Caffeine-rich plant guarana seems to impart many of the same energy benefits as pure caffeine.
Guarana is a South American plant known for its high caffeine content. It is most commonly used as a stimulant and is believed to boost energy by:
- Stimulating the central nervous system. Much like pure caffeine, guarana increases energy levels, and improves mood, focus, and other cognitive aspects.
Native to the Amazon basin and widely utilized in Brazil, guarana (Paullinia cupana) is a fruit tree whose seeds have been ground and consumed as a psychoactive drink for centuries.
The key component of guarana are the seeds found inside of its red fruit, which are about the same size as coffee seeds but have more than two times the caffeine content (1–2% for coffee seeds and 3 – 7% in guarana seeds).1
Because of this, the use of guarana parallels that of caffeine and caffeine-containing beverages, which includes energy drinks, medications, and dietary supplements aimed at energy, fat loss, and other uses. Additional medical uses of guarana include treatment of low blood pressure and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
How Guarana May Help With Energy
The energy-boosting mechanism of guarana seems to parallel that of caffeine:
Stimulating the central nervous system
Guarana is full of ingredients capable of stimulating the central nervous system (CNS), most importantly caffeine, but also other xanthines such as theophylline and theobromine. The CNS stimulation of guarana results in:
- Increased energy metabolism not just in the brain, but in the heart and muscles as well.2
- Elevated mood. Caffeine and theobromine positively influences mood and state of alertness by inhibiting phosphodiesterases, which are enzymes that block energy metabolism.3
Guarana Benefits & Uses for Energy
The early stages of guarana research confirm that it shares many of the energy-related benefits of pure caffeine, including:
- Mood enhancement
- Decreased sleepiness
- Enhanced cognitive function
As such, guarana’s high caffeine content may justify its use in keeping people active on a day-to-day basis, similar to the way coffee is frequently taken.
In animal models, guarana has been shown to:
- Provide stimulating effects. Guarana was found to be more stimulating than caffeine alone.4
- Improve alertness and positive mood in mammals.5
Clinical studies of guarana are scarce, but suggest that it works similar to pure caffeine.
In this prospective, randomized, single-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover investigation, 27 adults took placebo or guarana pills (3 pills, each 350 mg) after breakfast for 5 days. Based on psychological well-being (PWB) scales, the self-rating anxiety state scale (SAS), and the Bond-Lader mood scales, there were no significant mood differences reported between guarana and placebo.
- The study concluded that “in healthy subjects a 5-day treatment with a commercial preparation of guaranà used according to labelled instructions provided no evidence for any major effects on psychological well-being, anxiety and mood.”6
In this double-blind, placebo-controlled investigation, 28 participants were given placebo, 75 mg of guarana, 200 mg of ginseng, or a mixture of both daily during computerized cognitive assessments. Compared to the placebo, guarana was found to improve attention and subtraction tasks as well as enhance mood according to Bond-Lader mood scales.
- The study concluded that “in the case of guarana, improvements were seen across ‘attention’ tasks…[and] also enhanced the speed of memory task performance, with little evidence of modulated accuracy.”7
In this double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized, crossover investigation, 20 adults took either a placebo or guarana in the form of the multivitamin Berocca® before undergoing a cognitive challenge and a following mood assessment. Cognitive performance and self-rated contentment were higher in the guarana group than the placebo group.
- The study concluded that “treatments increased activation in areas associated with working memory and attentional processing, with the effect being greater in the multivitamin with guaraná condition. These data confirm the acute benefits of multivitamins with guaraná on mood and cognitive performance. Furthermore, they demonstrate for the first time increased brain activation.”8
Dosage for Energy
- Research studies use between 75 – 1050 mg per day
- Typical guarana supplements range from 200 – 900 mg of seed extract
- Guarana is also popular in energy drinks (often mixed with essential vitamins), herbal tea, soft drink (30 mg caffeine in 8 oz), and even paste or gum
Supplements in Review Says
- Guarana seed extract 200 – 900 mg for energy.
We recommend pure caffeine for energy. Although guarana seems to have many of the same benefits as caffeine, it has seen far less research and is not nearly as potent as pure caffeine. As such, we recommend sticking to pure caffeine or at least coffee for more reliable energy-boosting effects.
But if you do want to give guarana a try, stick to supplement-recommended dosages. Guarana supplements come in a wide range of doses, as low as 200 mg and as high as 1600 mg.
- Bempong DK, Houghton PJ, et al. The xanthine content of guarana and its preparations. Int. J. Pharmacog. 1993;31(3):175-81. ↩
- Graham TE. Caffeine and exercise: metabolism, endurance and performance. Sports Med. 2001;31(11):785-807. ↩
- Martínez-Pinilla E. Oñatibia-Astibia A, Franco R. The relevance of theobromine for the beneficial effects of cocoa consumption. Front Pharmacol. 2015; 6: 30. ↩
- Moustakas D, Mezzio M, et al. Guarana provides additional stimulation over caffeine alone in the planarian model. PLoS One. 2015 Apr 16;10(4):e0123310. ↩
- Martínez-Pinilla E, Oñatibia-Astibia A, et al. The relevance of theobromine for the beneficial effects of cocoa consumption. Front Pharmacol. 2015 Feb 20;6:30 ↩
- Silvestrini GI, Marino F, et al. Effects of a commercial product containing guaraná on psychological well-being, anxiety and mood: a single-blind, placebo-controlled study in healthy subjects. J Negat Results Biomed. 2013 May 25;12:9. ↩
- Kennedy DO, Haskell CF, et al. Improved cognitive performance in human volunteers following administration of guarana (Paullinia cupana) extract: comparison and interaction with Panax ginseng. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2004 Nov;79(3):401-11. ↩
- Scholey A, Bauer I, et al. Acute effects of different multivitamin mineral preparations with and without Guaraná on mood, cognitive performance and functional brain activation. Nutrients. 2013 Sep 13;5(9):3589-604. ↩