Mucuna Pruriens is also known as Velvet Bean. It grows on the trees native to tropical Asia and Africa and it’s effects on the human body place it into the Nootropic and Aphrodisiac categories. It is a very popular Indian medicinal plant as part of the Ayurveda – ancient traditional medicine.
Velvet Bean contains a significant amount of L-DOPA and other psychoactive substances that are found in concentrations that are too low to be relevant.
Mucuna pruriens, or Velvet Bean has many names: Cowitch, Werepe, Karara and Agbara. This is simply because it grows in many tropical and subtropical regions of the world. Cowitch and cowhage are two types of Mucuna pruriens. They are different than classic velvet bean because they have abundant, long stinging hairs on the surface.
Velvet Bean was not always considered nor used as a medicine. Since it contains proteins in high concentration (23-35%) it is also considered as viable source of nutrients. People around the globe still use it as a source of protein and it is a standard part of their diet. Besides, the pods also contain a variety of minerals which also play crucial role in our overall wellbeing.
Velvet Bean can be found in the wild, but since it is used as a food source it is cultivated in the Pacific Islands, Africa, America and Asia. The pods are used for human consumption, while the leaves serve as animal feed, which points to the fact that this herb is safe to consume.
But how did Mucuna Pruriens become a widely used commercial product? Thanks to the high concentration of L-DOPA (4-7%), a substance which has some powerful beneficial effects, this herb became a viable commercial source of it.
As a medicinal plant, at first it was used in the treatment of parkinsonism. The first use cases date back to 1500 BC, when it was widely used in traditional medicine. The beans have been used as a very powerful aphrodisiac, and there are also reports that this herb was even used in the treatment of arthritis and nervous disorders. Ancient medicine men also used to make bean powder in order to treat scorpion stings.
In addition there is a lot of evidence that tells us that all parts of Mucuna Pruriens have valuable medicinal properties. Many of these were examined in various contexts. Today, we know that Mucuna Pruriens has anti-diabetic, anti-neoplastic, anti-microbial, anti-epileptic and aphrodisiac effects. It has also displayed incredible power in treatment of various poisonings and neurodegenerative diseases, as well as having anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects.
Mucuna Pruriens Ingredients
The main ingredient that has launched Mucuna pruriens into commercial use is L-DOPA – a precursor to dopamine. L-DOPA is phenolic constituent of Velvet Bean seeds extract (3.1 – 6.1%).
L-DOPA, also known as Levodopa, increases the levels of the dopamine in our bodies and is quite often used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter which plays a crucial role in the communication of our nerve cells. It is associated with our brain’s reward and pleasure centers, and regulation of movement and emotional response.
Velvet Bean seed extract also contains lipids (essential oleic and linoleic acids). These lipids are very important, as they play a vital role in lowering blood pressure and the function of smooth muscles in our body.
As we already said, the seeds of this plant contain a high concentration of proteins (up to 27%). This is why the products that contain the Velvet Bean powder have a high nutritive value.
There are other phenolic compounds, beside L-DOPA, found in Velvet Bean seeds extract. These substances have a variety of beneficial effects – anti-oxidant, anti-carcinogenic, antiviral, anti-carcinogenic, and many other. The small amounts of methylated and non-methylated tetrahydroisoquinolines are also recorded in traces (0.25%).
Additionally, 4 more alkaloids where isolated from Velvet Bean seed extract: mucunine, mucunadine, prurienine, and prurieninine.
The seeds extract also contains cyanogenic glycosides. These toxins are known to cause chronic and acute toxicity as well. It is important to note that the concentration of these chemicals in the seed extract is way below the lethal level. However, these are not the only chemicals that decrease the overall nutritional quality of Mucuna Pruriens.
It also contains trypsin inhibitors. These inhibitors reduce bioavailability of calcium, magnesium, zinc and other minerals. These chemicals are also known to adversely affect the functional properties of proteins.
Cyanogenic glycosides and trypsin inhibitors are substances that reduce the overall nutritional quality of Mucuna Pruriens.
Mucuna Pruriens Benefits and Effects
Mucuna Pruriens is without a doubt a very powerful plant with a range of scientifically proven benefits. Here are the major benefits of this powerful seed.
In order to examine the antidepressant effects of Mucuna Pruriens scientists used the Tail Suspension, Chronic Unpredictable Mild Stress and Forced Swim Tests on mice in a controlled study. After introducing the extract of the Mucuna Pruriens, many benefits were recorded on the subjects of the study. The results indicate that the Mucuna Pruriens seed extract has antidepressant properties and that these results follow since it interacts with the dopaminergic system.
This is currently the only scientific study that points to a conclusion that Mucuna Pruriens can be efficiently used in the treatment of depression.
Mucuna Pruriens seed extract was also the subject of studies that examined its effects on stress. In one study Mucuna Pruriens was introduced as treatment to 60 males who were under psychological stress and infertile. The assessment was done by giving the standardized questionnaires and measurement of cortisol levels in the blood. Another, 60 healthy and fertile male subjects were used as a control group.
During the treatment the scientists concluded that Mucuna Pruriens had alleviated the symptoms of psychological stress. The final conclusion was that Mucuna Pruriens seed extract undoubtedly helps in stress management. These results, though, should be taken with caution, as they have only been confirmed on infertile men so far.
There are many studies that prove Mucuna Pruriens reduces the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease
There are many studies that prove Mucuna Pruriens reduces the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. This powerful effect of Mucuna Pruriens is linked to the L-DOPA content of its seeds. In fact, the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, London, UK, study has revealed that a natural source of L-DOPA has many advantages over conventional L-DOPA preparations. Especially when it comes to long-term treatment of Parkinson’s disease.
