Can Matcha Improve Cognitive Function During Stress?
As students and working adults alike, we all know the feeling of overwhelming stress in our lives. Whether it's preparing for a big exam or juggling multiple deadlines at work, stress can lead to impaired cognitive performance — reducing attention span, memory formation, and recall. But what if there was something simple that could help protect your mind against this effect? The solution might just be sitting in your cupboard, waiting for you to take advantage of its benefits.
Matcha green tea is becoming increasingly popular for its natural energy boost. Some experts believe there's even more to this ancient drink — namely, it can help improve cognitive function in those subjected to emotional or physical stress conditions. From its content-rich makeup to its pleasant taste, discover what makes matcha such an incredible tool for improving brain performance after times of frustration or exhaustion.
CHEMICAL MAKEUP OF MATCHA
Matcha is a finely milled green tea powder made from the leaves and, sometimes, stems of the Camellia sinensis green tea plant. About 4-6 weeks before harvesting, the green tea plants are shaded and grown in limited sunlight. As a result, chlorophyll levels and the production of theanine are boosted to give matcha powder its vibrant green color, unique nutritional profile, and health benefits [1, 2].
The resulting matcha powder contains theanine, catechin, and caffeine. In combination, the synergy of these three compounds positively affects cognitive function. Still, to achieve that benefit, it’s important to consider the relative proportions of these compounds in the matcha powder. For instance, caffeine and theanine are antagonists: caffeine stimulates while theanine calms . In the presence of too much caffeine, the inherent stress-relieving properties of theanine are neutralized. However, at the proper ratio, theanine and caffeine together may improve attentional function while maintaining a stress-reducing effect. Additionally, it has been shown that epigallocatechin, a catechin found in green tea, has anti-fatigue and antioxidant properties, which may help relieve the cognitive consequences induced by stress and exhaustion.
While it has been shown in previous studies that matcha green tea powder containing these compounds may improve the attentional and executive functions in middle-aged and older adults, how does matcha affect young adults?
Researchers in Japan conducted a double-blind, randomized parallel-group study with participants aged 25 to 34 years old. During testing, the experimental group consumed matcha capsules every morning for two weeks, while the control group received a placebo. At the end of the experimental period, the participants participated in a series of tasks that measured cognitive function in the form of memory, visual information processing, attention, facial expression recognition, and motor function.
Researchers concluded that those who drank matcha had significantly faster reaction times on one of the attention-related tasks. That same group of participants also performed better on the facial expression recognition task, correctly identifying more positive emotions compared to the control group. However, matcha did not significantly affect memory, visual information processing, or motor function. These results suggest that matcha played a role in alleviating the attentional decline caused by stress .
Consider grabbing a cup of matcha instead of coffee the next time you need a little pick-me-up or want a little mental boost without all the jitters. Of course, you can also make a cup of matcha at home or on-the-go with our Organic Japanese Ceremonial Grade Matcha Powder. Ceremonial grade matcha is only of the highest quality and contains a higher content of theanine, the perfect combination for an energized and focused mental state. Give it a try! You’ll be surprised at the additional long-term health benefits you’ll start to see when you drink matcha.
 Unno, K., Furushima, D., Hamamoto, S., Iguchi, K., Yamada, H., Morita, A., Horie, H., & Nakamura, Y. (2018). Stress-Reducing Function of Matcha Green Tea in Animal Experiments and Clinical Trials. Nutrients, 10(10), 1468. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10101468
 Baba, Y., Kaneko, T., & Takihara, T. (2021). Matcha consumption maintains attentional function following a mild acute psychological stress without affecting a feeling of fatigue: A randomized placebo-controlled study in young adults. Nutrition research (New York, N.Y.), 88, 44–52. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nutres.2020.12.024