The Science of Theacrine: Benefits and How to Use It Safely

Theacrine is a mild stimulant that’s related to caffeine, but much more rare. It only occurs in a few species of wild tea and the cupuaçu fruit (a relative of cacao).

It has a bitter taste and people in Yunnan, China use it as a traditional remedy. Also, unlike caffeine, theacrine may have mild relaxation properties at lower doses.

In this guide, you’ll learn the science behind theacrine, its potential benefits according to peer-reviewed studies, how to take it, safety and side effects, and more.

What Is Theacrine?

Theacrine, sometimes sold as Teacrine®, is a purine alkaloid with a chemical structure similar to caffeine and theobromine (a stimulant found in chocolate).[1]https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-62859-2 It occurs in cupuaçu (Theobroma grandiflorum), a tropical fruit tree in Brazil related to the cacao plant, and Camellia kucha, a species of tea plant.[2]https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2020.596823/full

Camellia kucha, also called Camellia assamica var. kucha, is a wild variety of Chinese tea. It’s closely related to the common Camellia sinensis tea plant, but contains around 1-3% theacrine, giving it a strong bitter flavor.[3]https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2020.596823/full In Yunnan, China, where kucha tea grows naturally, residents use it medicinally to treat wounds, diarrhea, and inflammation.[4]https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-62859-2

Newer evidence also suggests that other types of bitter wild tea, including the American species Ilex vomitoria (Yaupon), also include trace amounts of theacrine.[5]https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2020.596823/full

Want to discover how to use theacrine and other cognitive supplements to perform better? Take the free quiz to learn the optimal combination and dosage for your unique brain and lifestyle.

What Are the Benefits of Theacrine?

  • Energy and Mood
  • Endurance and Performance
  • Relaxation
  • Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties

Theacrine May Support Energy and Mood

In a 2015 trial, researchers investigated the effects of theacrine with caffeine compared to caffeine or placebo in 10 healthy men and 10 healthy women.[6]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4663612/ The participants received either 125 mg theacrine and 150 mg caffeine, 150 milligrams of caffeine online, or a placebo on three different days, separated by one week each.

The researchers noted that when participants received theacrine, they experienced subjectively higher levels of attentiveness, alertness, focus, and energy compared to other groups. Additionally, theacrine groups also perceived less lethargy and grogginess.†

Although the sample size is small, this preliminary study suggests promising benefits for energy and mood in healthy individuals.†

Theacrine May Support Endurance and Cognitive Performance

In a 2019 study, researchers tested the effects of theacrine in 24 male and female high-level soccer players using a simulated treadmill soccer match[7]https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-019-0287-6

Participants received either 275 milligrams of theacrine, 275 milligrams of caffeine, 125 mg theacrine with 150 mg caffeine, or placebo over four randomized 90-minute sessions.

During the trial, researchers measured outcomes include time to exhaustion (a measure of endurance) and reaction time under various conditions.

Theacrine showed similar results to caffeine for increasing time to exhaustion, but a combination of theacrine and caffeine boosted endurance more than either theacrine or caffeine alone did.

Although the study was relatively small and used a simulated soccer event rather than a real match, the researchers concluded that “the ​​combination [of theacrine and caffeine] was the most beneficial in terms of increasing and maintaining energy, concentration, and level of performance.”[8]https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-019-0287-6

Theacrine May Support Relaxation

Animal studies suggest that low doses of theacrine (equivalent to around 20-70 milligrams for a human) may have mild sedative and hypnotic properties. [9]https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2020.596823/full[10]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4804402/ These low doses increased time that mice spent sleeping in conjunction with the sedative pentobarbital.†

It’s important to note that these types of animal studies don’t prove that similar properties exist in humans. However, the findings do suggest a potentially remarkable difference between theacrine and other stimulants like caffeine that could be worth exploring.

And anecdotally, some theacrine users have reported a “relaxing yet energizing” effect when using theacrine at lower doses.†

Antioxidant and Anti-inflammatory Properties

Numerous studies suggest that theacrine has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, although current evidence is limited to in vitro studies and animal studies.[11]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7773691/

Notably, one study found that a kucha tea solution exhibited approximately 13% higher antioxidant activity than a similar concentration of green tea.[12]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7773691/

How to Take Theacrine

There’s no official recommendation or guidance for theacrine dosage, but studies in humans use up to 300 milligrams per day.[13]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4711067/

If you’ve never taken theacrine before, starting with a dosage of around 100-150 milligrams. From there, you can work your way up to 275-300 milligrams per day if desired.

On the other hand, lower doses might have more relaxing effects, so you can also try 20-70 milligrams if you’re interested in experiencing less stimulation and more relaxation.

Either way, due to its mild stimulating properties, the best time to take theacrine is most likely earlier in the day. Taking it before bed may result in difficulty sleeping.

You can take theacrine with or without food, but like caffeine, its effects are likely to be faster and more noticeable on an empty stomach.

Safety and Side Effects of Theacrine

According to current research, theacrine is safe and without significant side effects. A 2016 study investigated the effects of 300 milligrams of theacrine per day in healthy men over 8 weeks and found no effect on liver enzymes or other blood markers, nor were there any other adverse effects.[14]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4711067/

The same study also found that there was no evidence of a tachyphylaxis or habituation (tolerance) response, unlike caffeine and most other stimulants.[15]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4711067/

In other words, theacrine doesn’t appear to become less effective over time and is also unlikely to cause dependence.

For people who are sensitive to stimulants, theacrine could potentially have similar side effects to caffeine. However, some researchers actually believe that theacrine may have fewer side effects compared to caffeine.[16]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6816173/

Some evidence suggests that consuming caffeine and theacrine at the same time may amplify the effects of theacrine.[17]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28875060/ It’s probably safe to take caffeine and theacrine together, but if you’ve never taken theacrine before, take it by itself without caffeine first to gauge how your body responds.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Theacrine

Is Theacrine a Stimulant?

Yes, at higher doses, theacrine is a mild natural stimulant with similar properties to caffeine. Researchers think that theacrine works similarly to caffeine, by blocking adenosine receptors in your brain.[18]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7773691/ However, in animal studies, lower doses of theacrine appears to have mild sedating properties, unlike caffeine.[19]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7773691/

Does Theacrine Increase Heart Rate?

The answer is no, theacrine doesn’t appear to increase heart rate. According to a 2015 study in which participants received a supplement that contained theacrine along with caffeine, the theacrine supplement didn’t elevate heart rate, but did increase mood and energy levels.[20]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4663612/

Is Theacrine Safe?

Although there are no long-term human trials investigating the safety of theacrine, it does appear safe according to current evidence. A 2016 study investigated the effects of 300 milligrams of theacrine per day in healthy men over 8 weeks and found the supplement was clinically safe.[21]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4711067/

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