The Amazon rainforest has nature’s most exotic and bountiful produce. Countries in the Amazon basin – like Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela – benefit the most in this aspect. One such Amazonian offering is Guarana or Guaraná.
Guarana is a natural reservoir of caffeine. In the traditional medicine of South American countries, guarana is associated with pain relief, weight loss, neurostimulation, and several other benefits.
To know more about this attractive Amazonian superfood – its uses, rituals, facts, and risks – keep scrolling!
Table Of Contents
What Is Guarana? Why Is It So Special?
Guarana is a caffeine-rich fruit that is native to the central Amazon basin. It is well known for its medicinal properties. It grows in Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Republic of Guyana, and some other surrounding countries.
The plant, seeds, and fruits of guarana are used in traditional medicine and are also linked to many tribal traditions.
Traditionally, its roasted seeds and raw fruits were used to make beverages combining maté and other herbs. These drinks are said to act as stimulants, aphrodisiacs, painkillers, memory boosters, antidepressants, and anti-aging and antibacterial agents.
The fruit of guarana (Paullinia cupana Kunth.) looks very beautiful. It has a red, winged outer case that encases white flesh. The flesh holds one or two black or dark brown seeds that are responsible for most of guarana’s goodness.
At one glance, the fruit resembles an eyeball and is known to exert positive effects on ophthalmic health. How true is it? What are the other benefits of guarana? Find all these answers in the next section!
Why Should You Have Guarana?
1. Helps In Appetite Suppression
Guarana is rich in bioactive compounds like caffeine, theobromine, theophylline, tannins, saponins, catechins, epicatechins, and proanthocyanins.
When teamed with yerba mate and damiana, guarana managed to suppress appetite in obese women. In other words, their hunger pangs and desire to eat reduced, leading to weight loss (1).
Guarana has also been found to control the expression of genes that are involved in fat accumulation. It downregulates the expression of pro-adipogenic genes while promoting the expression of anti-adipogenic genes (2).
Hence, it can be used to stimulate healthy weight loss in obese individuals and treat eating disorders.
2. Stimulant And Energy Boosting Effect
Along with caffeine, guarana has tannins, alkaloids, catechins, and epicatechins. This is why it has many stimulant mechanisms.
It mobilizes calcium, helps in the binding of caffeine to its receptors in the CNS, triggers the production of ATP (energy), and ultimately improves cognitive performance and alertness.
Research says that it is the cumulative effect of caffeine along with other active components that make guarana an effective stimulant and energy booster.
3. Manages Anxiety And Neurodegenerative Disorders
Guarana powder can have protective effects on your brain and nervous system. It prevents amyloid plaque formation (or accumulation) and protein glycation, reduces oxidative stress, eliminates reactive oxygen species (ROS or free radicals), and decreases acetylcholinesterase activity.
All these effects prevent neuronal death, thus proving beneficial for treating cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s diseases in model organisms.
Thanks to its interesting phytochemical composition, guarana improves memory and lifespan of organisms suffering from anxiety despite having a high caffeine content (5).
4. Antibacterial Properties
Tannins make up a significant fraction of the bioactive ingredients in guarana. Along with other phytochemicals, tannins pose a threat to several notorious bacterial strains, such as MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), Streptococcus mutans, and Streptococcus sobrinus.
Guarana also reduces the levels of pro-inflammatory compounds (viz. interferons and interleukins) in your body. This indirectly shows that it can be a potent anti-inflammatory agent and protect you from bacteria-induced hypersensitivity (6).
5. Might Improve Quality Of Life In Cancer Patients
Due to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of guarana, it can be used as an inexpensive and non-toxic alternative for treating fatigue, anxiety, anorexia, and other chemotherapy-induced disturbances.
Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation therapy showed improvement in their behavior, appetite, body weight, and quality of life when given various forms of guarana extract.
Alcoholic extracts of guarana have free radical-scavenging, antimicrobial, antiproliferative, and antineoplastic properties.
Hence, along with treating the side effects, guarana could also help in limiting the growth and spread of certain cancers. However, there is scope for further in-depth research in this dimension (7), (8), (9).
