Medicinal plants

Guarana - effect and application

Guarana - effect and application

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The alternative wake-up maker from South America

The capsule fruits and seeds of the Guarana (Paullinia cupana) make coffee a real competitor. Thanks to its high caffeine content, the guarana extract is a reliable stimulant. In contrast to coffee, guarana also contains a number of other health-related ingredients. Guarana or Guarana has been a fruit used in folk medicine and nutrition for hundreds of years by the indigenous peoples of the Amazon. We are now discovering the advantages of this berry, also known as the eye of the forest in their home country, which is already celebrated by manufacturers of energy drinks as one of the best stimulants. However, Paullinia cupana can do much more. Learn more about the topic here.

Fact sheet on guarana:

Scientific name: Paullinia cupana
Plant family: Soap tree family (Sapindaceae)
Popular names: Fruit of youth, eye of the forest, potion of the gods, green gold of the Indians
Origin: Amazon, South America
Plant parts used: fruit
Most important ingredients: Caffeine, tannins, theophylline
Application areas:

  • Lack of concentration,
  • Poor circulation,
  • Underperformance
  • and indigestion.

Herbal Portrait: The Green Eye of the Amazon Rainforest

The guarana, which belongs to the soap tree family (Sapindaceae), originally comes from the tropical regions of the Amazon Basin. Depending on the location, the woody plant grows there either as a liana or in the form of climbing shrubs. The orange-red capsule fruits of the guarana immediately catch the eye of a viewer. They grow in grape-like fruit clusters and each contain a greenish-black seed stone, which is about more than one centimeter tall and has the main part of the fruit's own ingredients. As soon as they are ripe, they burst open and reveal their black seed core, which is surrounded by a white seed coat at the base. When opened, the capsule fruits appear like little eyes, which gives them the popular nickname "Eye of the Forest".

The official name was "Guarana" (paullinia cupana) on the other hand from the Guaraní people, who are native to Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay. In the folk medicine of their South American homeland, guarana has been valued as a valuable medicinal plant for centuries. The Amazon people have always used Guarana powdered fruit seeds to make guarana paste. It is still used in Guaraní folk medicine as a tonic for illness and hunger, but also as a disinfectant for wounds and inflammation. Furthermore, the Guaraní knew how to use their "eye of the forest" as a stimulant by making energy-giving drinks from the Guarana powder.

Traditionally, the indios process dried fruits and seeds of the plant into guarana powder and then make a paste or a drink from the powder extract. The extracts of the guarana are then used, for example, to treat

  • Diarrhea,
  • Gastrointestinal complaints,
  • Feelings of hunger and thirst,
  • Fever,
  • Cardiovascular problems,
  • Difficulty concentrating,
  • weakness
  • or to improve performance.

The invigorating and performance-enhancing effect of guarana is also responsible for nicknames such as "fruit of youth" or, in the case of liquid guarana extracts, "potion of youth". Today, the healing properties of guarana are also known

  • Inflammation,
  • Urinary retention,
  • depressions
  • and migraines.

In particular, the production of energy drinks from guarana extract has now also reached the modern age. Countless manufacturers swear by guarana powder as an efficient alternative to coffee or chemical stimulants like taurine and celebrate guarana as the best vegetable energizer ever.

One reason for this is the fact that guarana extract has a good three times more caffeine than a comparable amount of coffee beans. In addition, the powder from guarana also contains various minerals and natural substances that are invaluable for metabolism, immune defense and digestion. Guarana is therefore not only used as a stimulant. The following products are made from the extract of Paullinia cupana:

  • Energy drinks,
  • Fruit juices and smoothies,
  • Fruit teas,
  • Chewing gum,
  • Dairy products (e.g. yogurt),
  • Food supplements
  • and chocolate.

Ingredients and effects

The healing guarana extract is often incorrectly referred to as "guarnine". A misleading term that suggests that it is a special active ingredient. In reality, however, Guarnin hides a whole complex of active ingredients. In addition to the caffeine, which makes up about seven percent of guarine and gives it its stimulating properties, guarana powder also contains up to 25 percent vegetable tannins, including about 12 percent so-called tannins.

Not only caffeine has an invigorating effect in Guarana

With a share of up to eight percent, guarana contains almost three times as much caffeine as the coffee bean. The plant substance acts not only as a stimulant, but generally stimulating

  • Cardiovascular system,
  • Concentration and performance,
  • Urine production
  • and digestion.

Although caffeine is one of the most important components in the supposed guarnine, it is not the only ingredient that gives guarana its sustained vitalizing effect. The tannins mentioned above are known to have a disinfectant and anti-inflammatory effect. At the same time, the tannins in the guarana extract have an astringent effect. As a result, caffeine is passed through the vessels in portions, which prolongs its duration of action. The natural substances theophylline and theobromine in the extract of guarana are also closely related to caffeine. They also have a stimulating and vitalizing effect.

Useful information: The effect of the caffeine can be significantly extended by the vascular low dosage, which is why guarana extract can constantly exert its invigorating effect for six hours.

