GUARANA (so called from the Guaranis, an aboriginal American tribe), the plant Paullinia Cupana (or P. sorbilis) of the natural order Sapindaceae, indigenous to the north and west of Brazil. It has a smooth erect stem; large pinnate alternate leaves, composed of 5 oblong-oval leaflets; narrow panicles of short-stalked flowers; and ovoid or pyriform fruit about as large as a grape, and containing usually one seed only, which is shaped like a minute horse-chestnut. What is commonly known as guarana, guarana bread or Brazilian cocoa, is prepared from the seeds as follows. In October and November, at which time they become ripe, the seeds are removed from their capsules and sun-dried, so as to admit of the ready removal by hand of the white aril; they are next ground in a stone mortar or deep dish of hard sandstone; the powder, moistened by the addition of a small quantity of water, or by exposure to the dews, is then made into a paste with a certain proportion of whole or broken seeds, and worked up sometimes into balls, but usually into rolls not unlike German sausages, 5 to 8 in. in length, and 12 to 16 oz. in weight. After drying by artificial or solar heat, the guarana is packed between broad leaves in sacks or baskets. Thus prepared, it is of extreme hardness, and has a brown hue, a bitter astringent taste, and an odour faintly resembling that of roasted coffee. An inferior kind, softer and of a lighter colour, is manufactured by admixture of cocoa or cassava. Rasped or grated into sugar and water, guarana forms a beverage largely consumed in S. America. Its manufacture, originally confined to the Mauhés Indians, has spread into various parts of Brazil.
The properties of guarana as a nervous stimulant and restorative are due to the presence of what was originally described as a new principle and termed guaranine, but is now known to be identical with caffeine or theine. Besides this substance, which is stated to exist in it in the form of tannate, guarana yields on analysis the glucoside saponin, with tannin, starch, gum, three volatile oils, and an acrid green fixed oil (Fournier, Journ. de Pharm. vol. xxxix., 1861, p. 291).