Guaraná

Paullinia cupana syn. P.sorbilis

Herbs gallery - Guarana

Common names

  • Guarana

The herbal plant known as the guarana is a native South American species of climbing shrub, growing wild in the expansive Amazon Basin. The guarana is cultivated for its seeds in this region of the world. The roasted and pulverized guarana seeds are made into a paste - also called gum - by mixing it with a little water. The paste is molded into bars and dried for consumption as an herbal treat. The guarana plant contains a fair amount of the alkaloid caffeine and traces of other related alkaloids including the compounds theophylline and theobromine similar to other plants used as stimulants.

The guarana plant is botanically called Paullinia cupana of the family Sapindaceae, this climbing shrub is mainly found in Brazil and Uruguay and other areas of Amazonia. The guarana seed paste is consumed by the peoples of these countries who also use the plant to make a hot herbal beverage. In fact, the guarana is one of the major ingredients in many of the different carbonated beverages that are heavily marketed by the Coca-Cola Company in the country of Brazil. The Pepsi-Cola company in the United States also sells some carbonated beverages containing this herb. The content of caffeine in the guarana plant is relatively high; often ranging from about 2.5% to 5% and can average about 3.5% of the total volume.

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Parts used

Seeds.

Uses

The herbal and medicinal uses of the guarana are the same as those of for the coffee plant. This herb is used as a treatment for headache and problems like migraine, it boosts energy levels in the body and helps alleviate mildly depressive mental states. The guarana can produce similar problems and side effects as induced by coffee, when it is used for the long term and excessive consumption can inhibit the natural restorative processes in the body if continuously used for long stretches of time. High doses of guarana for short periods of time on the other hand, can boost the energy levels in the body - similar to the action of coffee. The use of guarana is not suggested due to the significant content of plant pigments called tannins - these tannins have a tendency to impair the ability of the intestines to absorb nutrients if consumed at high doses for a long period of time. At the same time, the short term use of the guarana remedy can be an excellent way to help boost flagging energy levels in the body. The guarana remedy is also effective in treating a tension headache that is not alleviated by resting or sleep. Chronic diarrhea is treated using the guarana remedy - primarily due to its strong astringent action.

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The Indian tribes in southern America, particularly the Guaranis, from where this herb acquired its name, dry out and roast the seeds of guarana and prepare a paste using water. Subsequently, they use this paste much in the same manner in which chocolate is used - to prepare a variety of foods, beverages and medications. The tribes inhabiting the rainforests have been employing guarana primarily in the form of a tonic and also as an astringent (a dehydrating agent) for curing chronic diarrhea. In order to endure the dietary restrictions in a better manner, frequently this herb is also ingested when one is fasting.

During the last several centuries, the several benefits of guarana have been imparted to the explorers as well as settlers. Researchers in Europe, especially France and Germany, started studying guarana in the 1940s when they discovered that the native Indians used this herb to treat headaches, fevers, cramps, as well as in the form of an energizing drink and that the results were effective. In fact, guarana is recognized as well as used for its stimulant and thermogenic (causing heat production) actions. In the present day United States, guarana is presumed to improve mental alertness, combat exhaustion and also augment stamina as well as physical tolerance.

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Millions of people in Brazil currently take guarana every day in the form of an energizing tonic. The Brazilians are of the view that this herb facilitates in overcoming fatigue caused by heat, fights against untimely aging, purifies the blood and is also effective in treating obesity, intestinal gas, fatigue, dyspepsia and arteriosclerosis. Considered to be an adaptogen (any herb that normalizes the body systems), guarana is also employed to cure headaches, fever, migraine, heart disorders, neuralgia and diarrhea. This plant has been used in several body care products owing to its stimulant and astringent attributes, as well as to diminish cellulite. In addition, guarana also forms an important ingredient in several shampoos meant for oily hair and also as an element in products available for preventing hair loss. In Peru, people extensively use the seed of guarana for treating neuralgia, dysentery, diarrhea, exhaustion, cellulite, obesity, heart conditions, migraine, high blood pressure (hypertension) and also rheumatism.

Currently, guarana is recognized and employed throughout the world - in effect, it forms the principal ingredient in Brazil's 'national beverage' called Guaraná Soda. Almost 80 per cent of the commercial production of guarana paste worldwide is in the middle of the Amazon rainforest in the northern regions of Brazil - till date done by the Guarani Indians, who harvest the seeds from the wild and prepare a paste from them by hand. It is worth mentioning here that the Brazilian government has now become responsive to the significance of the local manufacture of guarana by means of traditional techniques used by the indigenous tribes of the rainforest.

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The health benefits offered by guarana as well as its repute as a natural tonic have led to the steady growing popularity of this plant throughout the world. Guarana is available under several labels and also in the form of an ingredient of numerous herbal preparations, protein bars and energy drinks. However, it is unfortunate that numerous manufacturers, some of them unethically, are just adding the 'guarana' name to their labels to take advantage of the plant's reputation. In fact, some unscrupulous manufacturers are including chemical caffeine in their products, instead of using the genuine herb. Presently, consistent/ homogeneous guarana extracts are also available commercially and these products 'guarantee' as well 'standardize' the extract to the content of caffeine. However, regrettably, several of these products contain a seed powder or extract which includes caffeine too, instead of distillation of the caffeine by means of an extraction procedure of natural seeds.

Lately, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States has published the findings of their examination of as many as 24 commercial guarana products that are available over the counter (non-prescription). They have come to the conclusion that the findings as well as chromatographic profiles for as many as 14 commercial guarana products that are available in solid dosage hint at the fact that some of these products may possibly not include genuine guarana in the form of an active ingredient or enclose below the declared amount of guarana in these products. Hence, it is important that both consumers as well as manufacturers ought to be conscious regarding such irregularities with a view to deal with highly regarded suppliers in acquiring guarana products and supplements. Manufacturers who purchase guarana extracts and homogenized or standardized extracts ought to demand evaluations that not only demonstrate the caffeine content, but the theophylline and theobromine contents too. This will eventually determine whether the actual seed was distilled into an extract.

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Habitat and cultivation

The guarana herb is an indigenous South American plant species; it is native to the thick tropical rain forests along the Brazilian Amazon basin. Brazilians cultivate the guarana plant on a commercial scale. Ripe seeds are gathered to be made into various products.

Constituents

Guarana contains xanthine derivatives (including up to 7% caffeine, together with theobromine and theophylline), tannins, and saponins. The xanthines are stimulant, diuretic, and reduce fatigue over the short term.

Usual dosage

The guarana remedy is made by using 250 ml of water to boil one to two grams of pre-crushed guarana seeds or the bark resin for 10 minutes - this remedy can be taken thrice daily at a cup per dose. Every single cup of guarana prepared this way can provide about fifty mg of guaranine to the person.

Side effects and cautions

The side effects that can be induced by excessive guarana consumption resembles the symptoms induced by any caffeinated product taken at high doses. Physical symptoms including trembling in the body, insomnia, persistent anxiety, heart palpitations, as well as hyperactivity and frequent urination can be observed in people who have consumed excess doses of the herb. Guarana herb in any form must not be consumed by pregnant or lactating women due to the danger of side effects. According to the epidemiological studies conducted on caffeine use, the consumption of caffeine in the long term can induce decreased fertility, bring on cardiovascular diseases, and increase the risk for several forms of cancer.

Guarana encloses caffeine and, hence, individuals who are susceptible to or have allergic reactions to caffeine or xanthenes ought to never take this herb. Consuming excessive amounts of caffeine is inadvisable for people suffering from diabetes, epilepsy, ulcers as well as other health problems.

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