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Is Theacrine the New Caffeine?

Theacrine supplements promise the benefits of caffeine without side effects. Does it deliver?
Is Theacrine the New Caffeine?
Last updated:
11/9/2022
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Every week, there’s hype about a new miracle supplement that will “cure” whatever symptom ails you. Theacrine is the latest in “hot” supplements, and you’ll find it as the key ingredient in a few heavily marketed – and often high-priced – brand-name energy supplements. Theacrine promises the energy and focus of caffeine without jitters, overstimulation, and a post-caffeine “crash.”

Is theacrine the newer, better caffeine? And can it help people with hypothyroidism? Ahead, a look at whether theacrine is science fact or science fiction and what happened when I tried theacrine myself.

What is theacrine?

Theacrine, also known as tetramethyluric acid, is a purine alkaloid found in the leaves of a wild tea plant known as Camellia kucha. (The leaves of a different tea, Camellia sinensis, are frequently used for many popular black or green teas.)

Theacrine is classified as a nootropic or “smart drug” – a supplement or drug that helps enhance cognition. The best-known nootropic, caffeine, is also the most common purine alkaloid. ADHD drugs and the prescription medication Provigil – used to treat narcolepsy – also fall into the nootropic category.

The subject of years of research, caffeine has been shown to improve energy, focus, and mental clarity – among other benefits. Caffeine does, however, have some downsides. It can overstimulate heart rate and blood pressure, make people feel jittery at higher doses, and contribute to insomnia and anxiety. Caffeine also has a relatively short half-life; in some people, the effects can wear off dramatically – an experience known as a “caffeine crash.” There’s also an adaptive effect. Over time, some people need higher doses of caffeine to achieve the same impact. Finally, while not considered addictive, people can become habituated to caffeine, and withdrawal from regular caffeine usage is associated with various symptoms and side effects.

What are the health benefits of theacrine?

Theacrine, while structurally and chemically related to caffeine, has its own set of unique properties. Limited studies have shown that theacrine can:

  • Stimulate the brain.
  • Improve cognitive function, concentration, mood, focus, and clear thinking.
  • Enhance and promote energy and reduce fatigue.
  • Help reduce inflammation by interfering with inflammatory chemicals like histamine.
  • Help with sleep, when taken at low doses.
  • Reduce learning and memory problems related to fatigue and lack of mental energy. (It’s thought that this is the result of theacrine’s ability to help regulate the metabolism of glucose in the brain.)
  • Reduce triglyceride levels and improve overall fat metabolism, potentially reducing the risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
  • Help fight viruses.

Another study found that theacrine may have the ability to counteract depression and anxiety induced by chronic stress, elevate mood, and may have benefits in antidepressant treatment.

A study in the journal Nutrients compared theacrine to caffeine and found some significant differences.

  • Theacrine has little or no impact on heart rate or blood pressure and isn’t likely to interfere with sleep. (At higher doses, caffeine increases heart rate and blood pressure and can cause insomnia.)
  • Theacrine has a longer half-life than caffeine, so its benefits are sustained and more consistent over a longer period.
  • You don’t build up a tolerance to theacrine, or become habituated to it, so you don’t need to increase the dose to get continuing benefits.
  • Theacrine isn’t associated with a rapid drop in effectiveness (“caffeine crash”).

Interestingly, the benefits of both theacrine and caffeine appear to be enhanced when combined. Research published in the Journal of Dietary Supplements reported that the combination of theacrine with smaller amounts of caffeine improved energy, mood, focus, and concentration, and extended the benefits of both alkaloids' ingredients, without affecting heart rate or blood pressure.

It should be noted that research does not support marketing claims that theacrine helps with physical training or athletic performance.

Is theacrine safe?

Animal toxicology testing has been performed on theacrine, and no toxic or adverse effects were found at standard doses. A human study of a branded form of theacrine known as TeaCrine® found that supplementing with up to 300 mg daily for more than eight weeks is considered clinically safe and not habit-forming.

Given theacrine’s similarities to caffeine – but reduced risk of side effects – it’s likely that long-term human studies will show that, like caffeine, moderate amounts of theacrine are safe for long-term use in many people. But it should be noted that further research and clinical trials are needed to determine whether theacrine is safe in people with specific health conditions and to identify any possible interactions with other supplements and prescription medications.

My experience with theacrine

Like many people with hypothyroidism, even though my thyroid treatment is optimized, I still have times when I experience hypothyroidism symptoms such as fatigue or brain fog. My go-to solution has always been caffeine. I usually need at least two cups of strong coffee just to get started in the morning and to feel alert and awake enough to start my day. I often turn to more coffee later in the day to get through an afternoon energy slump and brain fog. Recently, I started feeling jittery by late afternoon and found that too much coffee was sometimes making me feel nauseous. Also, while I'm usually a night owl with a midnight bedtime, I started to find myself wide awake and unable to fall asleep until 2 or 3 a.m. I knew I needed to cut back on caffeine, but I wasn’t willing to pay the price in terms of reduced energy!

