Summary of Theacrine
Primary Information, Benefits, Effects, and Important Facts
Theacrine is a small alkaloid molecule which can be seen as a structurally modified version of caffeine, since it appears to be synthesized from caffeine in some plants and then accumulates; it is found in highest (known) levels in camellia assamica variant kucha which is from where Kucha tea is made from, but we are not certain if this is the largest or only source due to a lack of breadth in the research.
The mechanisms of theacrine parallel that of caffeine for the most part, and while it seems to have a stimulatory effect in research rodents it occurs at a higher dose (and the exact oral dose where it peaks with theacrine is not known). Similar to caffeine there is a sedative effect at relatively low doses, but where this sedative effect with caffeine is at an impractically low dose with theacrine it is the dose normally consumed by tea; this may underlie why Kucha tea tends to be recommended for relaxation more than stimulation.
The one study that noted stimulation with theacrine failed to find any tolerance over the course of seven days, a time frame where caffeine would normally show tolerance. This suggests that the body either does not or may have a reduced tolerance to theacrine, but this requires more research (including oral studies) to assess further.
At this moment in time, theacrine looks interesting due to being one of a few compounds to be involved in adenosine signalling but not enough research exists to pinpoint where it may or may not be useful as a supplement.
No fake reviews. No selling you supplements. Just evidence-based information on what works
Our free supplement mini-course teaches you what works, what's a waste, and how to achieve your health goals.
Join the over 200,000 people who have gone through this course (saving themselves time and millions of dollars).
Things To Know & Note
Theacrine appears to have sedative and stimulatory properties depending on the dose taken
Get access to the latest research
By becoming an Examine.com Member, you'll have access to all of the latest nutrition research on over 300 supplements across over 500 different health goals, outcomes, conditions, and more.
Scientific Research on Theacrine
Click on any below to expand the corresponding section. Click on to collapse it.
Theacrine is a purine alkaloid with structural similarity to caffeine which is found in a species of plant from which Kucha tea is made: Camellia assamica variant kucha, which shares its genus with that of green tea. Kucha tea also contains caffeine and theabromine, and it seems that theacrine is synthesized in the plant from caffeine. Another alkaloid, liberine (synthesized from theacrine in some plants) is not present in Kucha leaves, resulting in a relative accumulation of theacrine compared to liberine-synthesizing plants.
Theacrine is an alkaloid structurally similar to caffeine, and is produced from caffeine in some plants. It is known to occur in high levels in the plant used for Kucha tea, since the plant can produce theacrine but theacrine itself is not further metabolized, resulting in theacrine accumulation
Studies assessing the sources of theacrine have found them to be:
Theacrine is found in respectable amounts in the leaves ofCamellia assamica variant kucha which are used to make the tea, and not much information exists on other sources of theacrine at this moment in time
Theacrine's chemical name is 1,3,7,9-tetramethyluric acid, in comparison to caffeine's 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine, with the only difference in structure being an additional methyl group on the 9-carbon and an additional ketone group, which changes caffeine's xanthine into a uric acid moiety.
The structure of theacrine is essentially caffeine with an additional methyl group (CH3) and an additional ketone group (=0)
Theacrine appears to be a solubilizing agent, capable of increasing the solublilty of other molecules in solution, which appears to be a property of purines in general, but theacrine has twice the potency of caffeine in this regard (and even greater than sodium deoxychlorate).
Most purine molecules structured similarly to caffeine have a solubilizing ability, and theacrine appears to be better than caffeine at doing so.
The locomotor enhancing properties of theacrine appears to involve adenosine signalling, as the reduction of locomotion seen with adenosine antagonists (a combination of A1 and A2A inhibition) is attenuated with coadministration with 48mg/kg theacrine via intraperitoneal injections.
Although the role is not fully elucidated, theacrine appears to be capable of causing adenosine signalling changes similar to caffeine
Dopamine signalling appears to be involved in the locomotor properties of theacrine, as dopamine antagonists (D1 and D2 receptor antagonists) can partially attenuat the increase in locomotion seen with an infusion of 48mg/kg theacrine.
Similar to the role on adenosine signalling, theacrine may influence dopaminergic signalling in the same manner caffeine does through adenosine signalling
Oral ingestion of 8, 16, and 32mg/kg theacrine in mice appears to exert dose-dependent analgesic properties as assessed by a hot plate test (24.5-34.1% increase in latency) and acetic-acid induced writhing test (10.6-18.9% reductions in writhing; 8mg/kg ineffective) performed an hour after theacrine ingestion; the potency of theacrine was nonsignificantly less than the reference drug of 10mg/kg indomethacin.
Oral administration of theacrine in mice cause possible pain reduction in preliminary tests, with a potency comparable or lesser than indomethacin
The one human study on theacrine done to date found borderline subjective effects, but not objective effects, on attention and alertness, but these possible effects cannot be traced to theacrine specifically since a blend of supplements was used.
A proprietary blend of supplements containing both theacrine and caffeine may improve subjective feelings of grogginess. However, this putative effect cannot be attributed to theacrine alone since the blend contained a host of other supplements.
In mice subject to acute restraint stress following seven days of theacrine supplementation of 10-30mg/kg, adverse changes in liver enzymes and antioxidant enzymes seen with immobilization stress was attenuated, suggesting an anti-stress property.
