Take a look at the ingredients label of just about any energy-boosting supplement, in particular thermogenic supplements, and you may just spot guarana on the list. Derived from an Amazonian fruit, guarana has long been revered for its incredible effects on health. It has been used to treat a variety of ailments throughout history.
More recently, studies show that adding guarana to your routine could come with a pretty long list of benefits. It may help optimize memory, fight fatigue, improve heart health and do even more to keep you feeling your best. But there also are some guarana side effects to be aware of.
Here’s what you need to know about this ingredient and how it can impact your health.
What Is Guarana?
Guarana, also known by its scientific name Paullinia cupana, is a type of climbing plant that is native to the Amazon. This plant is prized for the seeds from its powerful fruit. It belongs to the soapberry family of plants and is closely related to longan fruit (also known as “dragon eye fruit”) as well as other fruit varieties like lychee and ackee.
The plant itself has large leaves and produces clusters of flowers. It also produces small fruits that are about the same size as a coffee bean and range in color from red to brown. The fruit contains black seeds that are covered by white arils, giving them a unique appearance that closely resembles an eye.
The seeds are very high in caffeine. They are often used as an additive in energy drinks or guarana soda brands like Guarana Antarctica. Because of the guarana seed caffeine content, the seeds may come with other health benefits besides boosting energy levels. In fact, studies show that guarana could do everything from enhance skin health to increase weight loss and more.
The word “guarana” is derived from the Guarani word guara-ná, which comes from another word that basically translates to “fruit like the eyes of the people.”
The fruit has a long history. It is deeply rooted in the mythology and culture of several indigenous South American groups. According to legend, the cultivation of this plant began after a deity killed one of the children from the village. In an effort to console the people, the deity then plucked out the left eye of the child and planted it in the forest. This is where wild guarana is believed to have first originated.
1. Boosts Brain Power
Studies show that guarana can have a powerful impact on focus and memory. In fact, one study out of the Human Cognitive Neuroscience Unit at Northumbria University in the U.K. showed that low doses were able to improve both memory performance and alertness compared to a control group.
Similarly, another study conducted at Northumbria University compared the effects of guarana and ginseng and reported that guarana seed extract was able to significantly enhance task performance and attention to a greater extent than ginseng.
2. High in Antioxidants
Guarana fruit contains a wide range of potent antioxidants, including caffeine, tannins, saponins, theobromine and catechins. Antioxidants are beneficial compounds that can help fight free radical formation and prevent oxidative damage to cells. Not only that, but some research suggests that antioxidants can even protect against chronic conditions like heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
3. Fights Fatigue
Guarana is loaded with caffeine, with the seeds packing in a higher concentration of caffeine than even coffee beans. Caffeine acts as a stimulant and affects the activity of certain neurotransmitters in your brain to amp up energy levels. This is why beverages like coffee and energy drinks are often used as a quick fix for low energy and fatigue.
In addition to fighting physical fatigue, some research indicates that guarana can help reduce mental fatigue as well. One study published in the journal Appetite showed that taking it was able to decrease mental fatigue associated with sustained mental effort in participants. (5)
4. Promotes Regularity
Guarana has long been used as a natural remedy for both constipation and diarrhea. It helps promote regularity and soothe digestive distress. It’s high in caffeine, a compound that can help stimulate movement in the digestive tract to relieve constipation.
5. Enhances Heart Health
Research shows that the guarana seed benefits heart health in several different ways. It can help prevent blood clots to reduce the risk of heart attacks and stroke, according to research out of the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
Not only that, but it can also decrease the oxidation of LDL cholesterol in the blood. This can control the buildup of plaque in the arteries to prevent atherosclerosis.
6. Keeps Skin Glowing
Guarana makes a great addition to any natural skin care routine thanks to its content of both caffeine and antioxidants. Caffeine helps protect the skin against UV radiation. It also slows down photoaging of the skin and promotes circulation and blood flow.
One study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology showed that cosmetics containing guarana helped reduce skin sagging and minimized wrinkles underneath and around the eyes.
7. May Help Reduce Cancer Growth
Although current research is mostly limited to in vitro studies and animal models, preliminary evidence suggests that guarana could help effectively reduce the growth and spread of certain types of cancer cells. For instance, one animal study showed that administering it to mice reduced liver cancer proliferation by 58 percent and increased cancer cell death by nearly fivefold.
