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Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Sapindales
Family: Sapindaceae
Genus: Paullinia
P. cupana
Binomial name
Paullinia cupana

Guaraná (/ɡwəˈrɑːnə/ from the Portuguese guaraná [ɡʷaɾɐˈna]; Paullinia cupana, syns. P. crysan, P. sorbilis) is a climbing plant in the family Sapindaceae, native to the Amazon basin and especially common in Brazil. Guaraná has large leaves and clusters of flowers, and is best known for the seeds from its fruits, which are about the size of a coffee bean.

As a dietary supplement or herb, guaraná seed is an effective stimulant:[1] it contains about twice the concentration of caffeine found in coffee beans (about 2–8% caffeine in guarana seeds,[2] compared to about 1–3% for coffee beans).[3] The additive has gained notoriety for being used in energy drinks. As with other plants producing caffeine, the high concentration of caffeine is a defensive toxin that repels insects from the berry and seeds.[4]

The color of the fruit ranges from brown to red and it contains black seeds that are partly covered by white arils.[5] The color contrast when the fruit is split open has been compared with the appearance of eyeballs,[5] and has become the basis of an origin myth among the Sateré-Mawé people.[6]

History and culture[edit]

The word guaraná comes from the Guaraní word guara-ná, which has its origins in the Sateré-Maué word for the plant, warana,[7] that in Guaraní means "fruit like the eyes of the people" or "eyes of the gods".[5]

Guaraná plays an important role in Tupi and Guarani culture. According to a myth attributed to the Sateré-Maué tribe, guaraná's domestication originated with a deity killing a beloved village child. 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 guaraná. The god then plucked the right eye from the child and planted it in the village, giving rise to domesticated guarana.[5][8]

The Guaranis make a herbal tea by shelling, washing and drying 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 guaraná bread, which is grated and then immersed into hot water along with sugar.[9]

This plant was introduced to European colonizers and to Europe in the 16th century by Felip Betendorf, Oviedo, Hernández, Cobo and other Spaniard chroniclers.[citation needed] By 1958, guaraná was commercialized.[9][10][dubiousdiscuss]


Guaraná fruits
Ripe guaraná fruits resemble human eyes[5]

According to the Biological Magnetic Resonance Data Bank, guaranine (better known as caffeine) is found in guaraná and is identical to caffeine derived from other sources, like coffee, tea, kola nut, and Ilex. 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 caffeine.[11]

Natural sources of caffeine contain widely varying mixtures of xanthine alkaloids other than caffeine, including the cardiac stimulants theophylline, theobromine and other substances such as polyphenols, which can form insoluble complexes with caffeine.[12][13] The main natural phenols found in guarana are (+)-catechin and (-)-epicatechin.[14]

The table below contains a partial listing of some of the chemicals found in guaraná seeds,[15][16] although other parts of the plant also may contain them in varying quantities.

A partial list of the components of guaraná seeds.[15][16]
Chemical component Parts per million
Ash < 14,200
Caffeine 9,100–76,000
Fat < 30,000
Protein < 98,600
Resin < 70,000
Starch 50,000–60,000
Tannin 50,000–120,000
Theobromine 200–400
Theophylline 0–2,500


Guaraná seed powder


In the United States, guaraná fruit powder and seed extract have not been evaluated for the status of "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS) by the Food and Drug Administration, but rather are approved as food additives for flavor (but not non-flavor) uses.[17][18]

Guaraná is used in sweetened or carbonated soft drinks and energy drinks, an ingredient of herbal teas or contained in dietary supplement capsules. South America obtains much of its caffeine from guaraná.[19]


Brazil, the third-largest consumer of soft drinks in the world,[20] produces several soft drink brands from the seeds of guaraná.[5][21] A fermented drink is also prepared from guaraná seeds, cassava and water. Paraguay is also a producer of guaraná soft drinks with several brands operating in its market. The word guaraná is widely used in Brazil, Peru and Paraguay as a reference to soft drinks containing guaraná extract.[citation needed]

Pop culture references[edit]

