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Guarana has immense applications in the pharmacy and beverage industry. We know and understand guarana supplements and energy drinks but may be not guarana directly.
Guarana (Paullinia cupana) is a Brazilian plant native to the Amazon Basin. This plant is prized for its fruit, the guarana fruit. The guarana fruit is edible and safe for consumption as it is, but it is more commonly known for its use in beverages, mainly energy dri as an extract.
Like all stimulant drugs, guarana has its safe dosage limits and contraindications too. We will be discussing everything about it here: the benefits, safe dosage, contraindications, and hazards.
What is the Active Component of the Guarana Seed Extract?
Guarana for consumption in the beverages and supplements is made by crushing the seeds of the Paullinia cupana. The active compounds that provide the benefits of Guarana include theobromine, theophylline, and guaranine. The effects are comparable to those of caffeine in coffee, but Guarana does not contain caffeine alone.
Another compound called guaranine is very similar to caffeine but has more substantial effects than caffeine. Some researches, though, also indicate that caffeine is a part of guaranine itself too. Coffee contains 2 % caffeine, while Guarana contains 5 % caffeine or an effect equivalent to 5 % caffeine.
Why do People Take Guarana?
Caffeine works similarly to supplements derived from natural herbs such as guarana and ginseng. These perform active stimulant effects, which are beneficial in many aspects. Most people take guarana for the following benefits:
- Enhance athletic performance and endurance
- Improve productivity
- As a refreshing hot beverage
- Weight loss
- Entertainment purposes in the form of energy drinks
- Relieve physical and mental fatigue
- Boost energy and metabolism
- Aphrodisiac benefits
- Treat low blood pressure
- Manage some chronic inflammatory conditions
How does Guarana work?
Guarana contains active compounds that act as stimulants for the nervous system of the body. The most important is the caffeine content of Guarana. Guarana seeds are almost the size of coffee beans but have nearly four times higher caffeine content.
Guarana contains caffeine that works in various ways and mechanisms to boost energy, improve cognition, reduce fatigue, slow aging, promote skin health, aid weight loss, and improve heart health.
Uses of Guarana
Guarana fruit and seeds are used as medicine. The people in the Amazon use the guarana fruit to brew their local beverages. It has the following medicinal benefits:
Energy drinks and guarana dietary supplements contain caffeine that prevents the development and progression of the cognitive disease such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and dementia. Regular caffeine consumption improves the working memory and reaction time of a person.
Caffeine and guarana can improve alertness and focus for a particular task. Caffeine targets the adenosine receptors in the brain, increasing the nervous system activity in the body. That is why drinking caffeinated beverages in the morning or during work breaks keep you up and working.
The above mechanism, coupled with the ability of caffeine to release the endorphins in the body, Guarana is used in stimulant medications to improve mood and psychomotor performance.
A study performed in 2008 showed that caffeine in Guarana resulted in improved cognitive performance and alleviation of mental fatigue. A study conducted in 2004 showed positive concentration test performance, improved task performance, and an increase in attention test performance.
Fights off toxins
Caffeine and the effects of caffeine are important factors in Guarana and its uses. But it also has a high level of antioxidants such as tannins, catechins, saponins, and theobromine. Caffeine itself is a strong antioxidant.
The antioxidants in the guarana extract fight off toxins and free radicals that cause membrane and cell damage. This poses potential risks for the development of cancer, heart disease, blood vessel damage, and age-related diseases.
Hence, the guarana-containing herbal supplement can prevent the appearance and progression of inflammatory diseases.
In combination with other herbal supplements such as the ephedra, Guarana seed powder is getting popular as a non-prescription weight loss drug. The main mechanism at work here is the fact that Guarana contains caffeine. Caffeine and the methylxanthines theobromine and theophylline increase the metabolism of the body by 3-10 percent, depending upon individual tolerance.
Cancer Treatment and Management
Guarana combinations have strong anti-inflammatory activity that reduces the expression of NF-KB and Cyclooxygenase-2 enzyme. These agents are released by the cancer cells and promote the spread and development of tumors by promoting angiogenesis, invasion, and metastasis.
The Guarana dietary supplement has been shown to attenuate the symptoms of hormonal imbalance in the breast cancer patients, such as recurrent hot flashes and mood swings.
Dietary Caffeine Intake may Help with Constipation
Caffeine in Guarana can help with constipation by stimulating the gut. Caffeine is a natural laxative and promoter of peristalsis in the gut.
However, low doses of Guarana may instead act as anti-diarrheal because it won’t offer much caffeine.
How do I consume Guarana Seeds?
More than 70 % of Guarana from the Paullina cupana is used in the soft drinks and beverage industry. The rest is made into a gum or paste by crushing the seeds and used as a herbal supplement. But you can also consume the seeds in a soothing beverage like we prepare and drink coffee.
For one cup of Guarana:
- Take a quarter to half teaspoon of the crushed seeds
- Add them to a cup of boiling water
- Let it boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
The guarana seed oil composition revealed heavy fatty acid and lipid content, suggesting that its extract is not readily soluble in water. So for preparing guarana beverages at home, make sure you let it take time to boil and simmer.
Each cup of guarana beverage prepared with this method can provide up to 50 mg of caffeine. And you can safely drink three cups a day. Guarana beverages with seeds and powder are as popular in Brazil as coffee and soft drinks in the western world. And that’s why it is also called Brazilian cocoa.
Guarana contains caffeine that gives guarana drinks a strong and slightly acidic taste. But it also has a fruity aftertaste with a ginger ale undertone.
Adverse effects and Contraindications of Caffeine Consumption through Guarana
Guarana contains caffeine that has its adverse and beneficial effects. Here are some contraindications to the use of Guarana in any form.
