The journal Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine has an interesting open-access article about guarana, a stimulating Amazonian berry that was used by the local peoples but is now a global ingredient in energy drinks and ‘aphrodisiacs’.
It is often advertised as an ingredient in energy drinks to make them sound more ‘exotic’ or ‘natural’, but the kick is largely from caffeine, and it contains about four times as much as the coffee bean.
Indeed, the article notes that guarana seeds contain more caffeine than any other plant in the world.
Guaran√° (Paullinia cupana H.B.K., Sapindaceae) is a rainforest vine that was domesticated in the Amazon for its caffeine-rich fruits. Guaran√° has long been used as a tonic and to treat various disorders in Brazil and abroad and became a national soda in Brazil about a century ago. In the last two decades or so, guaran√° has emerged as a key ingredient in various ‘sports’ and energy drinks as well as concoctions that allegedly boost one’s libido.
For some time, guaran√°’s high caffeine content was thought to be a detriment because of health concerns about excessive intake of caffeine-rich drinks. But it is precisely this quality, and the fact that it has a mysterious name and comes from an exotic land, that has propelled guaran√° into a global beverage.
The article is fairly brief but is a great guide to this curious plant that is becoming increasingly used as a pick-me-up ingredient.