Guarana is a plant native to the Amazon, cultivated, transformed and consumed by indigenous peoples long before the arrival of European conquerors. It was considered a sacred shrub, also included in numerous legends about the birth of those peoples.
Even today this product is widespread, especially in Brazil: it is used for the production of carbonated drinks with energizing power.
The use of fruits, for example in the form of dust, has spread throughout the world, given its wide use in the herbal and medicinal field. This has led to a considerable expansion of crops, but, at the same time, also to an increase in deforestation and an impoverishment of local populations.
Guarana is a climbing plant that is widespread in areas of the Amazon forest, especially in Brazil and in the South American countries. Used since ancient times by the Indians, the guaranà, whose scientific name is "Paullinia Cupana", is presented as a plant with bright red flowers rich in seeds: these seeds are the part of the plant to be used for the way of known beneficial and medicinal properties. Nicknamed "elixir of long life", guaranà is very stylized even today, because over the centuries its nutritional qualities have been confirmed by science and exploited by the supplements industry as well as by phytotherapy, which exploits the medicinal properties of plants, herbs and flowers to treat certain pathologies of mild or medium entity. Its seeds, which once taken from the plant are roasted and then ground, have properties similar to those of coffee beans: for this reason guaran is used as an exciting and stimulating to take both in pills and in special supplements and energy drinks. , alone or accompanied by substances of similar principle. Its properties make it valuable but also potentially dangerous: the fact that guaranа-based products are found in supermarkets or herbalist's shops must not lead one to believe that its active ingredient is completely first of side effects, or to be handled lightly: on the contrary, as we are going to see, there are categories at particular risk that they should not take guaranа, and in any case, before starting a cure it is always good to talk to your doctor.

The properties of guarana

Guaranа can be considered a natural stimulant. Although it contains much more caffeine than tea or coffee itself, guaranа does not have the typical contraindications of caffeine alone: ​​in guarana, in fact, caffeine interacts with other substances in a synergy that dilutes the effect in the arc full day. The caffeine contained in guarana is natural caffeine and is called "guaranine"; in addition, guaranа contains theobromine, theophylline, xanthines, vitamins and vegetable proteins. All this means that the seeds of this plant have an exciting effect on the central nervous system, which is stimulated in a natural way: for this reason, since ancient times guarana was used to treat asthenia, depression, hypotension and headache, but also as a dietary supplement to cope with intense physical and intellectual activity. Guaranà is also useful for combating aging processes - according to some studies, intensifying the production of HDL ("good" cholesterol) is effective in preventing the onset of arteriosclerosis - and has a beneficial effect on the intestine, therefore it is an excellent astringent tonic to be used in cases of intestinal swelling, infections, sluggish bowel (constipation) or diarrhea. But his properties did not end there. Those that are purely aesthetic, in fact, on the one hand relate to a marked improvement in circulation - with consequent downsizing of disorders such as swelling of the limbs and cellulite -, and above all a notable "anorectic" effect very useful in the fight against obesity. The anorectic action of guaranà is due to the presence of guaranine which stimulates the release of adrenaline and noradrenaline, hormones that besides stimulating good humor and the desire to do cause an immediate increase in metabolism: with it also increases pressure and frequency cardiac, while breathing becomes faster, resulting in greater oxygenation of the blood. It has also been noted that guaranà, by promoting good humor, decreases the appetite, especially the so-called "nervous hunger" responsible for many states of severe obesity.

Posology and recruitment methods

Guarana is mainly present in finely ground seeds (therefore in powder), in extract or in pills synthesized in pharmaceutical laboratories, which contend for the active principle. The effect of Guaranа is not so much the dosage as the regularity in the assumption: in fact it must be taken constantly for short or long periods, depending on the needs; sporadic intake, even massive, in fact involves very few appreciable benefits. In most cases the ideal dose is one teaspoon a day taken in the morning on an empty stomach. Guaranа powder should be dissolved in a glass of water at room temperature which should be drunk after mixing thoroughly, emphasizing that the powder has completely dissolved. It should be taken on an empty stomach, taking care to have breakfast only half an hour after taking it. Prolonged use is not recommended and may even be harmful.

The cases in which the use of guarana is not recommended

Guaranа should not be taken by those with heart problems, by those suffering from hypertension (because it increases blood pressure) or by hyperthyroidism (because it increases thyroid function) and by those suffering from diabetes. From a psychic point of view, use is strongly discouraged for people suffering from anxious neuroses, panic attacks, insomnia and psychosis.
The most common side effects (which generally arise as a result of excessive and excessive use) are headache, anxiety, nervousness, tachycardia, palpitations, hypertension and not infrequently nausea: for this reason it is very important to monitor one's clinical condition first to start a guarana treatment.

Guarana characteristics

Guarana (Paullinia cupana) is a plant belonging to the Sapindaceae family native to the Brazilian Amazon and, more particularly, to the areas between the Madeira and Tapajos rivers, occupied ancestral by the Sateré-Mawй population. However, it is currently cultivated in almost all the Amazon region and in the states of Mato Grosso and Bahia.
It is a sarmentose shrub. It can take a bushy habit (in well-lit areas) or a climber (in its natural habitat) where trees are attacked, like a liana, reaching the top and then the sunlight. It easily reaches 12 meters in height.
In cultivation it is grown as a bush, reaching 4 meters in diameter and about 2 meters in height.
The leaves, alternate and persistent, are composed of five light green leaves. The flowers, gathered in bunches, are small and white. On the same plant we find male and female inflorescences. They evolve into capsule-shaped fruits whose color ranges from red to orange. Once ripe, they partially open allowing the round, dark brown shiny seed to appear, wrapped in a thin whitish film. The seed germ is the most valuable and valued part of the whole plant. In fact it contains, in addition to other active ingredients (xanthine, tannins, theobrine, theophylline) a large amount of caffeine (almost five times more than coffee) which has the purpose of protecting the plant from pathogenic agents.

