Woody vine growing to a height of 33 ft (10 m). Has divided compound leaves, clusters of inconspicuous yellow flowers, and pear shaped fruit that contains small shiny brown seeds.
Habitat & Cultivation
Guarana is native to tropical forests of the Brazilian Amazon, and is also cultivated in Brazil. The seeds are gathered when ripe.
Guarana contains xanthine derivatives (including up to 7% caffeine, together with theobromine and theophylline), tannins, and saponins. The xanthines are stimulant and diuretic, and reduce fatigue over the short term.
History & Folklore
In Brazil, guarana is traditionally prepared by roasting, crushing, and drying the seeds. The resulting “cakes” are made into a tea, which is taken to counter fatigue or to treat diarrhea. Guarana has recently become a popular alternative to coffee.
Medicinal Actions & Uses
Guarana’s medicinal uses are similar to those of coffee (Coffea arabica)—it is taken for headache and migraine, for mild depression, and to boost energy levels. The problems that apply to longterm or excessive consumption of coffee also apply to guarana—both stimulate over the short term but tend to inhibit the body’s restorative processes over the longer term. In view of guarana’s high tannin content, long-term use is even less advisable, because tannins impair the intestines’ ability to absorb nutrients.
Nevertheless, guarana is a useful short-term remedy for boosting energy, or for treating a tension headache that cannot be treated with rest. Guarana’s astringency also treats chronic diarrhea.
P. yoco, native to the Colombian Amazon, is used by indigenous peoples to reduce fevers, as a stimulant, and as a post-malarial treatment.
Do not take guarana if suffering from cardiovascular disease or from high blood pressure. It should also not be taken during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.