L-Theanine and Cysteine to Attenuate COVID-19

November 08, 2020

L-theanine and Cysteine May Prevent COVID Cytokine Storm

This is a delightful little hack on your immune system. Again, just as elegant and simple as glutamine and citrulline making extra nitric oxide, you can boost your immune response to viruses dramatically with L-theanine, the "green" in green tea, and cysteine.

First, a little biology about COVID. When a normal virus invades a cell, it takes over some of the mechanisms inside the cell it has invaded: typically in the range of under 5%. You can tell that by measuring the activated messenger RNA inside the cell. Most viruses do their work with that small percentile change. Not COVID! It changes some 60% of the mRNA inside the cell. The highest takeover response of any virus: only polio comes close. It's a complete do-over. And it goes deep. On top of that, a typical immune response has a balanced initial response. Your "interferon" set of proteins ramp up instantaneous inflammation. Your "Cytokine" response calls for help. COVID clamps down on the interferon side of things but does NOTHING to the cytokine side. That leads to a rapidly increasing upregulation of the cytokine response, with no balance attached. Hence, the storm. 

If you want to really go deep, delve into the mechanisms of how the COVID-19 alters the mitochondria, hijacking it to make coat lipids and rob your energy production, all while stretching out your mitochondria and evading immune recognition. You will also have some insight when you then go down how ketone esters rescue those poor, beleaguered mitochondria. Curiously, our own natural beta-hydroxybutyrate BHB), the ketone you make in your gut when you eat spinach or broccoli, and your fat cells give up when you are losing weight has very powerful immune effects. BHB has many immune effects and almost instant salvages those struggling mitochondria: but I digress. 

Previous research from 2010 or so has shown the molecular mechanisms by which the combination of cysteine and L-theanine down-regulate your spastic immune response that make colds, thereby attenuating them. And they work in humans too. That's this week's headliner. You can take L-theanine in a simple, cheap pill. It's a wonderful calming amino acid that helps you sleep, and in that regard is the number one sleeping pill sold in Japan. But it is also the amino acid that differentiates green tea from black tea. There is lots of L-theanine in green tea.

What does it do? Back to that glutathione thing. L-theanine and cysteine together dramatically upregulate your glutathione response. And that fine-tunes and balances your immune response. Simple as that. COVID downregulates it. You bring it back up. It has been shown in clinical trials to attenuate colds and other minor viral syndromes and has now made it into the headlines as an inexpensive adjuvant to help coronavirus response.

Is this a big deal? Well, not a cure but another thing you can do. Put the whole package together and you tip the balance in favor of your immune system. You have to drink liquids when you have a fever. Maybe you can make it nice, warm green tea. Lots of it. Or maybe you can take L-theanine at bedtime.

www.What will Work for me. I like this one because it's so cheap and such an easy hack you can do. There will not likely be research on it as it is way too cheap to ever support a randomized trial. You should be on L-theanine anyways as a strategy to help your sleep, or to mellow you out (start with 200 mg a day at bedtime. The full-court press of 400 mg three times a day is considered a secret trick to get folks to sleep better). The Japanese drink green tea all day long. Each cup is about 100-200 mg of L-theanine. N-acetyl cysteine is easy to supplement too. Combine those two. If you come to me with COVID: the peptide master class just added L-theanine as something to take on general principles during this COVID season. I just bought a bottle of 200 mg L-theanine. Two at bedtime for me.

References: New Yorker, Springerplus (J Vet Med), Frontiers in Pharm, Med (N. Y.), Journal of Amino Acids, Frontiers in Immunology, BioRxIV,

Pop Quiz 

1. What are L-theanine and cysteine?                           Answer: two amino acids that appear to affect the glutathione response 

2. And what does glutathione do?                                 Answer: It appears to help "fine-tune" your innate immune response, balancing your interferon protein arm with your cytokine arm so you don't get a run-away storm. 

3. Where can you get l-theanine?                                   Answer: simple. Green tea or cheap supplement. Ditto for cysteine. 

4. Were you able to pick out the feature of COVID that is the highest anyone has ever seen?        Answer: the activation of mRNA to viral functions, hits over 60% in COVID, compared to the average 1-5% in other viruses. 

5. And how is this being measured?                                Answer: transcriptomic is the new science of measuring the activated mRNA, reflecting what genes are turned on and actively doing something inside a cell. You can do that by duplicating the mRNA and making millions of copies, and then measure it. Clever.