Guarana: Uses, Properties, and Contraindications

Guarana is an energetic food, abundant in antioxidants, with interesting health benefits. What are its main uses? Discover them!
Guarana: Uses, Properties, and Contraindications

Last update: 25 July, 2022

Guarana, whose scientific name is Paullinia cupana, is a climbing plant that grows in the Amazon. For centuries, the tribes of this region have used the fruit and other parts of the plant for various therapeutic purposes. In particular, it’s valued for its abundant supply of stimulants, such as caffeine, theophylline, and theobromine.

In fact, as detailed in a publication in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, it’s an ingredient that’s often used in the preparation of energy and sports drinks due to its ability to boost the functions of the nervous system, heart and muscles. Want to know more about it?

The uses and properties of guarana

Guarana (Paullinia cupana) is a plant with a long, flexible stem, whose fruit resembles a nut kernel. In the Amazon region, the indigenous people use this food to prepare a stimulating drink with characteristics similar to tea or coffee. To be more precise, its seeds provide up to 6% caffeine.

According to information shared in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 70% of guarana production is currently destined for the energy drink and soft drink industry. The other 30% is pulverized for consumption through capsules or diluted.

It’s even added in cosmetic products. So, what are its properties?

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Guarana helps reduce fatigue

One of the most important properties of guarana comes from its caffeine content. As stated in an article published in Food Research International , the seeds of this ingredient provide between 4 and 6 times more caffeine than coffee.

Therefore, it’s a good option to increase energy levels and reduce fatigue. In a study shared in the journal Appetite, a group of people who took a vitamin supplement with guarana reported feeling less fatigued after several tests.

Guarana energy drinks to study
Advertisements on energy drinks promote their use to improve physical and academic performance, although there are also risks of taking them in excess.

It may support weight loss

Guarana supplements do not work miraculously for weight loss.

However, its consumption as part of a healthy, balanced diet does bring some benefits. Specifically, test tube studies suggest that this fruit helps suppress genes that aid in the production of fat cells.

In addition, its abundant caffeine content speeds up metabolism, which translates into an increased ability of the body to burn calories at rest. While more human studies are needed, the findings are considered promising.

Guarana supports digestive health

The compounds in guarana have been harnessed in natural medicine as allies for stomach health. To be more precise, it’s considered a remedy for calming diarrhea. Due to its tannin content, it acts as an astringent and restricts the amount of liquid secreted in the intestines.

Meanwhile, its caffeine content helps stimulate intestinal peristalsis, which activates the contractions of the intestines and colon to relieve constipation.

It helps to take care of visual health

The abundant antioxidant content of guarana is beneficial for visual health. According to a publication in the journal Diseases, these substances help slow the effects of oxidative stress, which reduces the risk of cataracts, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration.

In research revealed by the Journal of Functional Foods , participants who consumed guarana on a regular basis had better self-reported vision compared to those who didn’t.

In addition, it was observed that this food helped decrease DNA damage and eye cell death when compared to a placebo. However, more human studies are still needed.

It protects cardiovascular health

The caffeine and catechins contained in guarana have a positive effect on cardiovascular health. According to a study shared in the International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research , these compounds have antiplatelet aggregation properties and therefore reduce the risk of thrombosis and heart disease.

In turn, as reported in Lipids in Health and Disease, guarana helps reduce the oxidation of “bad” cholesterol (LDL) by up to 27%.

It has analgesic effects

Guarana has been used as an adjuvant to relieve various types of pain. Its analgesic properties derive from its caffeine content, a stimulant that blocks adenosine receptors (responsible for pain sensation).

A review shared in the Cochrane Library details that caffeine significantly improves the effects of analgesics. For this reason, it’s commonly found in the formula of several medications for this purpose.

Guarana contributes to skincare

In the cosmetic industry, guarana is often used to improve the formula of creams, lotions, soaps and anti-aging products. The reason? It’s caffeine, antioxidants, and antimicrobial properties help skincare.

A review reported in Skin Pharmacology and Physiology comments that caffeine stimulates the degradation of fats and therefore favors the reduction of cellulite. In addition, it helps protect the dermis against ultraviolet (UV) radiation and slows down the aging process.

Another study details that guarana significantly reduces age-related skin damage thanks to its high antioxidant content.

It has antimicrobial properties

The antimicrobial properties of guarana are largely explained by its tannin, catechins, and caffeine content. A study in the journal Molecules details that extracts of this ingredient help fight microorganisms such as Streptococcus mutans, which is present in dental plaque.

Previous studies have determined that it also acts against other bacteria, such as Escherichia coli, which is associated with episodes of diarrhea and digestive diseases.

It has antitumor properties

Research has evaluated the antitumor potential of guarana. Thus, it has been observed that it can protect against DNA damage and inhibit the growth of cancer cells. However, these studies have been done in test tube and animal studies, so human trials are still required.

Many effects of guarana are attributed to its caffeine content, thus equating it to the potential benefits of coffee, in some cases.

The risks and contraindications of guarana

Generally speaking, guarana has a good safety profile. Studies indicate that it has low toxicity when used in low or moderate doses.

However, when consumed in excessive amounts it is associated with the following side effects:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Convulsions
  • Nervousness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Headaches
  • Alteration of the cardiac rhythm

Added to the above, it should be remembered that caffeine can generate dependence. In addition, it’s contraindicated for pregnant women, due to the risk of miscarriage or fetal abnormalities.

Other contraindications are the following:

  • A history of allergy to caffeine
  • Children under 12 years old
  • People with gastroduodenal ulcers
  • Patients under treatment with antidepressants

It should be noted that guarana does not replace a healthy diet or medical treatments. Before taking such supplements, it’s best to consult a doctor or specialist.

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What to remember about guarana

Guarana is valued for its energizing power and abundant antioxidant content. Right now, it’s a widely used ingredient in the production of sports or energy drinks. In addition, it’s also used in cosmetics and natural medicine.

Due to its stimulant content, especially caffeine, its intake is associated with improved productivity, better mood and lower risk of disease. Even so, its consumption should be moderate and preferably under professional supervision.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.