6. Cleanses Skin And Scalp
The seeds of guarana have potent antioxidant and antimicrobial properties as they contain high amounts of methylxanthines (caffeine, theobromine, and theophylline), saponins, pigments, and choline.
Guarana is used in skin and hair products due to these properties.
Guarana can give you young and glowing skin, shiny hair that is free of dandruff, and also cure most of the pathogenic infections on your skin and scalp.
Some products used to treat cellulitis have also incorporated guarana and its various parts because of its high caffeine content (10).
What is it in guarana that gives it the benefits mentioned above? Read the next section to find out.
Biochemical Profile Of Guarana
Apart from caffeine, guarana has many phytochemicals in its leaves, fruits, and seeds. The seeds of guarana contain methylxanthines, saponins, starch, polysaccharides, pigments, fats, acylglycerols, cyanolipids, and choline.
Its beans contain catechutannic acid, catechic acid, starch, protein, oils, calcium, phosphorus, and tannins, along with caffeine. So, it’s not just caffeine that’s responsible for its stimulant effect.
There is little to no information about the macro- and micronutrients present in guarana. So, until we find out more about its nutrient profile, let’s just eat guarana for its loaded phytochemical profile.
You must be wondering – where can you get an exotic Amazonian fruit like guarana? Is it available in any other forms? Of course, it is! You will have to read the next section to find out.
Do You Get Guarana Everywhere? In What Forms Is It Available?
Importing guarana is an expensive affair. Climate also plays an important factor in keeping the fruits viable. A relatively cheaper and more practical way is to use its supplements.
Guarana and its seeds are available in the form of:
The recommended dosage for guarana is about 200 mg to 800 mg (or 2-3 mg/kg). Long-term dosage is not recommended because it contains high levels of caffeine and other methylxanthines (11).
Wondering what can happen to your body if you exceed that limit? Or if you loved guarana too much and gorged on a whole basket of it? Nothing pleasant – that’s for sure.
Scroll down to find out the side effects and risks associated with guarana and its supplements.
What Are The Side Effects Of Guarana?
Most of the side effects of guarana stem from its abundance of caffeine. Since many health supplements and nutraceuticals contain significant amounts of guarana, it is imperative to keep the following risks and adverse effects in mind:
- Cardiovascular diseases (12)
- Difficulty during pregnancy and breastfeeding
- Hypersensitivity (allergies)
- Cardiac arrhythmia and related troubles in athletes engaged in strenuous physical activity
What’s The Verdict?
Guarana is one of the most exotic contributions of the Amazon. In addition to its attractive appearance, this fruit has bountiful benefits.
It has potent antioxidant, antinociceptive, diuretic, lipolytic, neurostimulating, antipyretic, rejuvenating, and invigorating effects on your body.
So pick up a guarana supplement from the list mentioned above or buy some guarana fruits from a store!
If you’ve got any simple and quick recipes with guarana, please share them with us too! We would love to hear from you, so write us your suggestions, questions, and comments in the comments section below.
Good luck with the guaranás!
- “Acute effects of a herb extract formulation…” Appetite, Elsevier
- “Modulatory Effects of Guarana…” Nutrients, US National Library of Medicine
- “Guarana Provides Additional Stimulation Over…” PLoS One, US National Library of Medicine
- “Effects of a commercial product containing guaraná…” Journal Of Negative Results In Biomedicine, US National Library of Medicine
- “Guarana (Paullinia cupana) Extract Protects Caenorhabditis elegans…” Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, US National Library of Medicine
- “Evaluation of Antibacterial, Antineoplastic, and Immunomodulatory…” Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, US National Library of Medicine
- “Guarana supplement” NCI Drug Dictionary, National Cancer Institute
- “Guarana (Paullinia cupana) Improves Anorexia…” Journal of Dietary Supplements, US National Library of Medicine
- “Guarana (Paullinia cupana) improves fatigue in breast…” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, US National Library of Medicine
- “Paullinia cupana Kunth (Sapindaceae): A review of…” Journal Of Medicinal Plants Research, academicJournals
- “Guarana” Kelvin Anderson, University of Colorado Denver
- “Cardiovascular adverse reactions associated…”Journal of Herbal Pharmacotherapy, US National Library of Medicine