The effects on toxic and behavioral levels of guarana (Paullinia cupana) were assessed in rats and mice subsequent to acute and chronic administrations and were compared to those produced by Ginseng (Panax ginseng). Experimental parameters included tests for antioxidant capacity in vitro and measured in vivo, toxicological screening, progress in weight, motor activity, death rate, and histopathological examination of the viscera. Guarana showed an antioxidant effect because, even at low concentrations (1.2 microg/ml), it inhibited the process of lipid peroxidation. In high doses of 1000-2000 mg/kg (i.p. and p.o.) it did not induce significant alterations in parameters for toxicological screening. No effects on motor activity were observed, neither did guarana alter the hypnotic effect of pentobarbital. Ginseng (250-1000 mg/kg i.p.), however, elicited reductions in motor activity, eyelid ptosis and bristling fur. Consumption of liquids containing guarana or ginseng and progress in weight of the animals remained at levels similar to the controls, even after prolonged administration. The percentage mortality was equivalent in control and in treated groups. The absence of toxicity of guarana was also demonstrated by histopathological examination, with no alteration being detected in heart, lungs, stomach, small and large intestine, liver, pancreas, kidneys, bladder and spleen.