Secrets of Guarana Seed Extract: Antioxidants and Caffeine
Guarana seed extract is loaded with ten times more antioxidant catechins than green tea. Though antioxidant catechins are found in several foods, they are found in higher concentration inside the seeds of guarana fruit. Over the years, several studies have documented the health benefits of guarana. Clinical studies have demonstrated that guarana seeds are rich in catechins that reduce oxidative stress, reducing the risk of cancer, diabetes, premature aging, and inflammation among the other harmful health conditions. Regular consumption of guarana can also aid weight loss and reduce obesity. However, guarana is very high in caffeine, and this can have dangerous side effects for those who experience chronic stress.
The History of Guarana
The guarana plant is native to the Amazon region in South America and is also found in Brazil. The guarana vine originated in the Amazon basin. Local people of this region have long been taking advantage of the stimulating properties of guarana. The climbing tropical shrub bears flowers and guarana fruit. Guarana, when opened, contains white-fleshed fruit with a bean-size black seed in the center.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recognize guarana as a safe supplement. Guarana seeds contain twice the caffeine content of coffee. Hence they have been used as a stimulant.
During the 17th century, Jesuit missionaries noted the powerful energy-enhancing effect of guarana seeds. They wrote that members of an Amazon tribe that consumed guarana seeds appeared to have more energy and could go on hunting for two days without feeling hungry. These historical tribesmen processed guarana seeds by drying, roasting, and grinding them. The ground guarana was then formed into an edible paste by mixing with water.
In Brazil, soft drinks and teas with guarana seeds have been popular since 1909. Recently, guarana energy drinks have gained popularity in the U.S market as well. The seeds are very high in caffeine and are also used as supplements.
Besides being a powerhouse of catechins, guarana contains theophylline and theobromine in tiny amounts. Guarana is also known to contain tannin molecules that cause the caffeine to release more slowly, and it does not easily dissolve in water. This is believed to be behind the long-term effect of this fruit.
The Surprising Antioxidative Effect Of Guarana
Recently, researchers found that guarana seed extract has ten times more antioxidant catechins than green tea. The U.K. study found that guarana has positive effects on oxidative stress, plasma catechins, and erythrocyte enzyme activity in red blood cells. Guarana extract reduced DNA cell damage and oxidative cell damage in the lymphatic system. The study further showed that guarana provides a long-term antioxidant effect.
The Royal Society of Chemistry, United Kingdom, conducted the month-long study in two stages. The study involved 12 slightly overweight but healthy adults with moderate risk for cardiovascular illness. During the first stage of the study, the participants’ parameters were measured on the first day, they were given a controlled diet, and then the same parameters were evaluated after 15 days. This created a control baseline.
During the second stage of the study, volunteers were asked to take 3g of guarana powder mixed with 300 ml water for 15 days, every morning before breakfast. Each day, researchers measured the effect of guarana before and after ingesting it. Participants also fasted overnight, allowing the prolonged effect of guarana to be measured.
Researchers assessed how guarana affected oxidative stress markers such as the oxidation of DNA and (LDL) low-density lipoprotein, as well as the absorption of catechins and metabolites.
LDL carries cholesterol to the cells for manufacturing testosterone and estrogen. However, the oxidation of LDL leads to atherosclerosis, increasing the risk of developing a cardiovascular illness. Consuming guarana increased the oxidation resistance level of LDL. Researchers also performed single-cell gel electrophoresis (SCGE) to analyze DNA damage during oxidative stress. The blood samples of participants taken an hour after drinking guarana showed less lymphocyte DNA damage. These markers depended on catechins in the bloodstream. Guarana intake increased the level of plasma catechins, indicating guarana was responsible for the effect.
Moreover, the research also showed that guarana catechins help to strengthen antioxidant enzymes in cells, especially catalase, peroxidase, and superoxide dismutase. These enzymes play a vital role in protecting cells from oxidative damage.
At the end of the study, researchers concluded that guarana catechins:
- enhance plasma antioxidant activity
- minimize plasma lipid oxidation
- protect erythrocyte DNA
- increase antioxidant enzyme activity
Guarana consumption also had a long-term antioxidizing effect, even after the plasma catechins left the blood.
Guarana Seed Extract and Stress
These effects of guarana seed extract can be beneficial for many health conditions. However, guarana also contains high levels of caffeine, which can have a negative effect in some cases.
If you are considering using guarana as a supplement, it is very important to consider both sides of the issue and how it can affect you individually. An essential aspect to take into consideration is any other conditions you may have, especially common and frequently overlooked conditions like adrenal fatigue.
