Guarana (also called Paullinia cupana or Brazilian cocoa) is a creeping shrub native to Venezuela and northern Brazil in the Amazon rain forest. It has large leaves and clusters of flowers; and its fruit are small, bright-red berries containing black seeds.
Guarana contains a high amount of guaranine, a chemical substance with the same characteristics as caffeine. In fact, it has a higher caffeine content than coffee, but is in a form that takes longer to absorb, providing more sustained stimulation.
It is typically found in Brazilian soft drinks and popular energy drinks, teas and weight loss supplements.
A nervine (calms nervousness, tension or excitement)
Stimulant and tonic (invigorates or strengthens the system)
Febrifuge (agent that reduces fever)
According to an Indian legend 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.
Guarana should not be used by people who are sensitive to caffeine or xanthines.
Guarana contains a high amount of caffeine which can aggravate high blood pressure and heart conditions.
The safety of guarana in pregnant or nursing women has not been established. Since many doctors recommend limiting caffeine during pregnancy and nursing, guarana should be avoided.
Guarana should not be taken with any products containing ephedra. Serious adverse effects have been reported with this combination.
- (updated by Birgit Ottermann, Health24, August 2010)