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Guarana information

Introduction to Guarana (Paullinia cupana)

Guarana is a large climbing woody-shrub native to Brazil. The cultivation of it dates to pre-Columbian times. The first Indian inhabitants of the Amazon domesticated the Guaraná plant. Botanists actually believe that the current plants, even those found in dense forests, are the remains of indigenous cultivation in the past. The Maués and Andira tribes from the lower Amazon are some of the first people to grow Guarana.

The name Guarana was derived from the Guaranis, South American Indians who used the preparation in various foods, much in the same way we use chocolate. Seeds from Guarana are shelled and dry-roasted, coarsely powdered, mixed with water and/or cassava, and kneaded into a paste. The paste is then shaped into cylindrical masses and dried. These resultant "sticks", which have little smell and have an astringent, bitter taste (like chocolate without its oiliness), are then grated into water. Today, Brazil's soft drink industries use the same preparation, with the addition of carbonation. The powder is widely available and can be mixed with water or fruit juice and some sugar. In Europe, Guarana was first marketed as an alternative medicinal plant from the Amazon, beneficial to the overall health.

Guarana contains guaranine, a compound almost identical to caffeine. It also contains large amounts of theophylline, theobromine, and tannic acid, and is also rich in saponins. The fact that Guarana seed is fatty means that even ground into a powder, it is not readily water soluble. Therefore the body does not quickly absorb it. The guaranine is released slowly, over as much as 6 hours time, so the energy boost that is experienced from Guarana is not like that of coffee with its sudden rush and quick drop-off. Rather, it continues to escalate over hours. Whereas caffeine provides a short lived energy burst that overheats and excites the body, guaranine has a cooling action that revitalizes and relaxes. This is because Guarana contains other components that modify the activity of this substance. The end result is more beneficial to the body than tea or coffee, but Guarana can still cause caffeine like side effects if you have too much. Theobromine and theophylline are two constituents of Guarana that some chocoholics may recognize. Theophylline is a stronger stimulant than even caffeine, but it is present in Guarana in smaller amounts than caffeine. Theobromine is the stimulant/euphoriant so craved by chocoholics; with theobromine, theophylline, and caffeine present, it is not difficult to see how the popularity of Guarana has remained and grown since the 1600's.

In Africa it is used in the treatment of dysentery and as a sexual stimulant. The Guaranis also used Guarana as a preventative and curative for "bowel complaints". Guarana is used also used for:

  • an appetite suppressant

  • smoking cessation

  • pain relief

  • commercially as a flavoring in soft drinks

  • to increases energy levels and reduce fatigue

  • to enhance physical and mental performance

  • to suppress appetite and promote weight loss

A good starting dose is 200 to 1000 milligrams Guarana (1/2 teaspoon of Guarana seed powder is about 1300 milligrams). Guarana powder can be mixed with fruit juice, punch or herbal tea. Daily oral intake should not exceed 3 grams of Guarana powder. As with any caffeine-containing substance, too much can lead to insomnia, nervousness, anxiety, headaches, high blood pressure and heart palpitations. Guarana is not recommended for women who are pregnant or lactating.


Mazatec Garden describes the common uses of many herbs. This is for informational purposes only, as we are not advising or prescribing herbs for any specific medical condition or for any specific use. Distribute this information freely.

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