I first learned about theacrine from (no surprise) an online advertisement for the heavily promoted TeaCrine brand, which combines theacrine with caffeine. I’m always dubious of marketing pitches, so I read the studies referenced earlier in this article and discovered that there was actually some legitimate scientific evidence that theacrine functions similarly to caffeine, with fewer side effects. After my research, I decided to try theacrine and chose an affordable pure theacrine supplement from Double Wood, a reputable manufacturer that doesn’t overpromise in its marketing.

When my bottle of theacrine arrived, I immediately took one 100 mg capsule. Within an hour, I felt like someone had quickly swept away my mental cobwebs! I felt far more focused, clear-headed, and mentally energized, and the positive effects lasted for hours. I thought it was perhaps a placebo effect, but had several days of unusually high energy and focus. I fell into a routine of taking one 100 mg capsule in the morning, followed by a morning coffee or tea, and another capsule after lunch.

It’s now about eight weeks since I started theacrine. While the effects are not as dramatic as they were the first few days, they are still significant, and I’ve experienced several noticeable benefits.

  • I definitely have improved brain function, with more energy, focus, and alertness throughout the day, especially in the morning. I feel fully awake and alert within about 30 minutes of taking my morning theacrine capsule.
  • My craving for caffeine has dramatically decreased. At this point, I have no more than one cup a day of coffee, if that, as I frequently replace coffee with tea instead. I no longer suffer any adverse effects of caffeine.
  • I’m going to bed and waking earlier and sleeping better. Perhaps because I’m drinking less caffeinated beverages throughout the day, I feel naturally tired earlier and am turning in by 11 or 11:30 p.m. I’m also waking up without the alarm, earlier than usual!

I’ve also noticed a slight improvement in my mood and motivation. (Perhaps because I have fewer episodes of feeling fatigued!)

When it comes to supplements, I’ve tried many over the years, and only a handful have ended up as part of my health regimen. I can honestly say that, for me, theacrine is definitely a keeper!

A note from Paloma

In someone with hypothyroidism, maintaining energy and focus starts with optimal thyroid function. A convenient and affordable virtual consult with one of Paloma’s thyroid-savvy doctors can put you on the right track to effective diagnosis and optimal treatment of your hypothyroidism.

Hypothyroid patients who want to start taking a thyroid-supportive supplement can consider starting with Paloma’s Daily Thyroid Care. This supplement combines l-tyrosine, magnesium, manganese, selenium, zinc, and Vitamins B2, A, B12, and D3 into a specially-formulated supplement to support healthy thyroid function.

If you’re interested in trying theacrine yourself, remember that when it comes to adding supplements to your overall wellness program, it’s always recommended that you consult with your healthcare provider for personalized medical advice for your health situation.

References:

Occurrence of Purine Alkaloids. Plant Nucleotide Metabolism ‐ Biosynthesis, Degradation, and Alkaloid Formation. Published online January 3, 2020:211-229. doi:10.1002/9781119476139.ch14

‌Ouyang SH, Zhai YJ, Wu YP, et al. Theacrine, a Potent Antidepressant Purine Alkaloid from a Special Chinese Tea, Promotes Adult Hippocampal Neurogenesis in Stressed Mice. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2021;69(25):7016-7027. doi:10.1021/acs.jafc.1c01514

Ziegenfuss TN, Habowski SM, Sandrock JE, Kedia AW, Kerksick CM, Lopez HL. 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. Journal of Dietary Supplements. 2017;14(1):9-24. doi:10.1080/19390211.2016.1178678

‌Sheng YY, Xiang J, Wang ZS, et al. Theacrine From Camellia kucha and Its Health Beneficial Effects. Frontiers in Nutrition. 2020;7:596823. doi:10.3389/fnut.2020.596823

Xu JK, Kurihara H, Zhao L, Yao XS. Theacrine, a special purine alkaloid with sedative and hypnotic properties from Cammelia assamica var. kucha in mice. Journal of Asian Natural Products Research. 2007;9(7):665-672. doi:10.1080/10286020601103155

Kuhman D, Joyner K, Bloomer R. Cognitive Performance and Mood Following Ingestion of a Theacrine-Containing Dietary Supplement, Caffeine, or Placebo by Young Men and Women. Nutrients. 2015;7(11):9618-9632. doi:10.3390/nu7115484

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Mary Shomon

Patient Advocate

Mary Shomon is an internationally-recognized writer, award-winning patient advocate, health coach, and activist, and the New York Times bestselling author of 15 books on health and wellness, including the Thyroid Diet Revolution and Living Well With Hypothyroidism. On social media, Mary empowers and informs a community of more than a quarter million patients who have thyroid and hormonal health challenges.

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