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. doi: 10.1016/j.pbb.2004.07.014.


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.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Combinations
  • Drug Interactions / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Panax*
  • Paullinia*
  • Plant Extracts / administration & dosage
  • Psychomotor Performance / drug effects*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology


  • Drug Combinations
  • Plant Extracts