTube Channel all under the name Holistic A-Hole.