There was also a study on alternative medicine treatments for Parkinson’s disease. Over a period of 12 weeks, 26 patients were treated with L-DOPA derived from Mucuna Pruriens, while the 34 were treated with synthetic levodopa. The first group had better scores on the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS), so L-DOPA was identified as an effective treatment for patients with Parkinson’s disease.
Another study compared absorption levels of L-DOPA derived from Mucuna Pruriens to the synthetic levodopa. The results clearly show that plant-derived L-DOPA not only gets absorbed faster, but it also reaches peak levels in the patient’s blood serum faster. On top of that, researchers have found that Mucuna has a more favorable pharmacokinetic profile.
Scientists also examined the effect of L-DOPA on motor control. During the study it was discovered that Mucuna Pruriens treatment improves motor control of the patients.
As you can see, when it comes to the management of Parkinson’s disease, naturally synthesized L-DOPA has many advantages over other sources of Levodopa.
In order to understand the effects of Mucuna Pruriens on male infertility and mechanism behind these effects, the scientists of the Department of Biochemistry, Medical University, Lucknow, India. have designed a prospective study. The subjects were divided into two groups. The control group consisted of 75 healthy fertile men while the other 75 man were undergoing infertility screening.
After the study group was introduced with the Mucuna Pruriens seed extract, the scientists recorded improved semen quality in infertile men. This was the result of Mucuna Pruriens extract decreasing the levels of follicle-stimulating hormone, as well as prolactin.
Prolactin is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland in the brain and men with prolactinoma (benign tumor of the pituitary gland) experience: headaches, erectile dysfunction, reduced sex drive and infertility, and sometimes visual impairment. A study revealed that Mucuna Pruriens can be used in increased prolactin levels treatment, because as a dopamine agonist it reduces prolactin levels.
Another study also revealed that Mucuna Pruriens also increases sperm count, sperm quality and sperm motility. In this study 60 infertile men were treated with a daily dose of 5 grams of Mucuna Pruriens powder. The conclusion of this study is that Mucuna Pruriens can be used as a treatment for male infertility.
There is also a study that revealed the link between Mucuna Pruriens and increased testosterone levels. In fact, infertile men treated with this herb’s seed extract had significantly increased levels of testosterone in their blood. This results should be taken with reserve, since it remains unknown if Mucuna Pruriens has the same effects on healthy fertile men.
Mucuna Pruriens is an effective pretreatment for snakebites. Nigerians have been using it for this purposes for quite a while, and a mice study confirms this.
During the study, the scientists came to a conclusion that Mucuna Pruriens extract has a protective effect against cobra venom, because this extract affects the heart and also neutralizes the poison on the immunological level. Simply put, this extract has cardioprotective properties.
These findings suggest that Mucuna Pruriens can be also used to protect the cardiovascular system.
Findings suggest that Mucuna Pruriens can be also used to protect the cardiovascular system
Mucuna Pruriens Side Effects
The Mucuna Pruriens powder and capsules are safe to consume. No severe adverse effects were recorded in the studies where it was used, not even when it was taken for up to 20 weeks. In very rare and isolated cases, the side effects include insomnia, vomiting, and abnormal body movements.
It is important to note that the hair of the cowhage is unsafe. If you touch it or put it in your mouth, it will lead to sever burning, swelling and itching.
When it comes to surgical procedures, the same expert advice applies as with many other supplements – stop taking Mucuna Pruriens at least 2 weeks before any surgical procedures. There is some evidence that Mucuna pruriens lowers blood sugar, which can be potentially dangerous during the surgery and post-surgery period.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should consider staying on the safe side and avoid Mucuna Pruriens supplementation.
Mucuna Pruriens Dosage
According to the studies linked above, the appropriate dosage for Parkinson’s disease treatment involved both 15 gram and 30 gram daily doses. However, a daily dose that is recommended by experts is 5 grams. It is also recommended to take Mucuna Pruriens powder with a glass of water.
The studies on infertile men have shown that the most optimal daily dose of Mucuna Pruriens is 5 grams. This treatment has increased sperm motility as well as sperm count and overall quality of sperm.
If you are considering eating Mucuna Pruriens as a food, you should know that it must be cooked. Cooking destroys the toxins that we’ve talked about, but also destroys L-DOPA. This is why supplementation is the better option if you want to make sure you know exactly how much L-DOPA you take in on a daily basis.
Where to Buy Mucuna Pruriens
Since there are many Mucuna Pruriens supplementation products on the market, you should pay close attention if you want to buy a product of the highest quality. Here are the two Mucuna Pruriens supplements that come from reliable vendors.
The Now Dopa Mucuna bottle comes with 90 capsules. The coating is not made of gelatin, which makes this supplement a vegetarian product. The recommended dose is 2 capsules per serving (45 servings) and the product contains 15% naturally occurring L-DOPA.
The company behind this product is Now Foods – they have been on the market since 1968 and their facilities are FDA registered and compliant to cGMP manufacturing rules and regulations.
We also recommend the Mucuna powder. It contains 250 grams of Mucuna Pruriens powder and has 20% naturally occurring L-DOPA. The manufacturer recommends a daily dose of 1000 mg divided into two 500 mg doses (one in the morning and once in the afternoon with meals). This product comes from BulkSupplements and their facilities are FDA registered and compliant to cGMP manufacturing rules and regulations.
As you can see Mucuna Pruriens is a very powerful herb. It’s seeds are very nutritive and beneficial for our health. The scientifically proven benefits are: improved mood, increased testosterone levels, controlled levels of prolactin, alleviated symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and cardiovascular protection. It is also a supplement that doesn’t cause any severe side effects.
The main chemical compound of this supplement is L-DOPA. Scientific studies have shown that naturally occurring L-DOPA is a more efficient option than the synthetic one, which makes Mucuna Pruriens supplements a viable replacement for levodopa medication.