Guarana (pronounced gwa-ra-NAH)

Guarana is a South American shrub, whose berries contain guaranine, a substance very similar in chemical make-up to caffeine. So similar in fact, that many scientific sources say the two chemicals are actually the same thing. Manufacturers use guarana in many cases to hide the fact that their products have caffeine in them.

Guarana is most often seen as an ingredient in many beverages for the caffeine kick, and it's also used as a fat-burning or weight-loss supplement. It's long been very popular in sodas in South America, and has recently found its way into the North American beverage market, usually in 'energy drinks'.
Sean Paajanen

Guarana is a creeping shrub native to Venezuela and northern Brazil in the Amazon rain forest. The fruit are small, bright-red, and contains black seeds. Cathy Wong
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Guarana seeds are rich in caffeine and contain up to 4-8% caffeine, more than coffee beans, which contain approximately 1–2.5% caffeine. The seeds are also rich in tannins and xanthine alkaloids theophylline and theobromine.
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Why do people use guarana?

Guaraná is reputed to be a stimulant and increase mental alertness, fight fatigue, and increase stamina and physical endurance.

Guarana drinks and sodas are very popular in Brazil (where guarana is considered to be a health tonic), almost as popular as cola-based sodas. Sweet, carbonated guarana drinks include the popular brands Guaraná Antarctica, Guaraná Brahma, and Kuat (from Coca-Cola Company).

In North America, guarana has recently become a popular ingredient in energy drinks and teas.

Guarana is one of the richest sources of caffeine, containing up to three times the amount of caffeine as coffee. Unlike coffee, the amount of caffeine doesn't have to be listed on guarana drinks.

In addition to its stimulant properties, guarana is also a popular ingredient in herbal weight loss pills. Some evidence indicates that guarana may suppress appetite and increase fat-burning.

Cathy Wong

Products containing Guarana -

Most products containing guarana are dietary supplements or energy drinks. To see a list of many guarana products, click here

How Does Guarana Affect Humans?

Guarana contains a high amount of guaranine, a chemical substance with the same characteristics as caffeine. This makes Guarana a stimulant similar to coffee, which means that it:
  • quickens perceptions
  • delays sleep
  • helps with endurance based activities
  • can help to recover from a hangover
  • impairs the appetite
  • will lead to more frequent visits to the toilet
  • causes a higher blood pressure and an increased heart rate
  • can make you feel jittery and may prevent sleep

  • Theoretically, it is possible to overdose on caffeine or guarana. The fatal dose has been estimated at 10 grams of pure caffeine / guaranine (taken at once!). Guarana seeds contain maximal 10% caffeine, so when you would swallow at least 100 grams guarana seeds at once, things start to look ugly. Our advice: don't even think about it.
    To put all of this in perspective: the average cup of coffee contains 65-130 milligrams of caffeine; some very strong guarana-based syrups can contain up to 350 milligrams. Look at our
    caffeine chart for more info.
  • People with cardiac problems or a high blood pressure should avoid Guarana (and smoking or drinking coffee, for that matter) When in doubt - consult your doctor.
  • As with all stimulants, dependency may occur
Side Effects of Guarana
For some people, caffeine is a dangerous to their health. Just like some people should stay far away from alcohol, or penicillin, others can use it without any adverse effect and maybe even benefits.
Those who have any history of cardiac problems or high blood pressure should definitely not use guarana. Pregnant or lactating women should not use it on account of their fetus or baby. Children should not use guarana. (They have all the energy they need!)
Also, you should pay attention to how your body feels after consumption of guarana. If you feel any palpitation, overhyperactivity, trembling, or can’t sleep, either lower your dosage of guarana or don’t take it as often.
Benefits of Guarana
Guarana in itself is kind of like a coffee bean on steroids. It contains a little more caffeine than coffee but the caffeine is released more slowly into the body so you don’t get as much of a high and then a crash.
It has been used for centuries by the Amazonians in Brazil, of which it gets its origins, for endurance and physical stamina. It is a natural product, little red berries that climb the big Amazonian rain forest trees, and is completely legal to use, being approved by the FDA.
Guarana is popular in soft drinks, energy drinks, powder, capsules, syrup, chocolate bars, and gum. The best form, of course, is the pure guarana berries

Amount of Caffeine Relative to Other Products

Soft Drinks

Serving Size (1)
Caffeine (mg)
Mountain Dew
12 ounces
12 ounces
Diet Coke
12 ounces
12 ounces
Dr. Pepper, regular or diet
12 ounces
Sunkist Orange Soda
12 ounces
12 ounces
Guarana sodas
12 ounces
Barqs Root Beer
12 ounces
7-UP or Diet 7-UP
12 ounces
Barqs Diet Root Beer
12 ounces
Caffeine-free Coca-Cola or Diet Coke
12 ounces
Caffeine-free Pepsi or Diet Pepsi
12 ounces
Minute Maid Orange Soda
12 ounces
Mug Root Beer
12 ounces
Sprite or Diet Sprite
12 ounces

Chart Link

Guarana’s Brazilian Myth

Guarana actually carries a famous myth with it in Brazilian culture. The story is attributed to the Satere-Maue tribe. A beloved village child is killed by a god. And in order to console the villagers, another, more benevolent god plucked out the left eye of 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. This grew into domesticated guarana. The Guaranis made a tea with a powder pounded from the guarana seeds. They also used the powder to make a dough for a cylinder shaped bread.

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