Guarana is a climbing plant native to the Amazon region, related to the maple tree. It is best known for its berries, which have been traditionally used as a stimulant – and which indeed contains twice the concentration of caffeine found in coffee.
The psychoactive effects of guarana are similar to those of coffee, with studies showing that it can promote alertness, focus and concentration, and lead to improved reaction times. Tannins in guarana slow down the effects of the caffeine, however, leading to a longer lasting energy boost than one might get from coffee.
Indigenous peoples used guarana as an appetite suppressant as well as a stimulant. It appears to induce the nervous system to begin lipolysis, which is the process of breaking down fats to release energy.
Guarana is also considered to be good for bowel health, helping to relieve constipation and to prevent wind, gas and indigestion.
It is sometimes used as an athletic or sports supplement, as guarana is thought to help increase athletic performance while simultaneously decreasing muscle fatigue.
Guarana is popular today in energy drinks or shots, but it can also be taken in capsule or tablet form.