Other studies have had similar findings. Results show it may help decrease the growth of colon and breast cancer cells as well. What’s more, it may also enhance the activity of chemotherapy agents to help kill off cancer cells even more effectively.
8. Increases Weight Loss
Guarana is often used as a weight loss aid. In fact, there are many guarana weight loss products, pills and supplements to help ramp up fat-burning and shed extra pounds. This is partly due to its content of caffeine.
Caffeine has been shown to boost metabolism by up to 11 percent over a 12-hour period in research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Plus, several in vitro studies also show that guarana may slow and inhibit the production of fat cells to help decrease body fat.
Guarana supplements are available in many different forms, ranging from guarana tea to guarana extract and beyond. Guarana seed powder is also often added to beverages and products advertised to help naturally boost energy levels. It’s often alongside a blend of other herbs and plants containing thermogenic properties.
Although there are no official guarana dosage guidelines available at present, most research shows that doses between 50–70 milligrams may be the most beneficial. Stick to this dosage to maximize the potential health benefits and minimize the risk of adverse side effects.
Risks, Side Effects and Dangers
However, because of its caffeine content, it’s absolutely vital to keep intake in moderation. Not only is caffeine highly addictive, but it can cause several negative effects on health. It can even contribute to a caffeine overdose when consumed in large amounts.
Some of the most common side effects associated with guarana include symptoms like:
- Digestive issues
- Irregular heartbeat
If you notice these or any other side effects after consuming guarana, consider decreasing your dosage or discontinuing use altogether.
Women who are pregnant should limit or avoid guarana-containing products. Increased caffeine consumption may be linked to a higher risk of birth defects and preterm delivery.
Additionally, guarana is often used as an additive for unhealthy beverages. These include guarana energy drinks or guarana alcohol products. Drinks that this are often pumped full of unhealthy added sugar and extra ingredients. These products essentially negate any health benefits of guarana. They can actually do more harm than good when it comes to your health.
Guarana vs. Other Energy Drinks/Supplements
There are many individual ingredients or products known for their ability to increase energy levels, boost fat-burning and fine-tune focus. How do these ingredients compare? What sets them apart from one another?
Taurine is a type of amino acid that is found in the tissues throughout the body. It can also be produced in small amounts. It is available in certain foods, including meat, dairy products and seafood. It’s often added to energy drinks and supplements. It is believed to be associated with a number of health benefits, such as increased fat-burning during exercise and improved heart health.
Adderall, on the other hand, is a type of prescription medication used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy. It’s known for its beneficial effects on attention and focus. When abused or taken in high doses for prolonged periods of time, it may also cause addiction and trigger withdrawal symptoms, similar to caffeine.
Caffeine pills are gaining widespread popularity among consumers looking for a quick burst of energy, especially among those who simply don’t like coffee or other caffeinated beverages and prefer getting a quick dose of caffeine in supplement form instead. Caffeine pills boast all the same benefits of caffeine, such as reduced constipation and increased energy levels. However, they also come with the same set of side effects, which can include anxiety, restlessness and headaches.
Coffee and green tea can be enjoyed as is, but guarana is typically found in supplement form or processed guarana drink products, such as guarana soda.
In terms of caffeine content, guarana extract is significantly higher in caffeine than coffee. Some studies indicate that the seeds contain four to six times as much caffeine than coffee beans. Green tea is the lowest in caffeine among the three. It has just 35 milligrams in a single eight-ounce serving. That is nearly one-third of the amount found in coffee.
- Guarana is a type of plant native to the Amazon. It is commonly cultivated for its fruit and the caffeine-rich seeds it contains.
- Some of the potential guarana benefits include increased weight loss, enhanced brain function, better heart health and improved skin health. It may also help reduce the growth of cancer cells, fight fatigue and promote regularity.
- There are few differences between side effects of guarana vs. caffeine consumption. The most commonly reported symptoms include headaches, digestive issues, anxiety, restlessness and nausea.
- Because it’s high in caffeine, consumption should be kept in moderation. Energy drinks or sodas that contain it also contain extra sugar and other additives that can be harmful to health.
- If taking a guarana supplement, stick to 50–75 milligrams per day to maximize the potential health benefits and prevent adverse side effects. Try pairing it with other fat-burning foods for best results.