When you think of energy-supporting staples, beverages like coffee and tea likely come to mind. After all, with 96 milligrams of caffeine per cup of coffee and 28.8 to 48 milligrams per serving of tea (depending on the variety), these drinks certainly do the trick. It turns out, though, coffee cherries, coffee beans, and tea leaves aren’t the only ancient nootropic plants with energy-lifting benefits. There is another nootropic botanical you’ll want on your radar, for things like mental energy, alertness, and cognitive performance.*

When Milene Brownlow, Ph.D., a health scientist with a focus on nutritional neuroscience, joined us on the mindbodygreen podcast, she explained why she used to take advantage of guarana for added energy and mental precision during exam periods.* Below, find the details on what makes this ancient berry so powerful.

Why guarana is a Ph.D.’s secret to success.

“I’m originally from Brazil, so I love the guarana ingredient,” Brownlow shares. “I don’t see it often in products [in the United States], and it’s something that’s very common in Brazil. Before exam week we would take it, and it’s great. I love it.”

Native to Brazil, guarana is a berry that’s been utilized as a natural energy source by Indigenous communities in the Amazon for thousands of years. Its seeds, in particular, are the star players in terms of its cognitive benefits, and as a result, guarana extract is often included in tea, other beverages, and even some supplements in a powder or capsule form.*

As Brownlow explains further over email: “We don’t actually eat the berry. Supplements in the form of powder, shots, and even sodas are common and easy to find in Brazil.” Just look for the botanical genus and species Paullinia cupana on the label, along with the plant part (i.e., seed extract).

We recommend you find a thoughtfully formulated capsule with guarana (like mbg’s focus+, which Brownlow is a personal fan of!) since there will be no sugar and other additives, but Brownlow does also dabble in some guarana soda every once in a while for a taste of home. “Guarana soda is the only [soda] I’ll drink once in a blue moon because it’s nostalgic,” she says.

Guarana is a multitalented nootropic. Along with being a natural source of caffeine, this unique Brazilian superfruit enhances cognitive function, including processes like memory, learning, and attention.* Guarana is also a major source of cell-protecting phytonutrient antioxidants like theobromine, tannins, saponin, and catechins. The combination of these compounds supports mental clarity, in addition to contributing to increased energy.*

Not to mention, a 2019 scientific review in the journal Global Psychiatry found that guarana improved reaction time and accuracy of task performance in young, healthy adults.* With all the nootropic accolades on this plant’s CV, it’s no wonder Brownlow passed so many exams (after all, that Ph.D. degree took a minute!).

You might even want to combine guarana with Panax ginseng, if you canin a 2004 Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior clinical study, guarana was shown to work synergistically with ginseng to promote cognitive performance.*

In addition to plant-origin caffeine from Coffea robusta and arabica, mbg’s focus+ delivers sustainably sourced Brazilian guarana seed extract and Panax ginseng (plus L-theanine and B12) to holistically energize your cells, mind, and bodyso you can tap in to all the cognitive benefits (whether you’re still taking exams or not).*

If you’re looking for sustained energy for the mind and body (plus a bunch of other cognitive benefits!), consider introducing guarana to your brain health routine. It’s an ancient berry beloved in Brazil—so much so that a cognitive health scientist with a Ph.D. in neuroscience sometimes took it before exams. For more information on the brainpower of nootropics, be sure to check out the full video below!

If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking medications, consult with your doctor before starting a supplement routine. It is always optimal to consult with a health care provider when considering what supplements are right for you.