Paullinia cupana Kunth

Last updated: 1 Jun 2016

Scientific Name

Paullinia cupana Kunth


Paullinia sorbilis Mart. [1]

Vernacular Name

English Guarana gum, guarana seed, zoom cocoa, Brazilian cocoa [2]
Brazil Guarana, guarana-sipo, guarana-uva, urana [4]
Ecuador Chengrapi [3]
Denmark Guarana [4]
Netherland Guarana [4]
Peru Cupana, guarana, macota [3]
France Guarana, guarane [4]
German Guarana, guarana-liane [4]
hungary Brazil ajzolian, guarana [4]
Poalnd Guarana [4]
Spain Cupana, guarana [4]
Italy Guarana [4].

Geographical Distributions

P. cupana is indigenous to the Amazonian rainforests throughout Brazil and Venezuela. This climbing plant grows deep in the thick of the forests, thriving on humidity, warmth and nutritive soil from the Amazon River. [4]

Botanical Description

P. cupana is a climbing plant found in the Amazon basin and is a member of the Sapindaceae family. It can grow to 12 m in height and is a climbing or creeping shrub. The leaves are large and it produces small bright red fruits which contain a single black seed in the center, which becomes visible as the fruit ripens. [4]


No documentation

Chemical Constituent

P. cupana seeds contain approximately 2-4.5% caffeine. [5]

Plant Part Used

Seed and leaves [2]

Traditional Use

P. cupana is an astringent and a bitter stimulant. It is ingested to relieve fatigue and aid concentration. The seed are used to treat diaarhoea and weight loss. [2] P. cupana extracts are most commonly used in Western culture for the caffeine content, and are commonly included in dietary supplements and as a drink additive. In traditional use, its applications included that of tonic, stimulant and as a component of beverages.[4]

Preclinical Data


Caffeine-induced activity

The primary activity of P. cupana is due to its xanthine alkaloid content, including caffeine, theophylline and theobromine. Most traditional uses of P. cupana can be traced to its caffeine content. The activity of caffeine in the body includes central nervous system (CNS) stimulation, cardiac stimulation, diuresis, increase in blood pressure, erogenesis, neuroprotection, platelet aggregation inhibition, stimulation of skeletal muscle and hyperglycemic activity, all leading to uses in fatigue, athletic performance, weight loss and neurological conditions (such as Alzheimer’s disease). [6]

Immunoregulatory activity

A laboratory animal study found that an extract of P. cupana seed inhibited an IgE-induced passive cutaneous anaphylaxis reaction and also inhibited the degranulation of basophilic cells. [7] The authors concluded that P. cupana seed extract may be a candidate for effective therapeutic material for allergic diseases.

Antioxidant activity

Guarana showed an antioxidant effect because at low concentration (1.2mg/ml), it inhibited the process of lipid peroxidation.The antioxidant activity of guarana seed extract determined by the malonyldialdehyde(MDA) test, measuring the MDA concentration in 3T3-L1 cell after induced cellular damaged using ferric ammonium citrate [4]

Anticancer activity

Studies showed that guarana had a chemopreventive effect on mouse N-nitrosodiethylamine hepatoccarcinogenesis by reducing incidence and multiply of preneoplastic lession; and reduced diethylnitrosamine –induced DNA damage.[4]

Antimicrobial activity

The alcoholic guarana seed extracts displayed stonger antimicrobial activity against all tested microorganism namely three food borne fungi: aspergillus niger, trichoderma viride and pencilium cyctopium, and three health damaging bacteria: Escherichia coli , pseudomonas fluorescens and bacilitus cereus than did water extracts. In vitro assesment of the antibacterial potential of the p.cuapana seed extracts against streptococcus mutans showed that these could be used in the prevention of bacterial dental plaque [4]

In an in vitro study, an extract of P. cupana seed was found to have activity against Streptococcus mutans, the bacteria responsible for dental plaque. [8]

Gastrointestinal activity

A laboratory study in mice found that P. cupana extract reduced gastric secretory volume and total acidity without affecting gastrointestinal transit time. [9] The authors concluded that P. cupana has a gastroprotective property that needs further study.


