Guarana (Paullinia cupana)

Botanical Information

Paullinia cupana is a South American berry that grows on vines throughout the Amazon. It goes by the common name guarana. German botanist, C.F. Paullini, discovered guarana in the 18th century, and named it after the Guarini Tribe who cultivated it. The fruit grows along the vines in panicles, which are branched flower clusters. It can reach 2 to 3 meters in height when it grows in an open area, and 10 to 12 meters in height when it grows along a tree. The berry produces white clusters of flowers, and an orange-red fruit with a black seed. The orange-red capsules of the fruit grow to appear as half open chestnuts. Guarana also has divided compound leaves. The plant is a member of the Sapindaceae family. This family consists mostly of trees, shrubs, and vines with small flowers. They are all dicots. Some other plants in this family are Majidea zanquebarica, Nephelium mutabile, and Cardiospermum grandiflorum. In total, the family contains about 140 genera and close to 1,500 species.


Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Sapindales
Family: Sapindaceae
Genus: Paullinia L.
Species: Paullinia cupana


Geographical Information


The Guarini Indians of the Amazon were the first people to domesticate guarana. It now grows in Venezuela and most dominantly in Northern Brazil. It is believed that the fruit was discovered before the countries were themselves. The natives crushed the seeds and used them to reduce fatigue and increase alertness. The berry continues to grow mostly in Brazil, but is now being mass-produced in the United States, and sold throughout the world.


Human Use

Humans have been using guarana for centuries. From the time of the Indians, seeds have been roasted and ground into a powder. This powder would be added to foods and drinks.

The Indians called it a “miraculous plant.” By the 20th century, researchers were able to confirm that guarana has many therapeutic uses. Some of these include:
- Increase stamina and energy
- Relieve headaches and PMS
- Suppress appetite
- Treat diarrhea
- Stimulate the metabolism
- Enhance memory
These uses have resulted in guarana becoming commercialized. It is a very large part of Brazil’s culture, and the popularity is spreading towards the United States and the rest of the world.

If guarana is not consumed in proper doses, there are some negative side affects that can result from having excessive caffeine:
- Insomnia
- Urinary frequency
- Muscle tremors or feeling jittery
- Drug interactions

Guarana in Energy Drinks

Guarana seeds contain an alkaloid called guaranine. It is chemically identical to caffeine, but 2.5 times stronger than the caffeine found in coffee. Guarana seeds are being used to produce sodas, teas, and energy drinks. Guarana contains nutrients that caffeine does not. These nutrients allow humans to absorb the energy from the fruit over a period of 4 to 6 hours, while caffeine can only give sudden rush and a fast drop. Guaranine is often found in common energy drinks such as Red Bull and Monster. There are also some energy drinks that use guarana as their main form of advertisement.

This energy drink called “Guarana” uses the logo “NO SLEEP” to advertise the product.

This energy drink called “BAWLS Guarana” advertises itself as a naturally occurring energy boost used by the Indians of the Amazon. It’s ingredients are as follows: carbonated water, corn syrup, citric acid, natural guarana flavor, sodium benzoate (as a preservative), caffeine, artificial flavors and caramel color.

Works Cited

1. Carr, Gerald. “Sapindaceae.” Images and Descriptions of Flowering Plant Families. Univeristy of Hawaii Botany Department. N.p., 30 Oct. 2005. Web. 28 Nov. 2012.

2. McMahon, Meghan. “Negative Effects of Guarana.” Diet and Nutrition. N.p., 5 Aug. 2010. Web. 28 Nov. 2012.

3. “Guarana” Encyclopedia. Azarius Online Smartshop. N.p., n.d., Web. 28 Nov. 2012.

4. “Guarana” Superfruits from the Amazon. Amafrutis. N.p., n.d., Web. 28 Nov. 2012.