Guaraná ~ Paullinia cupana

The Eyes of The Amazon

Gauraná, Paullinia cupana, is a natural stimulant native to the Amazonian rainforest. It was domesticated for the first time by the Sateré-Mawés, an indigenous population of Brazil, living in the vast area between the Madeira and Tapajós rivers. Guaraná is a great stimulant and contains a high quantity of caffeine, together with alkaloids, terpenes, tannins, and flavonoids.

Name: Guaraná
Other names
Binomial name: Pauillinia cupana

Benefits of Guaraná

Mainly, Guaranà is known for its stimulant properties, but many are the effects of this plant on the human body:

  • Stimulant
  • increase energy
  • suppress of hunger
  • dilates blood vessels
    prevent the formation of blood clots
  • increase urination
  • aphrodisiac
  • enhance memory

The stimulant effect is mainly due to the high content of caffeine. Guaraná seeds can contain up to 4-8% of caffeine, while in comparison the percentage for the coffee beans is around 1-2.5%.

The increase in energy and the relief from the sense of hunger were already documented in 1699 by the Jesuit missionary Father João Felipe Betendorf. In fact, the indigenous Sateré-Mawé used to consume Guaraná mixed with water and the drink give them some much energy that “when hunting, they could go from one day to the next without feeling hungry”

Traditional use of Guaraná

Guaraná was traditionally used by the indigenous tribe as a stimulant, tonic for the heart, prevention from “sticky blood”, for headaches and migraines, and remedy against fatigue and hunger.

Traditional preparation

Suggested Use: This plant is best prepared as a decoction. Use one teaspoon of powder for each cup of water. Bring to a boil and gently boil in a covered pot for 20 minutes. Allow to cool and settle for 10 minutes and strain warm liquid into a cup. Leave the settled powder in the bottom of the pan. It is traditionally taken in 1 cup dosages, 1-3 times daily, or as desired. For more complete instructions on preparing herbal decoctions, see the Methods for Preparing Herbal Remedies Page.(external link)

The Legend of Guaraná

The legend of guarana is part of the traditional mythology of Saté-Maué and other Amazonian populations. There are different versions of the legend, but most of them agree that Guarana was born from the eye of a young boy. Here by two popular versions.

Version 1

“Old tongues relate that there once lived in a tribe on the banks of the Maues River. A virtuous couple whose only child was a true angel who healed the sick, appeased the enemy, and helped his neighbors find happiness.
One day, Yarupary, the spirit of evil, felt envious and taking advantage of the fact that this young boy was alone turned into a cobra and killed him. His parents shed many tears for the loss of their son and invoked Tupá, the God of the Indians, to return to them the life of their only son. Tupá answered their plea, and in the shape of a ray of light, asked them to plant the boy’s eyes. A sacred plant would grow from them that would give food and cure sickness and pain. They watered the earth and a strong plant was born which they called “guaraná”, consecrated by Tupá. It would be this plant that would prolong the life of the tribe and would give it strength and health.

C F BOSTERS, Damián. “Nutrición Plena. Savia Guaraná Mágica. Fruto de una Hermosa Leyenda

Version 2

The first sateré Maué

In the mythology of the Sateré Maué, guarana is an essential, if not primordial, element of their society, since it is directly associated with the actual origin of the Sateré Maué.
They told the Brazilian ethnologist Nunes Pereira in 1939 that the genesis of guarana involved rivalry between an Indian woman named Onhiamuaçabê and her two brothers. The brothers did not want their sister to marry because she knew all the plants. She could also identify the best plants to cure various diseases. The sister was also the owner of an enchanted place called Noçoquem, where she had planted a Brazil nut tree.

One day, a small snake became infatuated with the Indian woman and released a perfume along the trail used by Onhiamuaçabê, who loved the aroma. The snake then continued along the trail, releasing the perfume, and further on gently touched Onhiamuaçabê’s leg when she passed by. She froze, and the snake took advantage of her, making her pregnant. The brothers were furious (and they banish the sister from the garden n.d.r).

Onhiamuaçabê gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, and when he grew up, she took him to the enchanted place to eat Brazil nuts. An agouti noticed that someone had made a fire at the foot of the Brazil nut tree to roast the nuts and told the brothers what he had seen. The brothers placed spies in the enchanted place and when the boy came to eat Brazil nuts the next day, they cut off his head. His mother heard his anguished cries, but when she reached the enchanted place, he was dead.

She became desperate, pulling out her hair, weeping and screaming beside the dead body of her son, but afterward said: “It’s alright, my son. It was your uncles who gave orders for you to be killed. They thought that you would be a poor little thing, but you will not.” Then, she plucked out the boy’s left eye and planted it. But the plant that grew was of no use. It was a false guarana. So she plucked out the right eye and planted it, giving rise to the true guarana. She then spoke out loud, as though the child were still alive: “You, my son, shall be the greatest force in Nature; you shall do good to all men; you shall be great; you shall free men of some illnesses and cure them of others.”

After speaking these words, Onhiamuaçabê put together all the parts of her son’s body and buried them, after washing them with the chewed leaves of a magic plant. For the next few days, Onhiamuaçabê opened the tomb repeatedly to release various animals important to the region into the world, until her resuscitated darling boy emerged to become the first Sateré Maué.

SOURCE: Domestication and Breeding of the
Guarana Tree
by André Luiz Atroch, Firmino José do Nascimento Filho et al.

Original: Pereira N. Os I ́ndios Maue ́s. Organização Simões, Rio de Janeiro,1954.

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– Atroch, A.L., Nascimento-Filho, F.J. (2012) Domestication and Breeding of the Guarana Tree – , Federal University of Viçosa

– Bettendorff, João Felipe. Crônica da missão dos padres da Companhia de Jesus no Estado do Maranhão. Vol. 5. Fundação Cultural do Pará Tancredo Neves, 1990.

-Patrick, Madison M & Kim, Hyunjin & Oketch-Rabah, Hellen & Marles, Robin & Roe, Amy & Calderon, Angela. (2019). Safety of Guarana Seed as a Dietary Ingredient: A Review. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2019.

– Smith N, Atroch A.L. (2010) – Guaraná’s Journey from Regional Tonic to Aphrodisiac and Global Energy Drink. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med.

Website (external link):

Sateré Mawé Hystory from Povos Indígenas no Brasil