What is Guarana?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Guarana is a type of berry grown in South America that is used much in the same way caffeine is used to supplement sodas, candy, and even chewing gum. The berries themselves are extremely similar in composition to coffee beans, and although the chemicals in the berries are slightly different, they have the same basic effect as caffeine at about the same dose level. In the US, consumers will find the berry used in weight loss supplements, and the newest trend is to include its extracts in energy drinks.

It is said that guarana berries are as effective as caffeine pills for weight loss.
It is said that guarana berries are as effective as caffeine pills for weight loss.

Some websites claim this berry as the latest medical silver bullet and that it can address many different issues. It has been touted as an effective weight loss treatment and a concentration aid. Like caffeine, it can temporarily increase concentration, boost mental and physical performance, and give the mood a slight lift. It may also slightly suppress appetite. On the other hand, too much of it can have the same negative effects as those produced by caffeine.

Guarana berries are grown in South America.
Guarana berries are grown in South America.

Though the drug ephedra is no longer available in the US, consumers can find many energy drinks and pills containing a combination of guarana and ma huang (ephedra) on the Internet. These have been proven dangerous, and there is a risk of death in people who take ephedra. Such supplements can help a person lose weight, but it's not worth the risk to his or her life. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) urges people not to purchase these products.

Energy drinks may contain guarana.
Energy drinks may contain guarana.

Guarana in energy drinks has created problems too, especially among teens and young adults. There is the possibility of getting ill from consuming too much caffeine, no matter how it is labeled. Some teens and adults have become very ill after consuming high numbers of energy drinks.

As for weight loss claims regarding guarana, it can be said that it’s about as effective as taking caffeine pills. Caffeine pills for weight loss have been on the market for about 50 years, and if they worked effectively, anyone who wanted to lose weight would use them. They clearly are no substitute for diet and exercise and will not cause massive weight loss.

Some claim the benefits of these berries lie in the fact that they are more natural than caffeine, but this is highly questionable. Caffeine may be lab produced, but plenty of it comes from natural sources too. The coffee bean is no less natural than the guarana berry.

Despite dubious health claims regarding this berry and its chemical compound (called guaranine), it’s now being marketed in energy drinks as a safe and natural alternative to caffeine. Most medical practitioners advise consumers to treat these drinks with care. While consuming the occasional energy drink can be fine, people should not consume any more than that on a regular basis. If people treat guaranine as they do caffeine, it can guide them toward making healthier choices and ignoring inflated claims about this product.

Like caffeine, guarana offers a temporary mental boost.
Like caffeine, guarana offers a temporary mental boost.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


Guarana has caffeine in it so be careful and always know how much you've taken in.


Caffeine pills make me nervous and jittery, and sometimes I feel nauseated. A guarana pill makes me feel alert and energized. I understand the fact that guarana is caffeine, but why is there a difference in how I feel? Does guarana release the caffeine slower?


Guarana is not the same as caffeine, since it feels totally different, and it acts much longer.

Where have you read that guarana is the same

as caffeine ? Also ephedrine is dangerous, and it is not as strong as caffeine and guarana. It may have been used for 3000

years or so, but i believe morphine has been used

for long too, that doesn´t mean it isn't dangerous!

Understand that drugs have been used for thousands

of years and that doesn´t make them safe !!


Guaranine is caffeine, there is no difference. You could also call it trimethyated xanthine, it's still the same.

Ma Hung has 3,000 years of safe use and only damn fools die from it. Using stimulants in moderation is one thing, staying awake driving a tractor trailer for 72 hours or using them before 10 hours of hard exercise (in the case of some rather foolish dead baseball players), is not responsible use. Please understand just because something is capable of killing you, doesn't mean it is dangerous. Coconuts kill people every year, doesn't mean they are dangerous.

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