Your health care professional should advise you on a strictly supervised dose of caffeine in Guarana if you have any of the following conditions:
Guarana contains caffeine that increases the level of blood sugar in the body. It also increases the levels of free fatty acids in the body, which worsens diabetes rather than helping it. You should monitor blood sugar closely if you take any such stimulant drug as caffeine in Guarana.
We know that atherosclerosis and high blood pressure are closely associated with diabetes mellitus. You may want to stop taking Guarana in such a scenario because the caffeine in Guarana can also increase blood pressure and worsen the lipid profile of the blood.
If you are taking diabetes medications to monitoring your blood sugar, caffeine in Guarana can do the opposite.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Guarana and ginseng are used as formulations popular for daily supplementation. But the caffeine in Guarana is a stimulant drug that can considerably worsen conditions with diarrhea or irritable bowel.
The caffeine in Guarana alters the brain-gut interaction so that it instead increases the motility of the gut and precipitates a worse diarrheal situation. Consult your healthcare provider for the safe amounts of caffeine in a day if you have a diarrheal condition such as IBS.
Death from caffeine overdose or toxicity is comparatively rare. But doses greater than 10 g in a susceptible person can result in extremely dangerous seizures, arrhythmias, powerful gut peristalsis, and vomiting. In cases of acute toxicity, death mainly occurs due to the occurrence of seizures or arrhythmias together with emesis and its aspiration.
In addition to the acute effects, chronic consumption of caffeine can result in chronic anxiety, frequent jitters, increased heartbeat, insomnia, restlessness, and irritability.
Cardiovascular Adverse Reactions
Due to its stimulant actions, Guarana can stimulate and increase the heart rate and increase blood pressure in the body. Patients with a history of myocardial infarction or any heart disease should be very cautious about caffeine and coffee consumption.
Patients with a weak heart may develop irregular heartbeat as a consequence of taking too much caffeine.
Caffeine consumption in women of age over 50 should be limited. Because caffeine not only increases the removal of calcium from the body but also hinders its absorption from the small intestine. When the levels of calcium drop in the body, hormones from the parathyroid gland stimulate the bones to dissolve themselves and give up calcium.
Bone mineral density decreases as a result. People who have existing osteoporosis or weak bones should take a bit of professional advice from their healthcare provider on the dosage of Guarana and caffeine intake. If you are taking guarana powder or its extract in any form or combination, you should incorporate calcium supplements to keep that in check.
Chronic caffeine intake, such as with guarana or other stimulant herbal supplements, can give rise to anxiety symptoms and can also worsen an existing anxiety disorder.
Caffeine increases alertness by blocking the release of adenosine, but at the same time, it releases adrenaline. Adrenaline acts as a neurotransmitter that produces symptoms similar to psychotic illness, such as restlessness, nervousness, insomnia, and toxic behavioral effects.
Bladder Urgency in Elder Adults
Another condition where you need to use Guarana with great caution is males with weak bladder control. Beyond a safe recommended limit, coffee consumption can lead to increased urgency and even weaker bladder control in elderly males.
Caffeine-containing beverages make bleeding disorders worse. Caffeine ingestion, along with herbal supplements such as Panax ginseng, can slow blood clotting mechanisms.
So, if you have a bleeding disorder such as an acquired platelet function disorder, you need to consult a healthcare provider before taking caffeine in Guarana as a beverage or a herbal dietary supplement.
A study conducted in 1999 showed that aqueous guarana extract decreases platelet thromboxane synthesis and hence the blood clotting. For patients who take regular drugs for blood clotting, caffeine taking Guarana can worsen the situation.
Studies have shown that energy drinks containing caffeine and guarana improve mental performance for the time being. The same goes for a patient consuming mahuang extract, a similar supplement. But these compounds alter the morphology and shape of the neuronal and red blood cells of the body. These alterations also interfere with the standard blood flow mechanism.
Oral or intravenous Guarana can increase blood pressure by narrowing the lumen of the blood vessels. Guarana contains caffeine, and the narrowing of blood vessels is related to the effects of caffeine on the autonomic nervous system.
At the same time, caffeine consumed with other stimulant drugs has been shown to disturb the sodium and potassium homeostasis in the body. You should consult your healthcare provider before using Guarana and such stimulant drugs as it may worsen atherosclerosis, hypertension, and insulin resistance.
- Do not use Guarana with other stimulant drugs as it may lead to caffeine poisoning.
- Guarana supplements slow blood clotting and can interact with blood thinners and platelet stimulator drugs.
- Guarana can interact with antidepressants and sedatives too.
- A drug called dipyridamole is used in the cardiac stress test. And the caffeine in the Guarana can block this action. You should stop consuming Guarana at least 24 hours before the test.
- Guarana can also interact with estrogen medications and birth control pills.
- The body breaks down caffeine to get rid of it. Contraceptive drugs interfere with caffeine metabolism and caffeine clearance and can lead to Guarana and caffeine overdose.
Is Guarana Deprivation the same as Caffeine Withdrawal?
With the same stimulant functions as those of caffeine, Guarana can be addicting. You can quickly develop tolerance to the effects of guarana and caffeine if consumed in high doses. And when you suddenly stop taking guarana, signs and symptoms similar to caffeine withdrawal begin to appear.
Consequent to only overnight caffeine abstinence, you may feel jitters, severe anxiety, restlessness, irritability, depressed mood, headache, and fatigue.
The Bottom Line
Guarana is a natural stimulant herb with lots of benefits and medicinal uses. But like all medicines, its efficacy has a limit for healthy adults and people with certain conditions.
In the case of any of the contraindications mentioned above, you should keep all sources of caffeine under check. Decaffeinated coffee may look like a way out, but you must know that it does not ensure zero percent caffeine.