Guarana is used as an ingredient in certain herbal weight-loss preparations.

Guarana extract is derived from the seeds of the guarana tree, or Paullinia cupana, native to South America. It has been used for centuries by the Guarani people, who grind the shelled seeds into a paste that is consumed with hot water, for use in their traditional medicines and rituals. Nowadays, it is found in syrup, extract and distillate forms.

What are its health benefits?

Because of its high caffeine content (up to 5.8%), it has been used as an energiser (by sports people), a mental stimulant and a component of weight-loss products.

Guarana supplementation may have the following benefits:

  • As with other products containing caffeine, guarana increases alertness and improves mental performance
  • Used to assist with weight loss and for energy, although its safety for these purposes have not been established

It can be found as an additive in certain drinks and foods too.

Recommended dietary allowance (RDA)

There is no standard recommended dose for guarana, although people who use it for energy/as a stimulant generally take between 200 to 800mg per day. The paste is usually dissolved in water or juice. The caffeine content is between 3.6 to 5.8%, which is about double that contained in coffee.

Warnings

Guarana should not be taken by:

  • Children
  • In pregnancy or when breastfeeding
  • If you have a sensitivity or allergy to coffee. 

High doses are associated with increased heart rate, high blood pressure and breast disease. Speak to your doctor before taking guarana, especially if you have high blood pressure, heart disease, glaucoma, kidney or liver disease, osteoarthritis or anxiety disorders.

Guarana should be avoided if you are taking other stimulants, including other products containing caffeine.

Guarana may also interact with medications for depression, sedatives and blood thinners.

It may also potentially interact with lithium, theophylline, and clozapine due to its high caffeine content.

Possible side effects

Side effects could include:

  • Insomnia
  • Restlessness and nervousness
  • Diarrhoea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Hives and breathing difficulty if allergic to caffeine
  • Anxiety, irregular heartbeat and ringing in the ears if large amounts of caffeine are consumed
  • Seizures and convulsion are possible signs of overdose

Ensure you discuss dietary supplementation with your Clicks pharmacist to avoid the potential for side effects and adverse interactions with medications.

This medicine has not been evaluated by the Medicines Control Council. This medicine is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

The accuracy of this information was checked and approved by Clicks' pharmacist Waheed Abdurahman in September 2015