History and culture of guaranа

Guarana was used by native tribes since their origins, especially for energy and healing purposes. The shell was traditionally eliminated, then the seeds were repeatedly washed. These were later reduced to a very fine powder which was finally pressed into cylinders, suitable for preservation. The product thus obtained is known as guaranа bread or Brazilian cocoa: it could be used for infusions in hot sweetened water, taken as drinks.
Guaranа plays a very important role in the culture of the Tupi and Guaranм populations of Brazil. The appearance of open fruits (similar to eyes) is the basis of various myths. The best known tells how the plant was domesticated following the killing by a snake of a child much loved by the community. Their God, having regard to the indolent suffering of the population, took the child's right eye and buried it in the forest. From this was born the Guaranа, able to give strength and joy to those who ate it.
The Europeans knew the plant in 1600. In 1907 they began to produce carbonated drinks that became, around 1940, a Brazilian national drink. Today, throughout Latin America, they are still extremely popular, even preferred to cola-based ones. It has been estimated that in that area they are the main source of caffeine.

Cultivation cycle

Its traditional cultivation is widespread almost exclusively in the humid forests of the Brazilian Amazon, although small plots are currently present also in Argentina. It is a crop that takes place predominantly in association with that of cassava, given that they grow at different heights and are thus able to occupy the same land without competing. The maintenance and pruning of the specimens are still carried out exclusively manually.
Areas with rather high altitudes and poor substrates, with an acid pH and a high aluminum content are selected. The harvest, also manual, generally begins in November, when the seeds are gradually maturing, ending in January-February. The product is kept for a few days in jute bags or hemp, where it begins to ferment. This process has the effect of increasing the caffeine in the seeds.
Then there is the phase of washing thanks to which the seeds are then released also from the shell (used then as fertilizer of the same lands). Once dried, they will then be dried over a fire until the remaining humidity is less than 7%. This is a long and very delicate operation, which requires continuous surveillance to avoid excess heat and consequently to toast the guaranà. This would in fact cause the loss of many active ingredients.
At the end of the process the grains have become dark and soft and can be packaged and shipped for various uses.
One hectare of cultivation produces an average of 130 kg of grains. In recent years the demand for guarana, especially for herbal purposes, is much increased and this allows us to maintain relatively high prices and guarantee a good income for the local populations. Cultivation has a fairly negative environmental impact because it is a stimulus for deforestation.

How to grow guaranа

The home cultivation of Paullinia cupana is very difficult. In fact, it requires very high atmospheric humidity, temperatures always above 20 ° C, exposure to full sun and high altitudes. For this it is an experience that can be afforded almost only by lovers of tropical plants or expert botanists.
To get good results, the environment of a rainforest must first be reproduced in small, with a greenhouse with heating and electric humidifiers.

Seeding and propagation

Getting the seeds is not easy because in our continent it is a little cultivated plant. Furthermore, these maintain germination only for about 72 hours (after which it decays drastically) and may even require 100 days to release the first leaves.
Proceed using pots at least 10 cm in diameter, filling them with compost for sowing. Wet it in depth and create two or three holes about 1 cm deep, laying a seed in it. We compact well.
We keep the substratum always damp, but airing every day to avoid the onset of mold. At the same time it is very important to keep the substratum warm, with a minimum temperature of around 20 ° C.
Alternatively, to soften the integument, we can keep the seeds in warm water for 24 hours before proceeding.

Crop care

The seedlings will be transplanted into a larger pot when they have released the third leaflet, being careful not to damage the roots. We choose a substrate suitable for acidophilic plants, with a pH between 3.5 and 4.5.
We water often, but more often we spray the foliage with possibly demineralized water. The humidity must increase in proportion to the temperatures.
We equip our shrub with a guardian to cling to, choosing one composed of natural material (sticks in coconut fiber or peat). These, in fact, also help keep humidity high.
The exposure must always be extremely hot and sunny. In summer we can place the plants alongside a wall facing south.
We always keep the plant clean from old, weak or sick branches. Guaranan blooms on new branches and therefore it is good to eliminate those that they have previously produced, thus stimulating even a thicker growth.
Flowering and fruiting
Flowering and fruiting take place from the second year, in spring. To have a good harvest, however, it is necessary to wait several years, so that the panniculos become large.

Medicinal uses

Guarana has long been used for medicinal purposes. Even today, local tribes consider it an excellent remedy for pain. It is also valued for the cardiovascular system, for preventing and treating arteriosclerosis, but also for treating diarrhea, migraine, fever, hypertension and neurological problems. It is in addition to this a good stimulant and tonic.
As we have said, it is extremely rich in caffeine. Some studies have shown possible effects on the metabolism and therefore the possibility that it can help in weight loss. Unlike coffee, its action is felt for a longer period, perhaps due to its association with other alkaloids.
However, before taking this product in large quantities it is always good to ask your doctor why you may have important interactions with other medicines as well as aggravate certain diseases.

Family, genus, species Sapindaceae, Paullinia cupana
Type of plant Liana, climbing or bushy habit
Height-width at maturity Up to 12 meters / up to 4 meters (if grown as a bush)
Cultivation difficulties High
Maintenance High (in our climate)
Minimum temperature 20 ° C
humidity At least 70%, frequent sprays
irrigations Popular
Type of terrain Poor
soil pH Acid (pH from 3.5 to 4.5)
Composting Not necessary
Flowering Mid-spring
Collection From autumn to early spring

Nutritional values
Grassi 10,15%
Protein 15,26%
sugars 64,27%
mineral salts 1,31%
water 8,51%
Kcal per 100 grams 411