Guarana soda is a drink that originated in South America, particularly Brazil and Venezuela. The soda is made from the seeds of the guarana plant, Paullinia cupana. Guarana is a stimulant similar to caffeine and natives of the Amazon have used it as a drink for hundreds of years. Visitors to the area in the 1600s reported natives drinking guarana drinks. Today, guarana soda makes up at least one-quarter of Brazil's soft drink market, and has fans in the United States.
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Guarana grows wild in South American rain forests. Its fruit is a red berry which yields a seed. People use the crushed seeds to make guarana tea, soda and other foods and beverages. Botanist C. F. Paullini discovered the plant in the 18th century, leading to the scientific name, Paullinia cupana. In addition to flavoring soda, guarana is in juices, candies, teas and supplements.
Guarana soda has a sweet taste that some have described as being similar to bubble gum. Others have described the taste as fruity. All guarana sodas are sweetened, with sugar, corn syrup or another sweetener. The beverages are carbonated and sold in cans or bottles.
Brazilian lore attributes many effects to guarana, and it's been touted as everything from an aphrodisiac to a weight-loss aid. Guarana is a stimulant, very similar to caffeine, so it can help you stay alert and might be useful for increasing endurance or relieving a mild headache, just as a cup of strong coffee might produce these effects. No evidence exists that guarana can produce dramatic weight loss or improve your sex life.
Guarana is often mixed with caffeine, taurine and other substances in beverages sold as energy drinks. Since guarana is a stimulant, mixing it with other stimulants magnifies the effect and can lead to anxiety, insomnia, a racing heart and irritability. The effect depends on how much guarana you consume and your overall general health. If you experience any problems after consuming the soda, consult your doctor.