Stress is the origin of a variety of illnesses, and many people struggle with exhaustion in everyday life. If you often experience high stress, along with symptoms of low energy, brain fog, feeling drowsy, difficulty waking up, insomnia, reduced concentration, irritability, body aches, stubborn weight gain, or craving salty food, then you may have Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS). This common condition occurs when the body can no longer keep up with the demands of stress.
Since stress leads to many health issues, it is important to deal with it. The self-regulatory system the body uses to protect against excess stress is known as the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response. The NEM involves many body systems working together to cope with stress.
Taking guarana seed extract along with other natural supplements can be a way to help cope with AFS. However, while guarana can be helpful for those with mild AFS, its high caffeine content can be dangerous for those in later stages of AFS, so it’s best to check with your health professional before taking this supplement.
How Guarana Can Help AFS
Prolonged energy. Caffeine stimulates and energizes the nervous system. Guarana seed extract contains twice as much caffeine as coffee. This can help many people with mild, early AFS who experience intermittent fatigue throughout the day. Unlike coffee, guarana releases caffeine slowly into the body, producing prolonged energy. Guarana directly stimulates the central nervous system, so taking small doses of it can help provide relief from fatigue. However, proper supervision is critical, as indiscriminate use of this compound can lead to many side effects and negative consequences. This is also only appropriate for those in early stages of AFS.
Increased weight loss. AFS can lead to gaining stubborn fat around the middle. Guarana aids effective weight loss by suppressing hunger. Guarana seed extract also stimulates the process of lipolysis, in which fat is released into the bloodstream to produce energy which is needed during exercise. However, this compound is only a good idea for weight loss if you have mild AFS and are properly supervised by a doctor.
Less oxidative damage. Oxidative stress can be caused by increased stress, exposure to toxins, or poor diet. Apart from this, free radicals are also formed when certain molecules travel freely in your body. When the level of free radicals exceeds the level of antioxidants, it leads to oxidative damage. This damage paves a path for various health problems including inflammation, dementia, cancer, and arthritis. Guarana seeds are rich in the important antioxidants epicatechin and catechin to help fight free radicals and reduce oxidative damage.
Promotes anti-aging. To handle stress, the adrenal glands of your body secrete the anti-stress hormone, cortisol. With AFS, the adrenal glands are overburdened and slow down hormone secretions. This reduces your body’s ability to fight against stress. At this point, the body’s nutritional reserves start to drop. To keep up with the need for energy, your body starts to break down its own compounds, which accelerates the aging process. Antioxidants help to repair and restore cell damage, thus reducing the onset of early aging. Guarana is extremely rich in antioxidants. Having a healthy lifestyle, eating a nutrient-rich diet, and taking a mind-body approach also contribute to preventing premature aging. However, guarana is only appropriate for early-stage AFS.
For a more thorough explanation of the dangers of too much caffeine for those with advanced AFS, see below.
Top Health Benefits of Guarana Seed Extract
For many, though, guarana can provide immense health benefits.
Guarana helps to cleanse and detoxify the system. It also encourages smooth bowel movements and prevents constipation. People suffering from other digestive problems can also benefit from guarana. It improves mental focus, and since guarana releases slowly into the body, it keeps your mind alert for longer. Guarana also has anti-microbial effects that help to protect the body against infection. Guarana seed extract also helps speed recovery of muscle pain from exercise, enhances endurance, and improves physical performance.
The most cited health benefits of guarana include:
- preventing the early onset of aging
- cutting down the risk of cardiovascular disease
- reducing chances of developing Alzheimer’s
- promoting effective weight loss by suppressing appetite
- boosting energy and maintaining energy all day
- improving endurance
- enhancing concentration
- relieving stress and anxiety
- promoting mental health
- supports good digestive health
- lifting mood
- alleviating muscle spasms
- having an aphrodisiac effect
However, if you are considering taking guarana seed extract, it is important to consult your doctor for before you start using the guarana supplement. Guarana is a powerful supplement that can have ill effects if consumed in too high a dose, and it is not right for everyone.
Who Should Not Take Guarana
If you have any of the following conditions, you should not take guarana:
- Pregnant. Higher doses of guarana in pregnant women have been linked to increased cases of miscarriage.
- Anxiety. Guarana can aggravate anxiety disorders.
- Heart problems. High dosage of guarana can lead to irregular heartbeat, increasing the risk of heart problems.
- Diabetes. Guarana may cause problems with blood sugar levels.
