Guarana (Paullinia cupana)

The following information is directly pulled from the National Institutes of Health database. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is a biomedical research facility primarily located in Bethesda, Maryland. An agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, it is the primary agency of the United States government responsible for biomedical and health-related research.

Guarana Provides Additional Stimulation over Caffeine Alone in the Planarian Model


The stimulant effect of energy drinks is primarily attributed to the caffeine they contain. Many energy drinks also contain other ingredients that might enhance the tonic effects of these caffeinated beverages. One of these additives is guarana. Guarana is a climbing plant native to the Amazon whose seeds contain approximately four times the amount of caffeine found in coffee beans. The mix of other natural chemicals contained in guarana seeds is thought to heighten the stimulant effects of guarana over caffeine alone. Yet, despite the growing use of guarana as an additive in energy drinks, and a burgeoning market for it as a nutritional supplement, the science examining guarana and how it affects other dietary ingredients is lacking. To appreciate the stimulant effects of guarana and other natural products, a straightforward model to investigate their physiological properties is needed. The planarian provides such a system. The locomotor activity and convulsive response of planarians with substance exposure has been shown to provide an excellent system to measure the effects of drug stimulation, addiction and withdrawal. To gauge the stimulant effects of guarana we studied how it altered the locomotor activity of the planarian species Dugesia tigrina. We report evidence that guarana seeds provide additional stimulation over caffeine alone, and document the changes to this stimulation in the context of both caffeine and glucose. Read More.

Improved cognitive performance in human volunteers following administration of guarana (Paullinia cupana) extract: comparison and interaction with Panax ginseng.


Extracts from the plant guarana (Paullinia cupana) feature as putatively stimulating ingredients in a number of foods, drinks and dietary/herbal supplements. To date, little research in humans has examined the potential psychoactive effects of these extracts. Extracts of Panax ginseng, which are often sold in combination with guarana, contain similar potentially active components, and have been shown to modulate cognitive performance. In this double-blind, counterbalanced, placebo-controlled study, the cognitive and mood effects of separate single doses of: 75 mg of a dried ethanolic extract of guarana (approx 12% caffeine), 200 mg of Panax ginseng (G115), and their combination (75 mg/200 mg), were assessed in 28 healthy young (18-24) participants. On each day of the study (separated by a 7-day washout), cognitive performance and subjective mood were assessed pre-dose and at 1, 2.5, 4 and 6 h post-dose using the Cognitive Drug Research computerised assessment battery, Serial subtraction tasks and Bond-Lader mood scales. In comparison to placebo, all three treatments resulted in improved task performance throughout the day. In the case of guarana, improvements were seen across ‘attention’ tasks (but with some evidence of reduced accuracy), and on a sentence verification task. While also increasing the speed of attention task performance, both ginseng and the ginseng/guarana combination also enhanced the speed of memory task performance, with little evidence of modulated accuracy. Guarana and the combination, and to a lesser extent ginseng, also led to significant improvements in serial subtraction task performance. These results provide the first demonstration in humans of the psychoactive effects of guarana, and confirmation of the psychoactive properties of ginseng. Given the low caffeine content (9 mg) of this dose of guarana extract, the effects are unlikely to be attributable to its caffeine content.

Supporting Data

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