Guarana (paullinia cupana) is a plant that is naturally found in Venezuela and northern Brazil and is known for its small, bright red fruits that contain natural energy boosters.
Guarana seeds are peeled, dried, roasted, ground and made into beverages. The fermented mixture of guarana, cassava and water is the national drink of Brazil. While it may be the main ingredient of popular drinks in Brazil, guarana has also found its way in energy drinks elsewhere around the world. Guarana is reported to have taken the place of amphetamines in clubs where young people have been reportedly consuming more guarana energized drinks. Guarana seeds are also used to produce guarana gum or paste for herbal preparations.
Guarana contains high amounts of xanthines such as caffeine
and theobromine. Guarana seeds contain up to 8% caffeine, more than coffee beans which only have 2.5%. It is believed that the high caffeine component of guarana is responsible for its many health benefits.
Tannins are substances that are usually found in the stems and seeds of grapes, barks of some trees and most teas. It is characterized by an astringent sensation that it leaves on the mouth. It gives tea leaves its natural dark colour and is widely used for tanning leather. Guarana also contains tannins adding to its distinctive taste.
Uses of guarana
Central nervous system
The high caffeine content of guarana stimulates the nervous system making it useful for increasing mental alertness, increasing energy levels, fighting tiredness or fatigue, and lifting moods.
Weight loss supplement
Guarana is also known to reduce hunger and decrease appetite making it ideal for those who are trying to lose weight. Studies on animals have shown that guarana increases fat metabolism even on sedentary rats. Researchers theorise that the fat burning effect of guarana may be due to its rich caffeine content.
The caffeine in guarana breaks down lactic acid from muscle stress allowing you to exercise longer using weights and resistance training.
Guarana is widely used as a tonic in many South American countries for treating menstrual headaches, hangovers, diarrhea and neuralgia. In herbal supplement form, guarana is used for preventing blood clots, stimulating the production of urine and promoting the production of digestive juices.
Most of the known side effects of guarana are attributed to the high amounts of caffeine found in this plant. Among the reported side effects of guarana include insomnia, nervousness, anxiety, headaches, high blood pressure, and heart palpitations.
Guarana, which contains caffeine, is not recommended for pregnant and lactating women as caffeine has been medically proven to cause premature births and low birth weights in infants and may be passed on to a child through breast milk. Furthermore, guarana contains tannins which may block the absorption of iron supplements and dietary iron. You should consult your health professional before consuming guarana if you have a heart condition or suffer from a pre-existing illness which may be aggravated by guarana. It is best to avoid excessive consumption of guarana as this may trigger harmful side effects.
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