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3 Potential Benefits of Theacrine (Teacrine) + Safety & Dosage

Written by Biljana Novkovic, PhD | Last updated:
Jonathan Ritter
Puya Yazdi
Medically reviewed by
Jonathan Ritter, PharmD, PhD (Pharmacology), Puya Yazdi, MD | Written by Biljana Novkovic, PhD | Last updated:

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Theacrine is a natural compound related to caffeine. A couple of human studies suggest that theacrine may increase mental clarity, boost energy, and improve mood and motivation. Read on to learn more about this new potential 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 an altitude of 1,000 meters. It’s 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 molecular studies suggest that it activates similar receptors and signaling pathways [2, 3].

How Does It Work?

Our understanding of how theacrine works comes mainly from animal studies.

Theacrine binds to adenosine receptors (ADORA1, ADORA2A) in mice and rats and appears to have 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) show the opposite effect by increasing adenosine levels in the brain (hippocampus) and counteracting the stimulatory property of caffeine [5].

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

In addition, studies in mice also suggest that theacrine may have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties:

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

  • Has a longer half-life (in rats) [7]
  • Has no effect on blood pressure (in rats) [8]
  • Is less likely to disrupt sleep compared to caffeine (in mice) [5]
  • Is less likely to cause habituation – a diminished response with time (in humans) [9]

Finally, a study in humans suggests that theacrine and caffeine may be more effective when taken together because caffeine increases the bioavailability and positive effects of theacrine [10, 11].

Snapshot

Proponents

  • May boost energy
  • May improve focus and motivation
  • May improve mood
  • May slightly decrease bad cholesterol

Skeptics

  • Insufficient evidence for any health benefits
  • Often investigated in combination with caffeine, making its effects difficult to estimate

Health Benefits

Insufficient Evidence For:

1) Increasing 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. Individuals who have used it report that it provides a long-lasting boost of energy without the negative side effects (anxiety, insomnia, tolerance) associated with caffeine.

However, this is supported only by a couple of small-scale human studies.

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 people reported increased subjective feelings of attentiveness, alertness, and focus when using a supplement containing both theacrine and caffeine vs. caffeine alone [11].

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

While research so far appears promising, larger well-designed studies are needed to confirm that theacrine indeed can boost energy and improve focus and motivation in the general population.

2) Improving Mood

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

In rats, high doses of theacrine activate dopamine receptors DRD1 and DRD2. In addition, theacrine increases activity in the nucleus accumbens region of the brain, which is associated with pleasure and reward [4].

In a study with 20 healthy humans, a supplement containing both theacrine and caffeine favorably impacted 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].

In mice, theacrine reduces depression-like activity in various tests [13].

A small trial and one animal study are certainly insufficient to show that theacrine can improve mood. More clinical trials including much larger and more varied groups of people are needed to confirm these preliminary findings.

3) Decreasing Cholesterol

Theacrine may act akin to polyphenols in tea, which can inhibit the absorption of dietary cholesterol and decrease blood cholesterol levels.

A study in 60 healthy humans has shown that high-dose theacrine supplementation may slightly reduce LDL and total cholesterol levels [14].

Animal and Cell Research (Lack of Evidence)

No clinical evidence supports the use of theacrine for any of the conditions listed in this section. Below is a summary of the existing animal and cell-based research, which should guide further investigational efforts. However, the studies should not be interpreted as supportive of any health benefit.

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. However, this may or may not apply to humans.

Inflammation and Pain

Theacrine reduced inflammation in mice, with a potency comparable to or lesser than the anti-inflammatory drug indomethacin. The pain-relieving properties in that study were dose-dependent [15].

The same study showed that caffeine had no effect on neither inflammation nor pain in mice [15].

Theacrine vs. 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 animals and humans suggests that theacrine likely doesn’t cause fatigue or tolerance 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].

Also, animal studies suggest that, unlike caffeine, theacrine might not affect blood pressure, cause anxiety, or lead to insomnia. In addition, it may have benefits that caffeine doesn’t, such as decreasing inflammation and relieving pain [8, 5]. However, at this point, we don’t know if these apply to humans.

Dosage, Safety, Limitations & Reviews

Dosage

Because theacrine is not approved by the FDA for any condition, there is no official dose. Users and supplement manufacturers have established unofficial doses based on trial and error. Discuss with your doctor if theacrine may be useful as a complementary approach in your case and which dose you should take.

In animal studies, 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].

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

Studies and individuals have used theacrine in dosages that range from 50 to 300 mg/day.

Doses below 50 g may be relaxation-inducing, while higher doses are likely stimulatory.

Safety

Up to 300 mg/day theacrine was deemed safe and non-habituating in an 8-week study of 60 healthy humans [9].

Although it is similar in structure to caffeine, at this point, more research is needed to assess the safety of theacrine. Consult with your healthcare provider before taking it as a supplement.

Limitations and Caveats

Theacrine is a relatively new compound on the market, and there are only a couple of published scientific studies that focus on it. There is not enough evidence to support 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.

User Experience

The opinions expressed in this section are solely those of theacrine users, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. Their reviews do not represent the opinions of SelfHacked. SelfHacked does not endorse any specific product, service, or treatment.

Do not consider user experiences as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare providers because of something you have read on SelfHacked. We understand that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified healthcare provider.

Users report that theacrine has similar if slightly weaker/milder effects compared to caffeine. They also report fewer side effects, such as jitters, and a somewhat longer-lasting effect.

About the Author

Biljana Novkovic

Biljana Novkovic

PhD
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 and 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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