Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: guarana from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Brazilian woody climbing plant. A drink with a high caffeine content is made from its roasted seeds, and it is the source of the drug known as zoom in the USA. Starch, gum, and several oils are extracted from it for commercial use. (Paullinia cupana, family Sapindaceae.)



Summary Article: GUARANA
From Leung's Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients: Used in Food, Drugs and Cosmetics

Source: Paullinia cupana Kunth ex H.B.K. (syn. P. sorbilis (L.) Mart.) (Family Sapindaceae).

Common/vernacular names: Guarana paste, guarana gum.


A climbing evergreen liana native to South America in the Amazon region (e.g., Brazil and Venezuela); under cultivation it becomes a shrub up to 2 m high. Leaves alternate with five folioles; tendrils, if present, are axillary; inflorescences axillary racemes or originate on tendrils; fruits small, round, septicidal capsules, bright red to orangey-red in color, and grow in clusters; as it ripens the fruit splits and a black seed emerges, giving it the appearance of an eye. Guarana paste (also called gum) is prepared from the pulverized and roasted seeds by mixing with water to form a paste, which is then molded into bars and dried. Commercial production is in the middle Amazon in northern Brazil, with the city and county of Maués accounting for 80% of the world's supply. it is cultivated there for its seeds.1


Contains usually 2.6-7% caffeine as its active constituent, together with traces of related alkaloids (theophylline, theobromine, xanthine, adenine, guanine, hypoxanthine, etc.). other constituents include tannins (ca. 12%), d-catechin, starch (5-6%), fats (ca. 3%), resin (ca. 7%), saponins, mucilage, red pigment, and choline (KARRER; LIST AND HÖRHAMMER; MERCK).

The fixed oil of the seed contains cyanolipids (ca. 3%) and acylglycerols (ca. 28%),2 while the essential oil contains at least nine identified components of which estragole and anethole are prominent.3


Guarana has stimulant and astringent properties due to its caffeine and tannins contents (also see coffee and cocoa).

The ethanolic extract of P. cupana has antimicrobial effects against Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, as well as anti-oxidant activity at μg/mL levels. The antioxidant activity correlates with the levels of phenolic compounds and catechols in the extract.4,5 The extract also displayed hepato-and gastroprotective effects when administered to mice and rats at doses below 100mg/kg.6–8

Enhanced cognitive functions were observed in young human subjects after the administration of 75 mg of dried ethanolic extract of guarana. The authors suggested that the enhanced cognition was not due to the caffeine content of the extract.9

An aqueous extract of guarana decreased the aggregation of rabbit platelets, which may be due to its inhibition of thromboxane formation observed in the same experiment.10


Aqueous extracts of guarana were found to be genotoxic and mutagenic when tested in Escherichia coli and Salmonella typhimurium. The effect was attributed to the formation of a toxic caffeine/catechin complex.11


Food. Guarana extract (especially fluid extract) is widely used as a flavor ingredient of cola drinks. it is also reportedly used in alcoholic beverages (e.g., liqueurs and cordials) and in candy. use levels are generally below 0.002%, reported for guarana gum (paste). In Brazil, a carbonated soft drink made from the seeds is considered a NATIONAL beverage, offered commercially since 1909.

Dietary Supplements/Health Foods. Powdered seeds are used in tablets, capsules, combinations, chewing gum, and tea, primarily as a stimulant; also in weight loss formulations (DUKE 3; TYLER 1).

Traditional Medicine. Guarana paste is used by South American natives mainly as a stimulant, astringent, in treating chronic diarrhea. The seeds, grated into water are also used for fevers, heart problems, headache (associated with menstrual or rheumatic conditions), rheumatism, lumbago, migraine, and reduction of heat stress; diuretic (DUKE 2; DUKE 3).1


Guarana seeds, guarana paste, and extracts.

Regulatory Status. Has been approved for food use (§172.510).



  • 1. Erickson, H. T. et al., Econ. Bot., 38, 273 (1984).
  • 2. Avato, P. et al., Lipids, 38, 773 (2003).
  • 3. Benoni, H. et al., Z. Lebensm. Unters. Forsch., 203, 95 (1996).
  • 4. Basile, A. et al., J. Ethnopharmacol., 102, 32 (2005).
  • 5. Mattei, R. et al., J. Ethnopharmacol., 60, 111 (1998).
  • 6. Fukumasu, H. et al., FoodChem. Toxicol., 44, 862 (2006).
  • 7. Fukumasu, H. et al., Cancer Lett., 233, 158 (2006).
  • 8. Campos, A. R. et al., Phytother. Res., 17, 1199 (2003).
  • 9. Kennedy, D. O. et al., Pharmacol. Biochem. Behav., 79, 401 (2004).
  • 10. Bydlowski, S. P. et al., Braz. J. Med. Biol. Res., 24, 421 (1991).
  • 11. da Fonseca, C. A. et al., Mutat. Res., 321, 165 (1994).
Copyright © 2010 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. All rights reserved.

Related Articles

Full text Article GUARANA
Leung's Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients: Used in Food, Drugs and Cosmetics

Source: Paullinia cupana Kunth ex H.B.K. (syn. P. sorbilis (L.) Mart.) (Family Sapindaceae). Common/vernacular names: Guarana paste,...

Full text Article III. CAFFEINE
Encyclopedia of the Human Brain

Caffeine (1,3,7-trimethylxanthine) is by far the most widely used psychoactive drug in the world. It is found in a number of plant sources, the...

See more from Credo