No documentation

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, parallel group study in 129 healthy individuals (ages 18-24) found that a supplement beverage containing vitamins, minerals, and P. cupana seed extract reducing mental fatigue and resulted in improved task performance, measured by an increase in speed and accuracy as compared to placebo. [10]

Another double-blind, counterbalanced, placebo-controlled study in 26 individuals assessed the acute mood and cognitive effects throughout the day of four different doses (37.5 mg, 75 mg, 150 mg and 300 mg) of a standardized P. cupana extract. P. cupana improved secondary memory performance and increased alert and content mood ratings. Interestingly, the two lower doses produced more positive effects on cognition that the higher doses. [11]

One randomized double-blind crossover trial of 36 breast cancer positive patients undergoing adjuvant radiation therapy compared P. cupana to placebo for effects on physical performance and mood.  Based on the 75 mg daily dose, there was no apparent advantage with P. cupana over placebo for both fatigue and depressive symptoms. [12]

The clinical studies have reported dietary supplements that contain P. cupana in conjunction with other ingredients such as caffeine, bitter orange, green tea and garcinia, may improve weight loss in some individuals. [13][14][15][14][15]


P. cupana containing supplements, especially when used late in the evening, may alter sleep patterns in sensitive individuals. Discontinue if sleep disturbances, anxiety or nervousness or allergy occurs. Caution should be used in those individuals with bleeding disorders, as P. cupana has been reported to inhibit platelet aggregation in laboratory studies. [16]

Side effects

No documentation

Adverse reaction

Based on pharmacology, use with caution in individuals with pre-existing heart conditions, including hypertension and arrhythmias. [17]

Interaction & Depletion

No documentation


No documentation

Poisonous Management

No documentation

Line drawing

No documentation


  1. The Plant List. Ver1.1. Paullinia cupana. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [updated 2012 Apr 18; cited 2016 June 1]. Available from:
  2. Herbal Medicine Research Centre, Institute for Medical Research. Compendium of medicinal plants used in Malaysia. Volume 2. Kuala Lumpur: HMRC IMR, 2002; p. 202.
  3. Quattrocchi U. CRC world dictionary of medicinal and poisonous plants: Common names, scientific names, eponyms, synonyms, and etymology. Volume IV M-Q. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press, 2012; p. 447.
  4. Lim TK. Edible medicinal and non-medicinal plants. Volume 2, fruits. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer, 2012; p. 80-89
  5. Bempong DK, Houghton PJ, Steadman K. The Xanthine Content of Guarana and Its Preparations. Int J Pharmacog. 1993;31(3):175-181.
  6. Tunnicliffe JM, Erdman KA, Reimer RA, Lun V, Shearer J. Consumption of dietary caffeine and coffee in physically active populations: Physiological interactions. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2008;33(6):1301-1310.
  7. Jippo T, Kobayashi Y, Sato H, et al. Inhibitory effects of guarana seed extract on passive cutaneous anaphylaxis and mast cell degranulation. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2009;73(9):2110-2112.
  8. Yamaguti-Sasaki E, Ito LA, Canteli VC, et al. Antioxidant capacity and in vitro prevention of dental plaque formation by extracts and condensed tannins of Paullinia cupana. Molecules. 2007;12(8):1950-1963.
  9. Campos AR, Barros AI, Santos FA, Rao VS. Guarana (Paullinia cupana Mart.) offers protection against gastric lesions induced by ethanol and indomethacin in rats. Phytother Res. 2003;17(10):1199-1202.
  10. Kennedy DO, Haskell CF, Robertson B, et al. Improved cognitive performance and mental fatigue following a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement with added guaraná (Paullinia cupana). Appetite. 2008;50(2-3):506-513.
  11. Haskell CF, Kennedy DO, Wesnes KA, Milne AL, Scholey AB. A double-blind, placebo-controlled, multi-dose evaluation of the acute behavioral effects of guaraná in humans. J Psychopharmacol. 2007;21(1):65-70.
  12. Da Costa Miranda V, Trufelli DC, Santos J, et al. Effectiveness of guaraná (Paullinia cupana) for postradiation fatigue and depression: Results of a pilot double-blind randomized study. J Altern Complement Med. 2009;15(4):431-433.
  13. Opala T, Rzymski P, Pischel I, Wilczak M, Wozniak J. Efficacy of 12 weeks supplementation of a botanical extract-based weight loss formula on body weight, body composition and blood chemistry in healthy, overweight subjects--A randomised double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Eur J Med Res. 2006;11(8):343-350.
  14. Bérubé-Parent S, Pelletier C, Doré J, Tremblay A. Effects of encapsulated green tea and guarana extracts containing a mixture of epigallocatechin-3-gallate and caffeine on 24 h energy expenditure and fat oxidation in men. Br J Nutr. 2005;94(3):432-436.
  15. Sale C, Harris RC, Delves S, Corbett J. Metabolic and physiological effects of ingesting extracts of bitter orange, green tea and guarana at rest and during treadmill walking in overweight males. Int J Obes (Lond). 2006;30(5):764-773.
  16. Ravi Subbiah MT, Yunker R. Studies on the nature of anti-platelet aggregatory factors in the seeds of the amazonian herb guarana (Paullinia cupana). Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2008;78(2):96-101
  17. Baghkhani L, Jafari M. Cardiovascular adverse reactions associated with guarana: Is there a causal effect?. J Herb Pharmacother. 2002;2(1):57-61