Guarana also invigorates the skin and mucous membranes

The astringent effect of the tannins is due to their special property of removing protein from the skin and mucous membranes. This results in the tissue drying out. This mechanism of action is not only used in relation to the condition of the vessels. Because, as their name suggests, the drying tannins are primarily used in leather tanning to remove infectious agents such as bacteria and fungi on the animal skins.

Tannins work on both animal and human skin and mucous membrane tissue

  • antimicrobial,
  • disinfectant,
  • anti-inflammatory,
  • expectorant,
  • sore and hemostatic.

The airways, heart and digestive tract benefit from guarana

The combination effect of tannins and other ingredients in the guarana extract is interesting. Above all, what is meant here

  • Theophylline (a caffeine breakdown product),
  • Theobromine (a plant substance related to theophylline),
  • and saponins (vegetable sugar building blocks).

Together they give fruits and seeds of guarana a

  • respiratory relief,
  • cholesterol lowering,
  • bowel regulating,
  • diuretic,
  • heart and immune strengthening,
  • nerve stimulating
  • and mood-enhancing effect.

They also enhance the expectorant and anti-inflammatory effects of the tannins. Because of this combination effect, guarana extract is wonderfully suitable for the treatment and prevention of

  • bronchial diseases,
  • Gastrointestinal complaints,
  • increased cholesterol,
  • Urinary tract infections,
  • Heart disease,
  • Nerve weakness and mood swings.
Effective ingredients of guarana
caffeineIt stimulates the heart and circulatory system, promotes concentration, increases performance, diuretic and supports the digestion.
TanninsAre astringent and therefore extend the duration of caffeine; have a disinfectant, anti-inflammatory, expectorant, wound and hemostatic effect.
TheophyllineHas airway-relieving, diuretic, heart-strengthening and intestinal regulating effects
TheobromineHas a similar effect to theophylline and additionally mood-enhancing and nerve-stimulating.
SaponinsHave anti-inflammatory, intestinal, diuretic, expectorant and strengthening properties.

Application and dosage

Following the Indian tradition, fruits and seeds of Guarana are first dried today and then ground into powder. The guarana extract is then available either in pure powder form or pressed as tablets or capsules. The correct dosage is important when using the guarana preparations. Since guarana is a highly efficient, natural stimulant, you should be careful with the dosage. Because more guarana does not mean more performance or health benefits. Rather, the classic side effects of caffeine increase and lead to an increased overdose

  • High blood pressure,
  • Irregular heartbeat,
  • A headache,
  • Inner unrest,
  • nervousness
  • and sleep disorders.

As a guideline, a daily dose of a maximum of two grams of guarana applies. Guarana products are generally not recommended for people with high blood pressure or existing heart diseases, as it can lead to dangerous blood pressure and cardiac arrhythmias. In the case of pregnancy or while breastfeeding, guarana products should also not be consumed because the increased nervous, intestinal and metabolic activity could lead to premature birth or, in the case of breastfeeding mothers, to health problems in the child.

Guarana powder instead of coffee

Due to the high caffeine content, guarana is particularly suitable as a stimulant, because it works for several hours and releases caffeine in a gentle way. Especially people who are particularly sensitive to coffee can therefore find a real alternative in Guarana to get fit quickly in the morning. In addition, guarana is gentler on the gastric mucosa and irritates it less than coffee.

If you want to make drinks such as tea, smoothies, shakes or cocoa from guarana, the best way to do this is to use the powder of the medicinal plant. The bitter taste that guarana has due to its very high caffeine and tannin content is masked by such mixtures. Since one gram of guarana powder contains 40 to 90 mg of caffeine, a maximum daily dose of one to two grams of guarana powder (approximately half a teaspoon) is recommended for adults.

Guarana tablets and capsules for easier dosing

The dosage of the guarana powder is not always easy, especially for beginners. For this reason guarana extract is also available in pre-dosed tablets and capsules. These not only allow a better dosage, but can also be swallowed whole to avoid the bitter taste. When taking pressed guarana extract, it is important to always drink enough water (about one to three liters per day) so that the active ingredients in the body dissolve completely and distribute well. Unless the leaflet recommends otherwise, you should take a maximum of one to three guarana capsules or a maximum of two to three tablets a day.

Side effects and contraindications:

An overdose of guarana (from approx. 20 grams) can lead to side effects such as rapid heartbeat, restlessness, headaches, stomach irritation and tremors. The symptoms are similar to those of an overdose of coffee. Guarana is not suitable for pregnant women, mothers who are breastfeeding or for people with high blood pressure or an overactive thyroid. The reasons are the side effects already mentioned, which can be very strong with the corresponding risk groups.

Interesting studies on the effects of guarana

The effects of guarana have been studied several times. Among other things, researchers came to the conclusion that drinks made from guarana extract have a vitalizing effect solely because of their high caffeine content. This differentiates the wake-up from numerous other energy drinks that manufacturers have to add artificial stimulants to intensify their invigorating effect. Due to its high levels of caffeine, it is only logical that studies have confirmed Paullinia cupana as an excellent stimulant, as expected. A study carried out in 2015 also discovered other active ingredients in the powder of guarana, which further enhance the vitalizing effect. It is assumed that these are the previously mentioned natural substances theobromine and theophylline.

