Guarana (Paullinia cupana) Information, Uses and Caution

Guarana, Pasta Guarana or Brazilian cocoa is a South American woody climber belonging to Soap-nut or Soapberry family. Soap nut family contains a number of economic plants such as Litchi (Litchi chinensis), soap-nut trees (Sapindus mukotossi), Sugar Maple (Acer saccharinum) and many other plants distributed thoughout the tropical and subtropical regions of world.

Gaurana Medicinal Uses

Guarana is a caffeine rich fruit. The seeds contains about 2.5-7% caffeine (twice the coffee beans) and used to make sports and energy drinks. The concoctions of seeds is also used as aphrodisisac to boost libido. Guarana seeds are collected from wild or cultivated plants. They are roasted to remove the seed coat. Kernels are separated from the shell, broken and made into a paste with water and dried for further use. Guarana is sold as sticks, powder, capsules and extracts.

Due to presence of caffeine, it is central nervous system CNS stimulant and increases the activity in the brain, and causes wakefulness and mental alertness. In Western coutries, Guaraná, is most commonly used in high-energy foods and drinks and dietary supplements.

General Information

Paullinia cupana is a scandent shrub or woody liana up to 5 m long with tendrils.

Stems are obtusely pentagonal, puberulent, with stem cross section exhibiting a single vascular cylinder. Leaves are pinnately 5-foliolate, alternate, chartaceous. Its minute stipules are deltoid, 2-3 mm long, tomentulose, persistent. Petiole and rachis are unwinged, petiole 11-20 cm long and rachis 7-12.5 cm long. The leaflet blades of P. cupana are elliptic or oblong-elliptic, 11 to 30 x 5.7 to 11 cm. The base of distal leaflet is cuneate or attenuate, acute, and obtuse to sub rounded on lateral leaflet. The apex narrows into an acute broad apiculum with rounded tip, and its margins are grossly crenate or sinuate dentate with a glandular tooth. The adaxial surface is glabrous, while the abaxial surface is sparsely, minutely pubescent, having microscopic scurfylike papillae. The tertiary venation is slightly sub-clathrate.

Inflorescences are thyrses, axillary, racemiform, solitary, puberulent, with cincinni sessile, 5-8-flowered. Flowers are unisexual, zygomorphic. The calyx has 5 green sepals, possessing minute glandular hair along the margin. Outer sepals are 2.5-3.2 mm long, while the inner sepals are about 4 mm long, tomentulose. The corolla has 4 white petals, oblong, 4-5.5 mm long., bearing a hoodshaped appendage.

Fruits are pear shaped, orange-red, and 3 sided with three-celled capsules, partially open when ripe, revealing 1-3 black or greenish seeds which are covered at the base with a white aril.

There are 2 varieties of species availabale, P. cupana and P. sorbilis. Cupana differs from var. sorbilis in that it has no tendrils, its folioles are more strongly lobed and its flowers and fruit are bigger.

Scientific Classification

The botanical name of Guarana is Paullinia cupana. It belongs to plant family Sapindaceae. The name Guarana comes from Guaranis, a tribe of South American Indians and the genus name, Paullinia was taken from a German medical botanist, C.F. Paullini, who 'discovered' the plant. Below is given taxonomical classification of plant.

  • Kingdom: Plantae – Plants
  • Subkingdom: Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
  • Superdivision: Spermatophyta – Seed plants
  • Division: Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
  • Class: Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
  • Subclass: Rosidae
  • Order: Sapindales
  • Family: Sapindaceae – Soapberry family
  • Genus: Paullinia L. P
  • Species: Paullinia cupana Kunth – guarana


Paullinia sorbilis

Part(s) used for medicinal purpose: Roasted seeds

Plant type: Scandent shrub / woody evergreen climbing plant

Distribution: Amazon Basin in Brazil, Colombia, Uruguay, Venezuela

Habitat: tropical

Main use: For making soft drinks, as medicine

Taken as: Tablets, Drinks

Vernacular Names / Synonyms

  1. Scientific name: Paullinia cupana H. B. & K
  2. English: Brazilian cocoa, Guarana
  3. Brazil: Guarana, Guarana sipo, Guarana uva
  4. Dutch: Guarana
  5. German: Guarana
  6. Peru: Cupana
  7. Venezuela: Cupana

Constituents of Paullinia cupana

Guarana contains 2.5–7.0% of caffeine and about 12% tannins.

