Guaraná powder comes from grinding the guaraná seed, a berry of the Amazon rainforest that provides natural stimulation from a high content of caffeine. Many labels market the caffeine in guaraná as guaranine, though it is identical in chemical structure to caffeine. The powder is used in myriad products for both the chemical stimulation and the distinct flavor.
Guaraná is a prominent ingredient and flavor in Brazilian and Venezuelan culinary culture, found in sodas, drinks, chocolates and as flavorings in sweets. Guaraná has recently been "discovered" in the United States, though like many "exotic" imported foreign flavors, it has been severely misunderstood. Because of the high level of guaranine, an alternative name for caffeine, it has been considered a "miracle" drug for energy and weight loss and its inclusion has been advertised in a number of supplement and energy drink products. Aside from being a natural caffeine stimulant, guaraná in all forms is a cherished and distinct flavor and is very dear to Brazilian culture.
Guaraná is the berry of a climbing plant that grows only in the Amazon Basin. The Brazilian Guarani tribe are believed to have been the first people to harvest the berry, and its name is derived from them. The Guarani used guaraná for both culinary and medicinal purposes. It was believed that the berry had magical properties to restore energy. The Guarani would crush the seed until a fine powder was produced, and it would then be mixed into a beverage or included with food as a tonic.
Today Guaraná is available in a variety of forms, including powder. The powder can be used as a culinary aide for flavoring, or it can be mixed with other substances to create a tonic or formed into a pill. As a stimulant, guaraná is effective in reducing fatigue, sharpening perceptions, reducing appetite and relieving muscle tension and effects from a hangover. It is sometimes known as Brazilian cocoa. These "medicinal benefits" result primarily from the caffeine content.
Guaraná powder is a key ingredient in popular nouveau energy drinks such as Rock Star, Cult and Sobe. It is also widely found in energy pills and supplements (though guaraná is not a nutritional supplement). The powder is available for purchase at many herbal supplement stores and most often "suggests" mixing with boiling water to create a tonic of a particular dosage. The powder is also used as a flavoring for chewing gum, chocolate, ice cream and mixed alcoholic beverages.
While the stimulant effects of caffeine may aide in the suppression of appetite, it is not considered a weight loss drug in itself. Caffeine is a stimulant that speeds metabolism; therefore guaraná powder can be used as part of a weight loss program or regime. Guaraná is not approved by the FDA as a medicinal drug.
Guaraná is not a nutritional supplement, as many of its believed health benefits stem from the energy derived from the caffeine content, and not from nutrients. There are some attestations to its effect at relieving headache and indigestion, though there are no scientific studies to support these claims. Aside from caffeine, the seed contains nearly 50 percent vegetable fiber, 8.3 percent starch, 7.6 percent water, nearly 6 percent guaraná acid, 7.5 percent pectin, malic acid, mucilage, dextrin and salts, colorant and acids.
A powder tonic may be consumed one to three times daily, made from 2g of powder mixed into juice, water or even coffee, or it can be consumed in the same dosage in powdered tablets or pills. Guaraná has a high content of caffeine, which produces the same effects as the consumption of coffee and black tea on the nervous system. The content of caffeine in guaraná averages at 5 percent, which is nearly twice the amount of caffeine in coffee. As such, it is a stimulant and should not be abused.
- Photo Credit Wesley H. Brewton Jr., Wikimedia Commons
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