Theacrine is a natural compound that can increase mental clarity, energize workouts, and improve overall mood and motivation. It can also enhance and extend the positive effects of caffeine while minimizing its negative side effects. Read on to learn more about this new alternative to traditional caffeine.

What Is Theacrine?

Theacrine (1,3,7,9-tetramethyluric acid) is a purine alkaloid found in cupuacu fruit (Theobroma grandiflorum) and the kucha plant (Camellia assamica var. kucha).

The cupuacu plant is related to cocoa and grows in the Amazon.

The kucha plant is related to the tea plant and grows only in the wild woods of Yunnan (China), above 1,000 meters of altitude. It has been used to make Chinese kucha tea. Kucha also contains caffeine and theobromine, and it seems that the plant produces theacrine from caffeine [1].

The chemical structure of theacrine is similar to caffeine, and scientific evidence suggests that it activates similar receptors and signaling pathways [2, 3].

How Does It Work?

Theacrine binds to adenosine receptors (ADORA1, ADORA2A) in rodents and has a different effect depending on the dosage:

  • A high dosage (48 mg/kg in rats) blocks adenosine receptors. This mechanism counteracts the drowsiness produced by adenosine, just like caffeine [4].
  • However, smaller doses (3 mg/kg in mice) demonstrate the opposite effect by increasing adenosine levels in the brain (hippocampus) and counteracting the stimulatory property of caffeine [5].

Concentrated theacrine doses also activate dopamine D1 and D2 receptors in rodents (DRD1, DRD2). Activation of these receptors is responsible for motivation and wakefulness [4].

Theacrine also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties in mice:

  • It protected against liver damage by reducing the levels of the inflammatory markers IL-1β, TNF-α, IL-6, and IFN-γ in the liver [6].
  • It also increased the antioxidant capacity of the blood and liver of stressed mice. The antioxidant activity of theacrine increased the production of the enzymes superoxide dismutase, catalase, and glutathione peroxidase and reduced the activity of xanthine oxidase (an enzyme that creates reactive oxygen species) [6].

What makes theacrine truly unique is how it differs from caffeine. Theacrine:

  • Has a longer half-life [7]
  • Has no effect on blood pressure [8]
  • Is less likely to disrupt sleep compared to caffeine [5]
  • Has reduced tolerance [9]

Finally, theacrine and caffeine are more effective when taken together because caffeine increases the bioavailability and positive effects of theacrine in humans [10, 11].

Health Benefits

1) Increases Energy, Focus, and Motivation

Theacrine is a brain/nervous system stimulant that became popular in sports nutrition as a pre-workout and fat burner supplement. Reports suggest it provides a long-lasting boost of energy without the negative side effects (anxiety, insomnia, tolerance) associated with caffeine.

A study of 15 healthy humans showed that a single 200 mg dose of theacrine resulted in a subjective increase in energy, focus, concentration, willingness to exercise, motivation to train, and libido [12].

Another placebo-controlled study involving 20 healthy human subjects reported increased subjective feelings of attentiveness, alertness, and focus when using a supplement containing both theacrine and caffeine vs. caffeine alone [11].

Theacrine significantly enhances physical activity in rats, and it’s suggested that this effect is mediated by both the adenosine and dopamine systems [4].

2) Improves Mood and May Help with Depression

High dopamine levels result in perceived feelings of energy, improved mood, and sensations of pleasure.

Theacrine consumed at high doses activates the dopamine receptors DRD1 and DRD2 [4].

Research also indicates that this compound increases activity in the nucleus accumbens region of the brain, which is associated with pleasure and reward [4].

Data on 20 healthy humans suggested a supplement containing both theacrine and caffeine may favorably impact multiple subjective feelings related to energy and mood when compared to either caffeine alone or placebo. It also decreased feelings of lethargy and grogginess [11].

This evidence seems to back up the anecdotal personal experiences shared by consumers when combining the two substances.

An experimental study on the antidepressant effects of theacrine concluded that it reduces depression in various tests on mice, possibly by acting on the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine [13].

3) May Improve Sleep

A low dose of theacrine shortened wake time and increased sleep time in mice. It also reduced caffeine-induced insomnia [5].

In addition, theacrine markedly increased adenosine levels in the brain (hippocampus) of rats,  which has sleep-promoting effects [5].

These results (from a rodent model) suggest that theacrine might regulate the adenosine system at lower doses to increase sleep.

