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Herbal Monograph

Herb:   GUARANA SEED   (Paullinia cupana; Cupania Americana)

Other Names:  Brazilian cocoa, guarana bread  (2); Brazilian Guarana Fruit (22;) Brazilian cocoa, uabano, uaranazeiro, mart  (57)


Meridians/Organs Body Parts affected:      

Part used:  seeds (17); fruit and seed (66)

Identification & Harvesting:    Rainforest herb… The Guarana bush is native to the Amazon region. 

It grows wild in this region where it plays a major economic role for the people of the area. In its wild state, it forms a vine‑like climbing bush which grows around larger trees, often reaching considerable heights.  Its ripe fruit yields a filbert‑size round black seed, with each bush producing up to 8 pounds of seeds per year.     (1)

A woody, evergreen perennial vine up to 10 m. long, which climbs through the jungle.  Leaves are large, palmate, leathery, ribbed and roughly serrate.  Inconspicuous yellow fragrant flowers.  Fruit is a hazelnut-sized, deep yellow to red 3-sectioned capsule which bursts open when ripe and releases a black seed.  Indigenous to Amazon basin and has been introduced into other rain forests.    (2)

Paste of crushed, roasted seeds has an odor recalling chocolate.    (57)

Active Constituents:    Purine alkaloids, chiefly caffeine 3.6-5.8%, also small amounts of theophylline and theobromine;  tannins 12%, chiefly oligomeric proanthocyanidins;  Cyanolipids incl. 2,4-dihydroxy-3-methylene-butyronitrile;  saponins;  starch 30%;  proteins 15%.  (2)

Guarana is composed of an alphabet soup of chemical components including theophylline, saponin and adenine. Its primary central nervous system stimulant, guaranine, is a compound that was isolated and identified in 1862 by Theodore van Martius. Guaranine is closely related in molecular structure to another known stimulant, caffeine; in fact, roasting guarana changes its form from a tetramethylxanthine to the trimethylxanthine compound of caffeine (in fact, roasted guarana is one the leading sources of caffeine production in the world).     (1)

Up to 5% caffeine;  trace amounts of theophylline (500-750 ppm) and theobromine (300-500 ppm);  large quantities of tannins, a saponin and resinous substances.  Cayuga Botanicals R.D. Note — [Theobromine presumed to improve oxygen uptake, but not present in seeds.]    (66)

Actions:    stimulant;  positive inotropic and chronotropic (in high doses);  relaxes vascular muscles but constricts cerebral vessels;  diuretic;  increases gastric secretions;  increases release of catecholamines;  inhibits blood platelet aggregation.    (2)

Stimulant effect of guarana more gradual and sustained than an equivalent dose of coffee.  Noted in vitro inhibition of lipoperoxidation;  has corresponding antioxidant properties.  Numerous studies demonstrate synergy with ephedra (ma huang) in increasing metabolic rates, and in producing lipolytic effects (1b)

stimulant, diuretic, nervine tonic…systemic cleanser, antifatigue stimulant, appetite suppressant, headache and migraine relief; alleviates PMS symptoms;  reputed to be aphrodisiac. (22)

Analgesic, antibacterial, aphrodisiac, astringent, cardiotonic, diuretic, febrifuge, nervine, purgative, stimulant, tonic, vasodilator.  Stimulant, thermogenic;  increases alertness, fights fatigue, increases stamina.  Reduces heat fatigue, detoxifies blood.  Used in treatment of cellulite due to lipolytic and vasodilatant action.  Inhibits platelet aggregation and aids in breakdown of clots already formed in blood vessels.  In studies on rats, improves memory.  Documented antibacterial against E. coli and salmonella.    (66)

Conditions & Uses:    Guarana’s effects on the body are  very different from those of caffeine. Guarana does not short boost followed by the feeling that another “dose” is needed (this should sound  all too familiar to coffee drinkers). This is because guarana breaks down in the bloodstream at a much slower rate. And since its active stimulant, guaranine, is not taken as an isolated single substance, like caffeine is, it is naturally mediated by guarana’s other components.  Therefore, guarana forms a compound which is synergistically balanced to tone and revitalize mind and body, ideal when sustained action or concentration is required.

