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Eating Well

Guarana as a natural energizer

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What is guarana and how does it work?

Guarana, also known by its scientific name of Paullinia cupana, is popular as a natural energy booster and can be added to drinks as an alternative to drinking tea or coffee. Guarana extract naturally contains caffeine, but studies have shown that it can also have a positive effect on health.1 Centuries before these studies were conducted though, the Amazonian people were already using guarana as a stimulant.
A relative of the maple plant, guarana has a more vine-like structure, with bright red seeds displaying a central black and white large dot, making them look a little like an eye. Imagine combining a redcurrant with a black-eyed pea, that’s what guarana looks like.
Guarana was traditionally prepared by roasting the seeds and grinding them into a powdery paste to be used by Brazilian tribes who relied upon its healing and energy-boosting properties.

Guarana and caffeine

Guarana contains even more caffeine than coffee, and guarana seeds contain at least four times more caffeine than coffee beans.2 The natural stimulating effect comes from a substance called guaranine, which has a similar chemical structure as caffeine and gives guarana its energizing effect.

Available forms of guarana

In Brazil guarana is still commonly used today in food and beverages,3 with over 70% of the guarana produced going to the beverage industry and the remaining 30 percent turned into guarana powder.4 Its natural energy effects have become better known worldwide too, with the United States and Europe also being big consumers. Guarana is most commonly found in syrup or powder form and has a fruity taste with woody, or earthy, undertones.

Guarana as natural energy booster instead of coffee

The natural caffeine that is derived from herbal guarana extract complements its other chemical components to slow down the absorption of the caffeine, levelling the energy boost and helping you to benefit from it for longer. While coffee and caffeinated soft drinks provide a quick hit of energy, this tends to plummet as soon as the caffeine has been metabolized. Guarana has a more extended effect though, and the energy-increasing impact of a guarana drink is much stronger than that of caffeine on its own.

Guarana health benefits

Guarana is said to have a number of health benefits and there are several studies which suggest that this is because of the antioxidants contained within the guarana seed extract, which also help to give it its energizing effects.2
The antioxidant properties of guarana are certainly impressive; guarana seed extract contains compounds boasting valuable antioxidants like caffeine, theobromine, tannins, saponins and catechins,5 which studies have suggested may have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are beneficial to health as studies have shown that they can neutralise the free radicals associated with skin aging or heart disease.6

Guarana can reduce fatigue and improve concentration

Guarana is associated with improved mood, greater memory and better mental alertness, and studies have been conducted which indicate that guarana can be beneficial for cognitive health7 by improving the ability to learn and remember. This is much like ginseng, which is also said to be good for the brain; both guarana and ginseng improved memory and test performances in a cognitive study.8

Does Guarana have side effects?

Guarana is generally safe to take, but it can have a few mild side effects similar to those you would experience from drinking too much coffee, particularly when it is consumed in high doses.9 These side effects can include an increase in heart rate, or heart palpitations, sleeplessness, anxiety and restlessness, headaches and shakiness.

Guarana as an alternative source of caffeine

If you would like to try an alternative beverage to coffee or tea, you can drink guarana and see for yourself why the Amazonians have been using it for generations. Health benefits have not yet been fully researched, but guarana has an obvious invigorating effect due to the caffeine it contains. On the basis of the available studies, people should decide themselves whether they would like to give this natural Brazilian stimulant a try.

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23981847/ []
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4399916/ [] []
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18955289/ []
  4. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0378874113005771 []
  5. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278691512008484 []
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19149749/ []
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16533867/ []
  8. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0091305704002710 []
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22675703/ []