4) May Reduce Inflammation and Pain

Oral consumption of theacrine reduced inflammation in mice, with a potency comparable or lesser than the anti-inflammatory drug indomethacin [14].

The pain relieving properties of theacrine in mice were dose-dependent [14].

The same study showed that theacrine had acute anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, while caffeine had no effect [14].

5) Theacrine May Decrease Cholesterol

Polyphenols in tea can inhibit the absorption of dietary cholesterol and decrease blood cholesterol levels.

High-dose theacrine supplementation in 60 healthy humans reduced LDL and total cholesterol [15].

Similar to other studies on tea extracts, theacrine supplementation may be a viable alternative to cholesterol-lowering drugs but more research is needed in this area.

6) May Combat Stress

An investigational study demonstrated that theacrine has protective effects on liver damage induced by restraint stress in mice [6].

Results suggest that these protective effects of theacrine in stressed mice may be correlated with its antioxidant activity [6].

Theacrine and Caffeine

Caffeine is known to cause a comedown effect after a couple of hours, which leads to even more fatigue. This ultimately leads to drinking more coffee or taking higher doses, which causes tolerance in the long term.

Research in both animal and human has demonstrated that theacrine does not result in a fatigued crash or lead to tolerance build up over time. In a placebo-controlled study, theacrine demonstrated non-habituating effects in 60 healthy humans over 8 weeks of daily use at up to 300 mg/day  [9, 9].

Also unlike caffeine, theacrine doesn’t seem to affect blood pressure, cause anxiety, or lead to insomnia [8, 5].

In addition, it may have benefits that caffeine doesn’t, such as decreasing inflammation and relieving pain [14].

However, these two compounds are more effective when taken together because caffeine increases the bioavailability and positive effects of theacrine [10, 11].

Dosage, Safety, Limitations & Reviews


Theacrine appears to have a biphasic dose response, meaning that it acts as a sedative at lower doses and has stimulatory properties at higher doses [5, 4].

Recommended daily dosages in humans range from 50 to 300 mg/day.

Kucha tea, for example, contains low doses and has been used to induce relaxation.

Doses below 50 g can be considered lower and relaxation-inducing, while doses closer to 300 mg are stimulatory.


Theacrine has demonstrated clinical safety and non-habituating effects in 60 healthy humans over 8 weeks of daily use at up to 300 mg/day [9].

The acute toxicity in mice would equate to roughly 4 grams for an individual weighing 170 lbs [9].

Although it is similar in structure to caffeine, at this point more research is needed to assess the safety in pregnant and breastfeeding women. It is recommended to consult with your healthcare provider or avoid theacrine during this time.

Limitations and Caveats

Theacrine is a relatively new compound on the market, and there are only a few published scientific studies that confirm a clear benefit over similar purine alkaloids such as caffeine and theobromine.

Theacrine is typically formulated as part of a multi-ingredient supplement and harder to find as a standalone supplement, making it difficult to trace the clinical benefits to one substance.

Reviews/User Experiences

  • “In general, theacrine has essentially all the same effects of caffeine, but slightly weaker stimulation at the same dose, and much less noticeable negative side effects like the jitters. It also lasts about 6 hours for me, as opposed to 3-4 hours of full efficacity from caffeine.”
  • “As a sleep-deprived college student, 100 mg of this is enough to get me awake enough to get through class but its stimulant effects seem more clear and mild compared to caffeine. When combined with caffeine and l-theanine especially, this stuff provides a familiar buzz to most, with a slight difference in headspace.”
  • “Theacrine works so much better for me than caffeine. It is smoother, longer-lasting and the effects are consistent. Sometimes I mix in a bit of caffeine for a little more kick. They work very well together.”


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About the Author

Biljana Novkovic - PHD (ECOLOGICAL GENETICS) - Writer at Selfhacked

Dr. Biljana Novkovic, PhD

PhD (Ecological Genetics)

Biljana received her PhD from Hokkaido University.

Before joining SelfHacked, she was a research scientist with extensive field and laboratory experience. She spent 4 years reviewing the scientific literature on supplements, lab tests and other areas of health sciences. She is passionate about releasing the most accurate science & health information available on topics, and she's meticulous when writing and reviewing articles to make sure the science is sound. She believes that SelfHacked has the best science that is also layperson-friendly on the web.

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