Guarana is a key plot device in the Murdoch Mysteries episodes "Excitable Chap" and "From Murdoch to Eternity", in which inventor James Pendrick creates an energy drink from a particularly potent strain of guarana, which is ultimately plowed under to make way for the Panama Canal.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Johannes L (March 2, 2010). "Can a Caffeine-Packed Plant Give a Boost?". The Wall Street Journal. p. D3.
  2. ^ Schimpl FC, da Silva JF, Gonçalves JF, et al. (October 2013). "Guarana: Revisiting a highly caffeinated plant from the Amazon". Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 150 (1): 14–31. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2013.08.023. PMID 23981847. Archived from the original on 2021-03-23. Retrieved 2021-04-19.
  3. ^ Caporaso N, Whitworth MB, Grebby S, et al. (April 2018). "Non-destructive analysis of sucrose, caffeine and trigonelline on single green coffee beans by hyperspectral imaging". Food Research International (Ottawa, Ont.). 106: 193–203. doi:10.1016/j.foodres.2017.12.031. ISSN 0963-9969. PMC 5886291. PMID 29579918.
  4. ^ Ashihara H, Sano H, Crozier A (February 2008). "Caffeine and related purine alkaloids: biosynthesis, catabolism, function and genetic engineering". Phytochemistry. 69 (4): 841–56. Bibcode:2008PChem..69..841A. doi:10.1016/j.phytochem.2007.10.029. PMID 18068204.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Balston C (April 29, 2021). "Guaraná: The edible 'eyes of the Amazon'". BBC Home. Retrieved March 16, 2024.
  6. ^ Prance G, Nesbitt M, eds. (2004). Cultural History of Plants. New York: Routledge. p. 179.
  7. ^ "guarana". Merriam Webster. Archived from the original on 2011-09-17. Retrieved 2007-09-18.
  8. ^ Beck H (2004). "10 Caffeine, Alcohol, and Sweeteners". In Ghillean Prance, Mark Nesbitt (eds.). Cultural History of Plants. New York: Routledge. p. 179. ISBN 978-0-415-92746-8.
  9. ^ a b Weinberg BA, Bealer BK (2001). The World of Caffeine: The Science and Culture of the World's Most Popular Drug. New York: Routledge. pp. 259–60. ISBN 978-0-415-92723-9.
  10. ^ Weinberg BA, Bealer BK (2001). The World of Caffeine: The Science and Culture of the World's Most Popular Drug. Routledge. p. 260. ISBN 9781135958176.
  11. ^ "Caffeine". Biological Magnetic Resonance Data Bank, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Archived from the original on 2007-11-24. Retrieved 2007-09-19.
  12. ^ Balentine D, Harbowy M, Graham H (1998). "Tea: the Plant and its Manufacture; Chemistry and Consumption of the Beverage". In Spiller G (ed.). Caffeine. CRC Press. doi:10.1201/9781420050134.ch3. ISBN 978-0-8493-2647-9.
  13. ^ "Substance Name: Caffeine [USP:BAN:JAN]". ChemIDplus. US National Library of Medicine. Archived from the original on 17 January 2017. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  14. ^ Carlson M, Thompson RD (July–August 1998). "Liquid chromatographic determination of methylxanthines and catechins in herbal preparations containing guaraná". Journal of AOAC International. 81 (4): 691–701. doi:10.1093/jaoac/81.4.691. PMID 9680692.
  15. ^ a b "Guarana", Dr. Duke's Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases, 2007-09-18, OCLC 41920916, archived from the original on 2004-11-19, retrieved 2007-09-18
  16. ^ a b Duke JA (1992). Handbook of phytochemical constituents of GRAS herbs and other economic plants. Boca Raton: CRC Press. ISBN 978-0-8493-3672-0. OCLC 25874249.
  17. ^ "FDA Responds to Durbin's Energy Drink Letter". Natural Products Insider, Global Health and Nutrition Network. 20 August 2012. Archived from the original on 22 February 2017. Retrieved 21 February 2017.
  18. ^ "Guarana gum and guarana seed extract; Everything Added to Food in the United States (EAFUS); Documents 2189 and 3150". US Food and Drug Administration, Silver Spring, MD. 23 April 2013. Archived from the original on 22 February 2017. Retrieved 21 February 2017.
  19. ^ Weinberg BA, Bealer BK (2001). The World of Caffeine: The Science and Culture of the World's Most Popular Drug. New York: Routledge. pp. 230. ISBN 978-0-415-92723-9.
  20. ^ Weinberg BA, Bealer BK (2001). The World of Caffeine: The Science and Culture of the World's Most Popular Drug. New York: Routledge. pp. 192–3. ISBN 978-0-415-92723-9.
  21. ^ Johnson-Roehr SN (September 29, 2023). "Guaraná: Stimulation from the Amazon to the World". JSTOR Daily. Retrieved March 16, 2024.

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