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Guarana (Portuguese guarana) , Paullinia cupana , is a climbing plant in the Sapindaceae family, native to the Amazon basin and especially common in Brazil. While guarana features large leaves and clusters of flowers, it is best known for its fruit, which is about the size of a coffee berry. Each fruit contains about one seed, which contains approximately three times as much caffeine as coffee beans.

The guarana fruit's color ranges from orange to red and contains black seeds which are partly covered by white arils. The color contrast when the fruit has been split open has been likened to eyeballs; this has formed the basis of a myth.

History and culture

The word guarana comes from the Portuguese guarana, which has its origins in the Satere-Mawe language word warana.

Guarana plays an important role in Tupi and Guarani Brazilian culture. According to a myth dating back to the Satere-Maue tribe, guarana's domestication originated with a deity killing a beloved village child. In order to console the villagers, a more benevolent god plucked the left eye from the child and planted it in the forest, resulting in the wild variety of guarana. The god then plucked the right eye from the child and planted it in the village, giving rise to domesticated guarana.

The Guaranis would make tea by shelling and washing the seeds, followed by pounding them into a fine powder. The powder is kneaded into a dough and then shaped into cylinders. This product is known as guarana bread or Brazilian cocoa, which would be grated and then immersed into hot water along with sugar.

This plant was introduced to western civilization in the 17th century following its discovery by Father Felip Betendorf. By 1958, guarana was commercialized.


Below are some of the chemicals found in guarana.Duke, James A. 1992. Handbook of phytochemical constituents of GRAS herbs and other economic plants. Boca Raton, FL. CRC Press.

According to the Biological Magnetic Resonance Data Bank, when guaranine is defined as only the caffeine chemical in guarana, it is identical to the caffeine chemical derived from other sources, for example coffee, tea, and mate. Guaranine, theine, and mateine are all synonyms for caffeine when the definitions of those words include none of the properties and chemicals of their host plants except the chemical caffeine. Natural sources of caffeine contain widely varying mixtures of xanthine alkaloids other than caffeine, including the cardiac stimulants theophylline and theobromine and other substances such as polyphenols which can form insoluble complexes with caffeine.


Guarana is used in sweetened or carbonated soft drinks and energy shots, an ingredient of herbal tea or contained in capsules. Generally, while South America obtains most of its caffeine from guarana, many other Western countries are beginning to witness use of guarana in various energy and superfruit products. Gross PM. Superfruits take center stage: defining an emergent category, Natural Products Information Center, February 2007


Brazil, which consumes the third-most amount of soft drinks in the world, produces several brands of soft drink from guarana extract. Exceeding Brazilian sales of cola drinks, guarana-containing beverages may cause associated with drinking coffee, a perception that could be a placebo effect or result from another substance.

Cognitive effects

Because guaranine is chemically equivalent to caffeine, guarana is of interest for its potential effects on cognition. In rats, guarana increased memory retention and physical endurance when compared with a placebo.

A 2007 human pilot study assessed acute behavioral effects to four doses of guarana extract. Memory, alertness and mood were increased by the two lower doses, confirming previous results of cognitive improvement following 75 mg guarana. These studies have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration or any similar government agencies, and do not imply medical or regulatory approval for use of guarana to enhance cognition.

Other uses and side-effects

In the United States, guarana holds a GRAS-status, i.e. generally recognized as safe.

Preliminary research has shown guarana may have metabolic effects. One study showed an average 11.2 pound weight loss in a group taking a mixture of yerba mate, guarana, and damiana, compared to an average 1 pound loss in a placebo group after 45 days. Although inconclusive about specific effects due only to guarana, this study differs from another showing no effect on body weight of a formula containing guarana.

Guarana extract reduced aggregation of rabbit platelets by up to 37% below control values and decreased platelet thromboxane formation from arachidonic acid by 78% below control values. It is not known if such platelet action clinically reduces the risk of heart attack or ischemic stroke.

Other laboratory studies showed antioxidant, antibacterial, and fat cell reduction (when combined with conjugated linoleic acid) from chronic intake of guarana.

From anecdotal evidence of excessive consumption of energy drinks, guarana may contribute (alone or in combination with caffeine and taurine) to onset of seizures.

External links

Raintree Tropical Plant Database: Guarana

Guarana at Duke's database

Guarana at USDA database

American Botanical Council Web site Guarana information from the American Botanical Council Web site

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Guarana

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