The result of a study by the Institute for Morphology at the Brazilian Federal University in Santa Maria is particularly interesting. Here, scientists examined two different test groups, one of which consisted of local seniors who regularly consumed guarana extract (NG). The other test group (GI) consisted of seniors who had never drunk guarana before. It turned out that members of the NG group generally had a lower rate of metabolic diseases. Hypertension was also found less frequently in the male group members.

According to a Brazilian study, brain performance is apparently stimulated by Paullinia cupana. This is interesting on the one hand for the use of performance-enhancing guarana products in the context of examination situations and other tasks that are challenging for the brain. On the other hand, the responsible researchers emphasized that guarana may also be suitable for the treatment of cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer's due to its memory-enhancing effects.

The effect of guarana powder on the immune system has also been examined medically. Here researchers came to the conclusion that guarana not only has an antibacterial, but also an immune-boosting effect. The latter has been increasingly in the focus of science since 2016 because guarana apparently helps the immune system to target cancer cells.

In 2017, Brazilian researchers conducted another study to get to the bottom of the cancer-inhibiting properties of Paullinia cupana. Indeed, the initial results were confirmed. In combination with caffeine, guarana appears to suppress certain cellular proteins that are responsible for the growth of breast and colon cancer. The extract from Paullinia cupana could thus become relevant as an anti-cancer agent in the future.

Buy guarana - pharmacy, drugstore or online trade

In addition to powder, capsules and tablets from Guarana, there are of course ready-made energy drinks available. In the local pharmacy or drugstore there are a lot of preparations that are also available online. Furthermore, soft drinks containing guarana are offered in the food trade.


Guarana is not only a wonderful natural ingredient for herbal energy drinks, but also a plant with great healing potential. According to the latest research, Paullinia cupana has a vitalizing, metabolism-stimulating and immune-boosting effect, even cancer-inhibiting. The fruits of the liana plant from the Amazon, also known as the "Eye of the Forest", are therefore rightly traded as superfood. Nevertheless, you should dose guarana in moderation and consume no more than two grams of guarana extract per day to avoid unpleasant side effects. Because here, as so often, not much helps, but rather increases the unpleasant side effects of an excessive dose of caffeine. (ma)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Miriam Adam, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch


  • Moustakas, Dimitrios et al .: "Guarana Provides Additional Stimulation over Caffeine Alone in the Planarian Model", in: PLOS ONE 10 (4), 2015, PLOS | One
  • da Costa Krewer, Cristina et al .: "Habitual intake of guaraná and metabolic morbidities: an epidemiological study of an elderly Amazonian population", Phytotherapy Research, Volume 25 Issue 9, September 2011, Wiley Online Library
  • Cadoná, Francine C. et al .: "Guaraná, a Highly Caffeinated Food, Presents in vitro Antitumor Activity in Colorectal and Breast Cancer Cell Lines by Inhibiting AKT / mTOR / S6K and MAPKs Pathways", in: Nutrition and Cancer, 69 (5 ), June 2017, Taylor & Francis Online
  • do Nascimento Carvalho, Lidiane Vasconcelos et al .: "Evaluation of Antibacterial, Antineoplastic, and Immunomodulatory Activity of Paullinia cupana Seeds Crude Extract and Ethyl-Acetate Fraction", in: Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Volume 2016,
  • de Oliveira Campos, Maira Paschoin et al .: "Guarana (Paullinia cupana) improves fatigue in breast cancer patients undergoing systemic chemotherapy", in: The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Vol. 17 No. 6, 2011, Mary Ann Liebert
  • O'Dea, Jennifer A .: "Consumption of nutritional supplements among adolescents: usage and perceived benefits", in: Health Education Research, Volume 18 Issue 1, February 2003, Oxford Academic
  • Fukumasu, Heidge et al .: "Paullinia cupana Mart var. Sorbilis, guaraná, reduces cell proliferation and increases apoptosis of B16 / F10 melanoma lung metastases in mice", in: Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research, Volume 41 (4), April 2008,
  • Bayer, Thomas: Natural stimulants: increase concentration and be vital without artificial substances, epubli GmbH, 2016
  • Peirano, Reto I. et al .: "Dermal penetration of creatine from a face-care formulation containing creatine, guarana and glycerol is linked to effective antiwrinkle and antisagging efficacy in male subjects", in: Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, Volume10 Issue 4, December 2011, Wiley Online Library
  • Judelson, Daniel et al .: "Effects of theobromine and caffeine on mood and vigilance", in: Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, 33 (4), August 2013, Ovid
  • Rolim Campos, Adriana et al .: "Acute effects of guarana (Paullinia cupana Mart.) On mouse behavior in forced swimming and open field tests", in: Phytotherapy Research, Volume 19 Issue 5, May 2005, Wiley Online Library
  • Schimpl, Flávia Camila et al .: "Guarana: Revisiting a highly caffeinated plant from the Amazon", in: Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Volume 150 Issue 1, October 2013,



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