There may be stress reducing properties with low doses of theacrine. These doses are thought to be at comparible levels to that which humans would ingest when consuming tea that contains theacrine
In rats injected with 24 or 48mg/kg theacrine, it was noted that the higher tested dose was able to increase locomotion in a manner dependent on both adenosinergic and dopaminergic signalling (similar to caffeine) while the lower dose trended to do so; as these effects were replicated by direct infusion into the nuclear accumbens, it is possible that theacrine's mechanism of action involves stimulation of this brain region, again similar to how caffeine acts.
Chronic administration of theacrine (for seven days) did not appear to cause any significant sensitization to the locomotor enhancing properties of theacrine, as the increase in locomotion seen on day one (294%) was similar to day seven (259% enhancement) which exceeded control groups at both time points. In contrast, administration of caffeine via infusion over seven days tends to induce sensitization; the reason for this difference between theacrine and caffeine is not yet known as long-term tests have not yet been conducted.
High doses of theacrine via infusion appear to be capable of causing an increase in locomotion in rats, thought to be due to acting on the same brain area as caffeine. Theacrine, for unknown reasons, has not yet been associated with sensitization to these effects in contrast with caffeine, even though the theacrine dose where locomotion is enhanced was higher than what would be ingested through a moderate consumption of tea
Theacrine at more practical doses (10mg/kg orally) has been associated with sedative properties but without significant alteration in locomotion, which has led to the hypothesis of a biphasic curve occurring with theacrine where low doses suppress locomotion and high doses enhance it. This has been noted with caffeine where low (3mg/kg) and high (100mg/kg) doses suppress activity while the midrange of dosing enhances activity.
Lower does of theacrine are implicated in a minor sedating property, and this general notion (low and high doses being suppressive but the midrange being enhancing) is another similarity with caffeine. The dose that is sedating is more likely to be seen with consumption of Kucha tea in humans
Theacrine at 10 and 30mg/kg (oral ingestion) appears to prolong phenobarbital induced sleep time suggesting a sedative property when taken 30 minutes prior to sleep, with the same dose of caffeine having a notable anti-sleep property in the same test.
Doses of theacrine likely found in tea produced from Kucha leaves may be able to have sedating properties, although the mechanisms underlying this are not yet known
The liver damage that is seen in mice subject to acute restraint stress (a model for acute stress in humans) appears to be attenuated in a dose-dependent manner with pretreatment of 10-30mg/kg theacrine for seven days prior to stress. The alterations seen in mRNA levels for antioxidant enzymes (SOD, catalase, and glutathoine) and inflammatory biomarkers (IL-1β, IL-6, TNF-α, and IFN-γ) also appeared to be normalized with the highest oral dose.
One study noted benefits to the liver secondary to anti-stress properties of theacrine, although any direct effects on liver function with theacrine has not yet been investigated
Theacrine has been noted to cause chromosomal abberations in plant cells, which is standard for methylated oxopurine compounds (including caffeine). Currently no genotoxicity studies in mammalian cells exist.
Possible genotoxicity of theacrine is unknown, but possibly comparable to caffeine
- Li WX, et al. Theacrine, a purine alkaloid obtained from Camellia assamica var. kucha, attenuates restraint stress-provoked liver damage in mice. J Agric Food Chem. (2013)
- Feduccia AA, et al. Locomotor activation by theacrine, a purine alkaloid structurally similar to caffeine: involvement of adenosine and dopamine receptors. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. (2012)
- Zheng XQ, et al. Theacrine (1,3,7,9-tetramethyluric acid) synthesis in leaves of a Chinese tea, kucha (Camellia assamica var. kucha). Phytochemistry. (2002)
- Petermann JB1, Baumann TW. Metabolic Relations between Methylxanthines and Methyluric Acids in Coffea L. Plant Physiol. (1983)
- Kihlman BA. 1,3,7,9-tetramethyluric acid--a chromosome-damaging agent occurring as a natural metabolite in certain caffeine-producing plants. Mutat Res. (1977)
- Weil-Malherbe H. The solubilization of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons by purines. Biochem J. (1946)
- Neish WJP. On the solubilisation of aromatic amines by purines. Recueil des Travaux Chimiques des Pays-Bas. (1948)
- Wang Y, et al. Theacrine, a purine alkaloid with anti-inflammatory and analgesic activities. Fitoterapia. (2010)
- Kuhman 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)
- Wise RA. Dopamine, learning and motivation. Nat Rev Neurosci. (2004)
- Cauli O, et al. Subchronic caffeine exposure induces sensitization to caffeine and cross-sensitization to amphetamine ipsilateral turning behavior independent from dopamine release. Neuropsychopharmacology. (2003)
- Xu JK, et al. Theacrine, a special purine alkaloid with sedative and hypnotic properties from Cammelia assamica var. kucha in mice. J Asian Nat Prod Res. (2007)
- Svenningsson P, Nomikos GG, Fredholm BB. Biphasic changes in locomotor behavior and in expression of mRNA for NGFI-A and NGFI-B in rat striatum following acute caffeine administration. J Neurosci. (1995)
- Snyder SH, et al. Adenosine receptors and behavioral actions of methylxanthines. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. (1981)