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Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Sapindales
Family: Sapindaceae
Genus: Paullinia
Species: P. cupana
Binomial name
Paullinia cupana

Guarana from the Portuguese: guaraná (IPA[ɡu̯a.ra.'na], [ɡu̯a.ɾa.'na] or [ɡu̯a.'ɹ]), Paullinia cupana (syn. P. crysan, P. sorbilis), is a climbing plant in the maple family, Sapindaceae, native to the Amazon basin and especially common in Brazil. Guarana features large leaves and clusters of flowers, and is best known for its fruit, which is about the size of a coffee berry. As a dietary supplement, guarana is an effective energy booster – it contains about twice the caffeine found in coffee beans (about 2-4.5% caffeine in guarana seeds compared to 1-2% for coffee beans).[1]

As with other plants producing caffeine, the high concentration of caffeine is a defensive toxin that repels pathogens from the berry and its seeds.[2]

The guarana fruit's color ranges from brown to red and contains black seeds which are partly covered by white arils. The color contrast when the fruit has been split open has been likened to eyeballs; this has formed the basis of a myth.[3]


[edit] History and culture

The word guarana comes from the Portuguese guaraná, which has its origins in the Sateré-Maué word warana.[4]

Guarana plays an important role in Tupi and Guaraní Brazilian culture. According to a myth dating back to the Sateré-Maué tribe, guarana's domestication originated with a deity killing a beloved village child. In order to console the villagers, a more benevolent god plucked the left eye from 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, giving rise to domesticated guarana.[5]

The Guaranís would make tea by shelling and washing the seeds, followed by pounding them into a fine powder. The powder is kneaded into a dough and then shaped into cylinders. This product is known as guarana bread or Brazilia coke, which would be grated and then immersed into hot water along with sugar.[6]

This plant was introduced to western civilization in the 17th century following its discovery by Father Felip Betendorf. By 1958, guarana was commercialized.[6]

[edit] Composition

Below are some of the chemicals found in guarana.[7][8]

Chemical Plant part Parts per million
Adenine seed
Ash seed < 14,200
Caffeine seed 9,100 - 76,000
Catechutannic-acid seed
Choline seed
D-catechin seed
Fat seed < 30,000
Guanine seed
Hypoxanthine seed
Mucilage seed
Protein seed < 98,600
Resin seed < 70,000
Saponin seed
Starch seed 50,000 - 60,000
Tannin seed 50,000 - 120,000
Theobromine seed 200 - 400
Theophylline seed 0 - 2500
Timbonine seed
Xanthine seed

According to the Biological Magnetic Resonance Data Bank, when guaranine is defined as only the caffeine chemical in guarana, it is identical to the caffeine chemical derived from other sources, for example coffee, tea, and mate. Guaranine, theine, and mateine are all synonyms for caffeine when the definitions of those words include none of the properties and chemicals of their host plants except the chemical caffeine.[9] Natural sources of caffeine contain widely varying mixtures of xanthine alkaloids other than caffeine, including the cardiac stimulants theophylline and theobromine and other substances such as polyphenols which can form insoluble complexes with caffeine.[10]

[edit] Uses

Guarana soft drinks, such as Guaraná Antarctica, are very popular in Brazil.

Guarana is used in sweetened or carbonated soft drinks and energy shots, an ingredient of herbal tea or contained in capsules. Generally, South America obtains most of its caffeine from guarana.[11]

[edit] Beverages

Brazil, which is the third-largest consumer of soft drinks in the world,[12] produces several soft drink brands from guarana extract. Exceeding Brazilian sales of cola drinks,[13] guarana-containing beverages may cause jitters associated with drinking coffee.

[edit] Cognitive effects

As guarana is rich in caffeine, it is of interest for its potential effects on cognition. In rats, guarana increased memory retention and physical endurance when compared with a placebo.[14]

A 2007 human pilot study[15] assessed acute behavioral effects to four doses (37.5 mg, 75 mg, 150 mg and 300 mg) of guarana extract. Memory, alertness and mood were increased by the two lower doses, confirming previous results of cognitive improvement following 75 mg guarana. These studies have not been evaluated by any US government agencies, so within the US there is no medical or regulatory approval for use of guarana to enhance cognition.

