Guarana: revisiting a highly caffeinated plant from the Amazon

J Ethnopharmacol. 2013 Oct 28;150(1):14-31. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2013.08.023. Epub 2013 Aug 24.


Ethnopharmacological relevance: Guarana (Paullinia cupana Kunth var. sorbilis (Mart.) Ducke) has been traditionally consumed by indigenous communities of the Amazon region. It is valued mainly for its stimulant property because of its high content of caffeine, which can be up to 6% in the seeds.

Aim of the review: The purpose of this review is to revisit this typically Brazilian plant, addressing economic considerations, the chemical makeup of the seeds and pharmacological properties so far investigated.

Results: Guarana is primarily produced in the Brazilian states of Amazonas and Bahia, and approximately 70% of the production is used by the industry of soft and energy drinks. The other 30% becomes guarana powder for direct consumption in capsules or dilution in water, or it serves as a raw material for the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries. In addition to its stimulant property, guarana has other therapeutic properties, which have aroused the interest of the scientific community.

Conclusion: This review shows that other guarana properties may be explored and how scarce are the studies regarding agronomic, plant pathology, physiology and breeding. So far, caffeine has been the main reason to study guarana and still will lead the researches because the demand for this alkaloid by food and pharmaceutical industry, and a strongly growing market related with beauty products. However, guarana has other components and there is great interest in studies designed to elucidate the effects of guarana's bioactive components and their potential pharmacological applications. Significant part of the guarana production in Brazil still comes from Indians tribes in the Amazon State, and any improvement in this plant, in any aspect, may propitiate a positive economic impact in their lives.

Keywords: Biodiversity; Caffeine; Pharmacology; Sapindaceae; Tannin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brazil
  • Caffeine / isolation & purification
  • Humans
  • Paullinia*
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Seeds / chemistry


  • Plant Extracts
  • Caffeine