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Botanical Description & Habitat

Paullina cupana


Common Names:

Brazilian cocoa
Guarana paste or gum


A fast-growing, woody perennial shrub native to the Amazon.

Brazil and Uruguay

Medicinal Parts
Crushed seeds are made into a paste.

Historical Properties & Uses

Guarana is used by the natives of Brazil and Uruguay to make hot tea, to use as a stimulant. Coca-Cola uses it in their carbonated beverages in Brazil.

In the United States, guarana is often falsely advertised as a caffeine-less stimulant, or if it does contain caffeine, it is not used by the body. Both of these positions lack support.

Unlike yerba mate, for which there is some doubt about the chemistry of its xanthine stimulants, such doubt does not presently exist for guarana. It is sometimes called Zoom in the United States. The purpose is always the same: to get a stimulant effect.

Method of Action

The method of action guarana is rather straightforward: it contains upwards of 3.5% caffeine (coffee beans contain 1 or 2%) which has a definite stimulant pressor action on the body.

Drug Interactions & Precautions

Possible Interactions
It shouldn't be used with methotrimeprazine, a potent CNS depressant.

Additive effects may occur between the hypotensive property of guarana and
dopamine receptor agonists such as bromocriptine mesylate.

Guarana should be used with caution in conjunction with CNS depressants or stimulants.

In the absence of other hard data, it may still be assumed observable interactions may occur between the many central nervous system drugs and the psychoactive principles in this herb.

The psycho- and physicostimulant property of guarana may be assumed to interact in presently unknown ways with other psychoactive central and peripheral nervous system stimulants and depressants.

Safety Factors & Toxicity

Narcotic stimulant
May create nervousness, insomnia, tachycardia, elevated blood sugar and cholesterol levels, excess stomach acid and heartburn. Should be avoided by pregnant women, and, for that matter, by everyone.

High concentrations of caffeine (3 - 5%).

Preparation & Administration

Dosage requirements of guarana have not been determined. Use a few grams in a cup of hot water, or 2-3 capsules per day. Better yet, don't use this herb at all.

Note: This Herbal Preparation information is a summary of data from books and articles by various authors. It is not intended to replace the advice or attention of health care professionals.


Bydlowski, SP et al., A novel property of an aqueous guarana extract (Paulinia cupana): Inhibition of platelet aggregation in vitro and in vivo. Braz. J. Med. Biol. res. 1988, 21(3):535.

Duke, J.A. CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs, CRC Press, Inc., Boca Raton, Florida, 1985.

Facts and Comparisons. The Lawrence Review of Natural Products. May, 1991.

Mowrey, Daniel B., Ph.D. Exper. Psych., Brigham Young University. Director of Nebo Institute of Herbal Sciences. Director of Behavior Change Agent Training Institute. Director of Research, Nova Corp.

Tyler, V. The New Honest Herbal, Stickley, Philadelphia, 1987.


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