High amounts of methylxanthines, saponins, starch, polysaccharides, pigments, fats and choline are present in seeds.

Basic composition of Guaraná beans

  1. Caffeine 4%
  2. Catechutannic acid 5%
  3. Catechic acid 0.6%
  4. Tannins 12%
  5. Starch 30%
  6. Protein 15%
  7. Oil 0.16%
  8. Calcium 0.08%
  9. Phosphorus 0.01%
  10. Magnesium 0.05%
  11. Kalium 0.27%

Essential oil: The essential oil isolated from powdered seeds contain 2 methylbenzenes, a cyclic monoterpene, 2 cyclic sesquiterpene hydrocarbons, 2 methoxyphenylpropenes and 2 alkylphenol derivatives.

Important Medicinal Properties

Paullinia cupana is rich in medicinal properties. The understanding of these properties will help us to better utilize this herb. These also indicate the conditions in which we should avoid it.

Below is given medicinal properties along with the meaning.

  1. Analgesic: Relieve pain
  2. Anti-aggregant: Decrease platelet aggregation and inhibit thrombus formation. Such medicines are effective in the arterial circulation, where anticoagulants have little effect.
  3. Anti-inflammatory: Reduce inflammation.
  4. Aphrodisiac: Stimulates sexual desire.
  5. Central nervous system (CNS) stimulant: speeds up physical and mental processes.
  6. Diuretic: Causes increased passing of urine.
  7. Immunostimulant: Increase motility of the gastrointestinal smooth muscle.
  8. Stimulant: Temporarily increase alertness and energy.
  9. Thermogenic: Increase the heat in the body.
  10. Tonic: Restore, tone and invigorate systems in the body.

Medicinal Uses of Paullinia cupana (Guarana)

Guarana contains 2.5–7.0% of caffeine and has all the effects of caffeine. It is used as a popular remedy for weight loss, loose motion and fatigue. It prevents platelet aggregation. It stimulates gastric acid secreation and thus helps in Dyspepsia. Guarana has diuretic effect which helps the body to get rid water retention. It gives relief in pain and swelling in body. Its analgesic effect is comparable to aspirin. It is used as stimulant, astringent, antipyretic, antineuralgic, antidiarrhoeal and anti-influenza agent.

Guarana is used traditionally in treatment of many disorders including:

  1. Boosting energy and alertness
  2. Drowsiness
  3. Diarrhea
  4. Fatigue
  5. Headache, Migraine
  6. Increasing stamina and libido
  7. Neuralgia (intermittent pain along the course of a nerve, especially in the head or face)
  8. Obesity
  9. Pain
  10. Paralysis
  11. Urinary tract infections
  12. Water Retention

Dosage of Paullinia cupana

  • Dried herb is given in dose of 500 mg to 1 gram. The tea prepared from the seeds can be taken three times a day.
  • Guarana extract is taken in dose of 200-800 mg before meals, 2-3 times a day.
  • The upper limit of Guarana extract is 3 grams. Do not exceed this amount.

Contraindications, Interactions, Side-effects and Warnings Paullinia cupana

  1. Hazards and/or side effects not known for proper therapeutic dosages.
  2. It is a CNS-stimulant.
  3. It should not be used in excess or for longer duration.
  4. It contains Caffeine which causes stimulation of vasoconstrictors, thus elevating the blood pressure and increased blood flow. It can produce psychological dependence.
  5. Long-term use can may decreased fertility.
  6. It may cause nervousness, anxiety, trembling, insomnia, palpitations, urinary frequency, tachycardia, arrhythmias, hyperactivity and irritability.
  7. It may interact with CNS stimulants, decongestants, methylphenidate, dextroamphetamine, beta2agonists, contraceptive pills, diabetes therapy, CNS depressants, and theophylline.
  8. Avoid its use in glaucoma.
  9. This is contraindicated in gastric disease, ulcers, cardiac disease, depression, anxiety, pregnancy and breastfeeding and in children.
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