A considerable amount of research has been devoted to guarana by government departments, pharmaceutical laboratories and universities in Brazil which have reported on its many beneficial effects. Guarana acts as a general tonic and adaptogen, especially good for that “run‑down” feeling.  It provides energy in a safe, organic way for times when an extra boost is needed. Guarana also helps to create more efficient disposal of lactic acid in muscles, consequently reducing fatigue while exercising. Its tonic properties enable tropical hot weather to be more easily tolerated as well as certain types of headache  to be  alleviated.    (1)

It is also used for hangovers and menstrual-type headaches.  (17)

Guarana is used as a systemic cleanser, nervine tonic, anti-fatigue stimulant and is known to reduce hunger, relieve headaches including migraines, help alleviate PMS symptoms and has a reputation as an aphrodisiac.   (22)

Useful for rheumatic complaints and lumbago, due to its diuretic action.   (57)

Combinations: Numerous studies demonstrate synergy with ephedra (ma huang) in increasing metabolic rates, and in producing lipolytic effects.    (1b)

Precautions:    Infants whose nursing mothers consume caffeine products could suffer from sleeping disorders.    (2)

Slight incidence of insomnia and heart palpitations with long-term use.  High tannin content results in increased risk of cancer of the upper gastrointestinal tract with long-term use.    (1b)

This herb contains caffeine and should not be overused. Not recommended if pregnant or nursing.    (22)

Tincturing Process: Purchase 1 lb powdered guarana. Distribute proportionately between (1) 1-qt mason jar and (1) 16-oz mason jar.  Alcohol: 60%  (1a)

GUARANA SEED   (Paullinia cupana; Cupania Americana)



Dosage: 10-30 drops to 3x daily or as needed      (22)     

General Notes: Guarana grows in north and west Brazil and in Venezuela. The seeds of the plant are crushed and dried and the resultant paste is used by the natives to make a stimulating drink. It contains three to five per cent caffeine, about three times the amount in coffee, which quickens perception, produces wakefulness, slows the pulse, impairs the appetite, and can be used as a stimulant for long drives or long work hours. It is a much safer  “speed” than diet pills or amphetamines. It is also used for hangovers and menstrual‑type headaches.  (17)

Guarana contains more caffeine than do coffee or tea (5%) and much more tannin (5%). Brewed with water, like coffee, and with sugar added, it makes a very potent and stimulating beverage. It can also be taken in gelatin capsules.    (18)

In Brazil it is made into a popular drink known as Brazilian Cocoa which is used for energy and stimulation.  (22)

Whole seed extract performs better in tests than pure caffeine.    (66)

While extracts of guarana can be made from its roots and leaves, it is from guarana’s precious seed that the most powerful effects and the true “life force of the Amazon” is found. 

Guarana has enjoyed a long renowned history in Brazil. Revered for centuries as the legendary sacred food of the Amazon Indians, guarana was “discovered” by 19th century Portuguese traders who exported the “brown man’s medicine” back to Europe. By the mid‑1800s, guarana could be found in items such as children’s medicine.  Today, guarana is enjoyed by Brazilians in their very popular soft drink named after the plant….

Guarana can be found today in the United States in a variety of forms. Some of the more popular forms include capsules, tablets, powder and liquid elixirs. Guarana sticks similar to the traditional form that was used by the Amazon natives can also be found.

The sticks are made by grinding the sun-dried seeds and rolling them into cylinder‑shaped sticks which are then baked.  To use, bits of guarana are scraped from the stick and then ingested. The sticks made it convenient for the natives to use guarana as they could carry it with them on their treks, scraping off some in their palm whenever a natural energy boost was needed.

As life in the 1990s can be very tiring, many people see coffee as the panacea for low energy. While the caffeine in coffee will give a quick jolt, many people question its contribution to overall health. If you are concerned about your well‑being and want something that can help your body better adapt to the stresses of the modem world, discover an ancient secret–guarana.    (1)

Long-term studies show no significant improvement of memory;  however there was some incidence of insomnia and heart palpitations.    (1b)



(1) Cayuga Botanicals Research Data, “Guarana” file, (article by Craig & Stephanie Ronai; June 1993, 14850 mag)

(1a) ibid “Guarana Tincture” file

(1b) ibid Research Data, “Guarana”  file for Cognitive Enhancement” Alt. Medicine Alert, 6/99, pgs. 67-70

(2)  PDR for Herbal Medicines (Medical Economics Co., 1998), pgs. 1017-18

(17) Herbs & Things: Jeanne Rose’s Herbal, pg. 66  

(18) Jeanne Rose’s Herbal Guide to Inner Health by Jeanne Rose, pgs. 78-79

(22) Herbs and Herbal Formulas (booklet) by Mark Hershiser, p. 10

(57) Potter’s Cyclopaedia by R.C. Wren, F.L.S., pgs. 162-63

(66) Herbal Secrets of the Rainforest by Leslie Taylor, pgs. 123-26