[edit] Other uses and side-effects

Guarana seed powder

In the United States, guarana has the status of being generally recognized as safe (GRAS).[16]

Preliminary research has shown guarana may affect how quickly the body perceives itself to be full. One study showed an average 11.2 pound (5.1 kilogram) weight loss in a group taking a mixture of yerba mate, guarana, and damiana, compared to an average one pound loss in a placebo group after 45 days.[17] Although inconclusive about specific effects due only to guarana, this study differs from another showing no effect on body weight of a formula containing guarana.[18]

Guarana extract reduced aggregation of rabbit platelets by up to 37 percent below control values and decreased platelet thromboxane formation from arachidonic acid by 78 percent below control values.[19] It is not known if such platelet action has any effect on the risk of heart attack or ischemic stroke.[20]

Other laboratory studies showed antioxidant and antibacterial effects, and also fat cell reduction in mice (when combined with conjugated linoleic acid) from chronic intake of guarana.[21]

From anecdotal evidence of excessive consumption of energy drinks, guarana may contribute (alone or in combination with caffeine and taurine) to onset of seizures in some people.[22]

[edit] Footnotes

  1. ^ [ D. K. Bempong a; P. J. Houghton a; Kathryn Steadman a. The Xanthine Content of Guarana and Its Preparations. Pharmaceutical Biology. August 1993.
  2. ^ Ashihara H, Sano H, Crozier A. Caffeine and related purine alkaloids: biosynthesis, catabolism, function and genetic engineering. Phytochemistry. 2008 Feb;69(4):841-56.
  3. ^ Sir Ghillean Prance, Mark Nesbitt (2004). Cultural History of Plants. New York: Routledge. p. 179. 
  4. ^ "guarana". Merriam Webster. Retrieved on 2007-09-18. 
  5. ^ Hans T. Beck, "10 Caffeine, Alcohol, and Sweeteners," Cultural History of Plants, ed. Sir Ghillean Prance and Mark Nesbitt (New York: Routledge, 2004) 179
  6. ^ a b Bennett Alan Weinberg, and Bonnie K.Bealer, The World of Caffeine: The Science and Culture of the World's Most Popular Drug (New York: Routledge, 2001) 259-60
  7. ^ "Guarana". Dr. Duke's Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases. 2007-09-18. Retrieved on 2007-09-18. 
  8. ^ Duke, James A. 1992. Handbook of phytochemical constituents of GRAS herbs and other economic plants. Boca Raton, FL. CRC Press.
  9. ^ "Caffeine". Biological Magnetic Resonance Data Bank, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Retrieved on 2007-09-19. 
  10. ^ Balentine D. A., Harbowy M. E. and Graham H. N. (1998). G Spiller. ed. Tea: the Plant and its Manufacture; Chemistry and Consumption of the Beverage. 
  11. ^ Bennett Alan Weinberg, and Bonnie K.Bealer, The World of Caffeine: The Science and Culture of the World's Most Popular Drug (New York: Routledge, 2001) 230
  12. ^ Bennett Alan Weinberg, and Bonnie K. Bealer, The World of Caffeine: The Science and Culture of the World's Most Popular Drug (New York: Routledge, 2001) 192-3
  13. ^ Matt Moffett and Nikhil Deogun, The Wall Street Journal. "Guarana's potent reputation makes consumers drink it up". Standard-Times. Retrieved on 2007-09-18. 
  14. ^ Espinola EB, et al. (1997). "Pharmacological activity of Guarana (Paullinia cupana Mart.) in laboratory animals". J Ethnopharmacol 55 (3): 223–9. doi:10.1016/S0378-8741(96)01506-1. 
  15. ^ Haskell CF, Kennedy DO, Wesnes KA, Milne AL, Scholey AB. A double-blind, placebo-controlled, multi-dose evaluation of the acute behavioural effects of guarana in humans. J Psychopharmacol. 2007 Jan;21(1):65-70. Abstract.
  16. ^ "Energy Drinks" (PDF). University of California, Davis". April 2007. Retrieved on 2007-09-18. 
  17. ^ Anderson, T and Foght, J (2001). "Weight loss and delayed gastric emptying following a South American herbal preparation in overweight patients". J Hum Nutr Diet 14 (3): 243. doi:10.1046/j.1365-277X.2001.00290.x. 
  18. ^ Sale C, Harris RC, Delves S, Corbett J. Metabolic and psychological effects of ingesting extracts of bitter orange, green tea and guarana at rest and during treadmill walking in overweight males. Int J Obes (Lond). 2006 May;30(5):764-73. Abstract.
  19. ^ Bydlowski SP, et al. (1991). "An aqueous extract of guarana (Paullinia cupana) decreases platelet thromboxane synthesis". Braz J Med Biol Res 24 (4): 421–4. 
  20. ^ Nicolaou, KC et al. (1979). "Synthesis and biological properties of pinane-thromboxane A2, a selective inhibitor of coronary artery constriction, platelet aggregation, and thromboxane formation". Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 76 (6): 2566–2570. doi:10.1073/pnas.76.6.2566. PMID 288046. 
  21. ^ Terpstra, et al. (2002). "The Decrease in Body Fat in Mice Fed Conjugated Linoleic Acid Is Due to Increases in Energy Expenditure and Energy Loss in the Excreta". J Nutr 132: 940–945. 
  22. ^ Iyadurai SJ, Chung SS. New-onset seizures in adults: possible association with consumption of popular energy drinks. Epilepsy Behav. 2007 May;10(3):504-8. Epub 2007 Mar 8. Abstract.

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