Guarana is a plant extract present in many energy drinks. It contains several bioactive compounds and may have various health benefits, such as increasing energy levels and enhancing cognition.

Guarana is an extract from the seeds of an Amazon Basin plant known as Paullinia cupana (P. cupana).

The consumption of guarana dates back centuries in Brazil. Some of its traditional uses include a source of energy and a remedy for headache and fever.

Research has since uncovered a variety of other potential uses for this versatile plant extract.

This article will discuss some guarana benefits, as well as risks and side effects.

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Naturally occurring stimulants exist in popular food and beverages, such as:

P. cupana seeds contain all three chemicals, making guarana an effective energy booster and a common ingredient in popular energy drinks.

Guarana also has more caffeine than coffee. A 2023 article notes that the concentration of caffeine in P. cupana seeds is 2–8%, whereas the amount found in coffee beans is about 1–3%.

A 2023 systematic review and meta-analysis found that guarana ingestion may increase response time during cognitive tasks.

The authors suggest one of the reasons might be the way caffeine blocks adenosine receptors, which are involved in sleep.

This can reduce fatigue and increase:

The authors indicate that more studies are necessary. It is unclear whether the benefits were solely from guarana’s high caffeine content or other bioavailable substances.

Guarana appears to have anti-inflammatory properties, according to a 2021 study.

The study compared the efficacy of guarana powder against caffeine in reducing inflammation in rats with elevated cholesterol. The guarana powder had a more pronounced anti-inflammatory effect than the caffeine.

A 2017 study examined the effects of roasted guarana seed water on roundworms and came to the conclusion that guarana has antioxidant properties.

Antioxidants target the free radicals that harm cells. Free radical damage can lead to issues like heart disease and cancer. Antioxidants slow or even prevent this damage.

The study found that the guarana water’s antioxidant action improved the worms’ resistance against oxidative stress.

In the same study that examined guarana’s antioxidant effect on roundworms, the authors also observed its properties for aging.

The signs of guarana’s anti-aging properties included:

However, more studies are necessary to see if these effects apply to human aging.

Guarana may have wound-healing properties, according to a 2022 study.

Researchers used roasted P. cupana seeds and fresh acai seed berries to create a guarana-acai (GA) extract, which they tested on earthworms after tail amputation.

The GA extract hastened the worms’ healing process. After 24 hours, cells exposed to GA had a higher concentration of collagen, without any abnormalities.

The study authors suggested that the GA extract might benefit postsurgical wound healing.

A 2019 study found that guarana may help with weight loss.

After analyzing the effects of four different diets fed to Wistar rats for 18 weeks, researchers concluded that guarana powder prevented:

This occurred because guarana appeared to:

Guarana’s anti-inflammatory action may provide pain relief, according to a 2018 review.

Study participants receiving radiation for head and neck cancer experienced pain relief from guarana. They took 100 milligrams (mg) of dried guarana extract each day for 3 weeks.

Guarana’s pain-modulating effect may be from its caffeine content. Caffeine may reduce pain by interacting with adenosine receptors.

A 2022 study found evidence that guarana seed powder may help manage cholesterol.

In the study, guarana was observed to:

  • inhibit pancreatic fat-digesting enzymes
  • decrease cholesterol’s solubility
  • reduce cholesterol absorption
  • decrease the intracellular level of cholesterol transporters

Guarana may improve the efficacy of some types of cancer treatments, according to a 2015 study.

The study examined the effect of guarana on cultured breast cancer cells with and without chemotherapy medication.

Guarana improved the medication’s ability to slow the growth of the cancer cells. After 72 hours, the cancer growth had decreased by more than 40%.

Guarana may help ease symptoms of gastrointestinal conditions like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

A 2022 study found that guarana was effective in modifying the metabolism of Escherichia coli (E. coli) to reduce the production of bacterial folate in the digestive tract.

Folate-dependent toxicity is thought to promote inflammation and damage tissue.

A 2017 study investigated eyesight and guarana consumption in older adults. The study found that those who reported good vision also consumed guarana more regularly than those with poor or regular eyesight.

Study authors theorize that guarana:

  • decreased cell death
  • modulated gene expression
  • affected protein levels

Guarana may be protective against aging-related eye disease.

Guarana is generally considered safe if people monitor their caffeine intake through all sources, including guarana.

Guarana side effects are most often related to its caffeine content and may include:

People with liver disease or cirrhosis should not take high doses of guarana long term. Because caffeine can cross the placenta, pregnant people should limit or avoid using guarana.

Guarana may be safe to take daily if a person monitors their caffeine intake from all sources to avoid caffeine toxicity.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends 400 mg as a safe daily caffeine limit for adults without medical conditions.

Like caffeine, a person may experience insomnia if they take guarana too close to bedtime.

Abruptly discontinuing caffeine use may result in withdrawal symptoms. If a person takes guarana daily and wants to stop, they should cut back gradually.

People taking stimulant medication may want to ask their prescribing physician whether guarana is safe for them to use.

Guarana is an extract from the plant Paullinia cupana. It has several bioactive chemicals, including the stimulants caffeine, theophylline, and theobromine.

In addition to how it can help a person feel more awake and alert, guarana benefits may include anti-inflammatory and pain relief effects.

Guarana side effects are similar to those resulting from caffeine. It may be safe for people without medical conditions to take guarana daily as long as they monitor their overall caffeine intake.