- Digestive problems. Guarana contains caffeine which can aggravate irritable bowel syndrome or cause diarrhea in some people.
- Glaucoma. Guarana consumption has been shown to increase pressure in the eyes, worsening glaucoma symptoms.
- Advanced AFS. Guarana can cause adrenal crashes for some due to caffeine overdose.
Guarana Can Cause Caffeine Overdose
In addition to its antioxidant effects, guarana is very high in caffeine. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, muscles, and heart. Guarana also contains theobromine and theophylline, which function similarly to caffeine. For some, this can cause adverse health effects if you take guarana or guarana seed extract.
Too much stimulation and caffeine can make you feel wired and tired, anxious, jittery, or sleepless, and it can cause fast heartbeat and worsen adrenal fatigue. Many people with AFS already suffer from insomnia, anxiety, stress, and tiredness. Guarana or a guarana overdose can worsen these adrenal fatigue symptoms by over stimulating the nervous system. Adrenal crashes may result. Because of this, health experts suggest those suffering from adrenal fatigue go for a caffeine-free diet.
The short-term and long-term side effects of caffeine overdose include:
- quickened heartbeat
- high blood pressure
- heart problems
- kidney problems
- liver disease
Above all, caffeine overdoses can cause seizures.
In contrast to guarana seed extract, natural guarana comes with fiber which slows down the absorption process. Since the caffeine from whole guarana is slowly released into the body, the negative effects of caffeine are considerably less. This is why guarana seed extract can be dangerous for some.
When Caffeine Worsens Adrenal Fatigue
If you have adrenal fatigue or high stress levels, it is highly important to allow your adrenal glands to restore and heal naturally. The crucial factors that promote adrenal restoration are eating a nutritious diet, getting adequate sleep, and managing stress.
Caffeine overdoses wreck your nutrition, disturb your sleep, and worsen your anxiety, leaving you more stressed and ultimately exhausted.
The addictive and stimulating qualities of caffeine also have negative effects on the nervous system. Initially, you may feel more energetic, but an energy crash soon occurs.
Here is how caffeine works in your body.
First, caffeine stimulates the brain. The brain sends messages to the pituitary glands, which then send signals to the adrenal glands to secrete anti-stress hormones – cortisol and adrenaline. Caffeine produces the same stress response that your body naturally produces when it confronts danger or stress. However, this constant stimulation of your nervous system can weaken your adrenals over time.
Caffeine disrupts the natural sleep hormone levels in your body, causing insomnia. Its diuretic properties increase the frequency of urination, leaving you dehydrated. It also depletes your body’s nutrition stores, including vitamin C, vitamin B, magnesium, zinc, calcium, and potassium.
Guarana seeds contain ten times more antioxidants than green tea and twice as much caffeine as coffee beans. Guarana is a rich source of antioxidants that, within the recommended dose, help fight against oxidative stress, reducing the chances of developing several health problems. It can also aid effective weight loss. Guarana is also great for people who are looking for an alternative to coffee. When taken in combination with other health supplements, it can help provide relief from adrenal fatigue.
Guarana contains high levels of caffeine that energizes the nervous system, but that can also be too much for the systems of some people. It is always advisable to have guarana within the recommended dosage to avoid adverse effects. Caffeine overdose repeatedly stimulates the nervous system. Constant stimulation increases stress, causes insomnia, and weakens the adrenals thus worsening adrenal fatigue. Though the dose of caffeine differs from person to person, the recommended upper limit is 250 – 300 mg per day. Any dose above this can do more harm than good.
Used in the right amount, in the right circumstances, though, and guarana can be a valuable addition to your supplements.
© Copyright 2017 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
Dr. Lam’s Key Question
What care should be taken while taking guarana seed extract? How does guarana work on adrenal fatigue?
Antioxidants play a vital role in repairing cells damaged by adrenal fatigue. Guarana seed extract contains reservoirs of these antioxidants. A blend of antioxidant-rich food, adrenal fatigue supplements, a healthy lifestyle, and adequate sleep helps to restore the adrenal glands. However, due to the high caffeine levels of guarana and its extract, it is advisable to take them under doctor’s consultation. This way you can safely reap the advantages of this potent ingredient. Caffeine overdose can lead to overstimulation that can actually weaken your adrenals. In certain cases, adrenal fatigue patients are recommended to switch to a caffeine-free diet. Side effects of caffeine overdose include insomnia, high blood pressure, increased stress, nutrition depletion, and seizure, so it’s important to avoid getting too much.