Mucuna has been long used as an aphrodisiac. And it is still used to increase and support libido in both men and women. But its another healing peculiarity now is very popular in use as it gives promising and effective results in treating parkinsonism and other diseases.
Scientific name of the Mucuna Pruriens is Dolichos pruriens. It an annual, climbing shrub with long vines that can reach over 15 m(generally from 3 to 18 m), a tropical bean that is known by different other names: Velvet Bean (Bengal bean, Mauritius bean, Itchy bean, Buffalo bean), Cowhage, Cowitch, Cow-Itch, Nescafe, Sea Bean, Kapikachu, Kratzbohnen, Konch, Fava-Coceira, and Yoruba. It also has such biological names as Mucuna aterrima, M. Cyanosperma,Carpopogon pruriens, Stizolobium pruriens,Negretia pruriensand many others.
The plan belongs to the Fabaceae Family. Mucuna has trifoliate leaves that are gray-silky beneath, dark purple (or white, lavender)flowers (6 to 30) that hang in long clusters.The plant also produces clusters of pods that are covered in loose reddish-orange hairs. These pods cause a severe itch if they come in contact with skin as the hairs lining the pods contain serotonin and are very dangerous.
contain seeds known as mucuna beans. Pots contain seeds known as mucuna beans (or velvet beans), they are shiny black or brown. The species name „pruriens” has a Latin origin and means ‘itching sensation’ due to the harmful experience of contacting with the seed pod hairs. In Africa these seeds are even used to murder people by sprinkling them on to the food of the unsuspeting victim. The innocent victim would die as the sharp hair slice intothe stomach and the intestinal lining and cause internal bleeding.
Mucuna is generally found in tropical Africa, India, and the West Indies. In West Arica there are lots of areas with adequate rainfall and solar radiation, but some soils are relatively infertile, fertilizer use is low, and the soil is easily degraded under intensified agriculture. Mucuna is very often used in order torestore soil fertility and reduce weed infestation.
In folk medicine seeds are used for treating different diseases and conditions.
Mucuna beans have been wining its popularity over the last few years in the natural products marketmainly because of the sport industry, though it has plenty of health benefits.
As Mucuna is proved to increase testosterone and stimulate growth hormone – it makes it rather desirable for men in sport as it increases muscle mass. Various products (as powders, tinctures, extracts and decoctions) help to gain weight loss, improve memory, increase libido an for visual enhancement.
Be careful with the dosage. It is better to proceed with caution when taking mucuna and to follow the label instructions. Mucuna Pruriens is a powerful plant with many biological actions.
Mucuna beans have long been used as a coffee substitute (roasted and ground) in Central America, Brazil and other countries. This is the reason Mucuna has one of its names – Nescafé.
The seeds of velvet bean are high in protein (20-29 %), lipids (6-7%), dietary fiber (8-10%), ash (3%),carbohydrates (50-60%) and minerals. Also they are extremely rich in alkaloids, saponins, and sterols. Mucuna seeds (as well as the seeds of all Mucuna species) contain high concentration of L-dopa (7-10%) – a direct precursor of the neurotransmitter dopamine. The hairs of the seed pots contain the phytochemical mucunain, the very constituent that irritates the skin when in contact. The serotonin is also has been found in the pod (as well as in the leaf and fruit).
Main actions of the plant are following:
- is L-Dopa alternative – anti-Parkinson’s,increases testosterone
- aphrodisiac – increases libido and is good for impotency and erectile dysfunction
- as a muscle builder and is used to stimulate growth of hormone – anabolic/androgenic
- reduces spasms and relieves pain – analgesic/ antispasmodic
- lowers blood sugar and blood pressure (hypotensive)
- increases urination (uterine stimulant),reduces fever (febrifuge) and is a good cough suppressant
- calms nerves (nervine), reduces nerve pain (neurasthenic)
- lowers cholesterol (hypocholesterolemic)
- it is a weight loss aid
- reduces inflammation – anti-inflammatory
Other important Mucuna properties:
- prevents or eliminates kidney stones (antilithic)
- kills parasites (antiparasitic) and expels worms (vermifuge)
- expels gas (carminative)
- it is a menstrual stimulant
- it is a central nervous system stimulant
Due to mucuna’s dopamine inducing properties is has been long used (and is still used) to enhance sexual desire in both men and women. High levels of L-dopa in Mucuna beans (and the dopamine that is converted from it) stimulate the release of growth hormone by the pituitary gland. L-dopa and dopamine are also effective inhibitors of prolactin – a hormone released by the pituitary gland. Increased levels of prolactin are considered to cause erection failure in males. According to the studies on men oral intake of the seeds promotes fertility and sperm production, and also improves erection, duration of coitus, and post-coital satisfaction after only four weeks of treatment.
For years it has been used in folk medicine for treating diarrhea, impotence, intestinal gas, worms, rheumatic disorders, tuberculosis, cough, sterility, muscular pain, menstrual disorders, diabetes, and even snakebites. These all issues has been proven by animal studies.
The main constituent is levadopa (L-dopa) that is a natural dopamine. Notwithstanding the fact, that in long term the treatment is not studied, still the ingredient (in large doses) has shown its effectiveness in treating Parkinsonism (Parkinson’s disease). It is still the issue for the future researches, what to do in long-term treatment process (as L-dopa seems to lose its effectiveness over the long term) and where L-dopa is toxic to dopamine neurons.
Parkinson’s disease is a common age-related neurodegenerative disorder that affect more and more peopleworldwide (more than 4 million). It is associated with progressive degeneration of dopaminergic neurons in specific areas in the brain. Dopamine does not cross the blood-brain barrier and therefore cannot be used directly as a treatment. However, L-dopa (levodopa) as a natural dopamine gainsaccess to the brain-where it is converted to dopamine (in rats studies). Dopamine is a very important brain chemical that is involved in mood, sexuality, and movement.
Mucuna beans are now considered to be an alternative to the pharmaceutical medication levodopa. In several human studies Mucuna beans were given instead of the pharmaceutical L-dopa medication. The result of the studies gives positive and promising result – symptoms of Parkinson’s disease were significantly reduced (such as tremors, rigidity, slurring, drooling, and balance). The studies also have proven its virtues in treating of the nervous system disorders.
Mucuna beans have appeared to reduce blood-sugar levels that make it very effective in treating diabetes. In rats studies it gave the result of 30 % reduction of blood sugar levels and more (up to 51%) at several months of treating.
Mucuna’s side effects are not fully known. Possible effect if using in high doses is increased body temperature. Do not take it during the pregnancy. The rule number one with such a herb as MucunaPruriens is to be under permanent supervising of your healthcare provider. This wonderful herb is just beginning to be evaluated in research studies, so all major conclusions are still in the future.