Theacrine is a naturally occurring alkaloid molecule similar in structure to caffeine (1). The compound is found in significant amounts in a plant called camellia assamica, a small shrub whose leaves are used to make Kucha, an herb in the same family as green tea (2). The plant is originally from East Asia thought it is now cultivated around the world, especially in subtropical climates (3). Kucha tea leaves have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries to treat conditions like asthma and heart diseases including angina.
Drinking steeped Kucha leaves provides a variety of mild benefits, but extracted theacrine delivers a much more potent form of the ingredients. As a supplement theacrine has over twice the potency of caffeine and has a positive effect on mood (4, 5, 6). In fact, theacrine is actually synthesized directly from caffeine in certain of plants (7).
Compared to caffeine, theacrine is longer lasting and provides additional (non-stimulatory) effects like elevated mood, relaxation and mental clarity (8). The effects of theacrine taper off slowly, rather than abruptly as a “caffeine crash.” Theacrine is primarily used for its stimulatory effects as a nootropic supplement, though taken at low doses it may have some mild sedative properties (8). Lastly, research shows that theacrine may have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties as well. Preliminary data suggest the compound may cause pain reduction comparable to indomethacin (9).
Molecularly, theacrine is like caffeine, with the addition of a methyl group and a ketone group (10). Similar to caffeine, theacrine appears to act on adenosinergic and dopaminergic neurotransmission pathways (11). Common effects of higher doses include alertness, increased energy and cognition. Lower doses are associated with relaxation and sedation.
Theacrine is effective when stacked with other nootropic ingredients like caffeine, bacopa monniera, huperzine A, vitamin B12, among others (12).