Mucuna Pruriens is a natural nootropic with many mental and physical benefits.
It does everything from boost dopamine to male sex hormones.
The following article goes deep into the benefits of mucuna pruriens, who its good for, and how to best use it.
History of Mucuna Pruriens As A Traditional Medicine
Mucuna pruriens is native to Southern China and eastern India. Before its discovery as traditional medicine, farmers planted it as forage, silage, hay, green manure, and cover crop.
More popularly known as velvet bean, mucuna, Bengal bean, or cowhage, traditional medicine started between 1500-1000 BC.
Ayurvedic tradition believes Mucuna has aphrodisiac and neuroprotective benefits and can cure nervous disorders. These conditions include parkinsonism, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease. It can also help reduce inflammation and pain in the subjects.1Lucia Raffaella Lampariello, Alessio Cortelazzo, Roberto Guerranti, Claudia Sticozzi, and Giuseppe Valacchi, The Magic Velvet Bean of Mucuna pruriens J Tradit Complement Med. 2012
What is L-dopa?
Mucuna’s main phenolic compound is levodopa (L-dopa). Levodopa is an amino acid that serves as a precursor in dopamine conversion. It triggers the dopaminergic receptors in the brain.2Lucia Raffaella Lampariello,1 Alessio Cortelazzo,2 Roberto Guerranti,2 Claudia Sticozzi,3 and Giuseppe Valacchi, The Magic Velvet Bean of Mucuna pruriens J Tradit Complement Med. 2012
Treating Parkinson’s Disease with L-dopa from Mucuna is preferable as it does not have adverse side effects compared to synthetic L-dopa.
Adverse effects of synthetic levodopa are mostly cardiovascular, including hypotension, cardiac arrhythmia, dizziness, and faintness. It also includes anorexia, abdominal and bowel disorders, psychiatric symptoms, and abnormal leg movements.3National Library of Medicine, Levodopa National Library of Medicine. 2020
Evidence showed that whole Mucuna extracts are better than pure L-dopa since other Mucuna components also provide neuroprotective effects.4Lucia Raffaella Lampariello,1 Alessio Cortelazzo, Roberto Guerranti, Claudia Sticozzi, and Giuseppe Valacchi, The Magic Velvet Bean of Mucuna pruriens J Tradit Complement Med. 2012
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Mucuna Pruriens Benefits
Evidence showed that dopamine levels predict your mood. High levels of dopamine lead to mania, while deficient dopamine contributes to depression.5D J Diehl, S Gershon, The role of dopamine in mood disorders Compr Psychiatry. 1992
L-dopa also affects serotonin neurotransmission. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that affects your mood and feelings of well-being. There is strong evidence that serotonin neurons suffer from oxidative stress caused by high dopamine levels.
One of Mucuna Pruriens’ central claims to fame is its ability to raise male testosterone levels.
Testosterone levels have profound effects on a man’s physiology AND psychology. Sexual arousal and the ability to maintain an erection are some of the most pressing issues for a man approaching 40.
Mucuna seed powder improves sexual desire and copulatory behavior, supporting claims of Mucuna’s aphrodisiac effect in Ayurvedic medicine.6K.V. Anantha Kumar, K.K. Srinivasan, T. Shanbhag, S. Gurumadhava Rao, Aphrodisiac activity of the seeds of mucuna pruriens Journal: Indian Drugs. 1994
It also helps improve the hypothalamus-pituitary-gonadal axis response. This helps increase testosterone and other hormones necessary to enhance male fertility following Mucuna supplementation.7Kamla Kant Shukla , Abbas Ali Mahdi, Mohammad Kaleem Ahmad, Satya Narain Shankhwar, Singh Rajender, Shyam Pyari Jaiswar, Mucuna pruriens improves male fertility by its action on the hypothalamus-pituitary-gonadal axis Fertil Steril. 2009
Muscle mass increase and an overall decrease in fat cells are among the key benefits of having healthy testosterone levels.8R C Griggs , W Kingston, R F Jozefowicz, B E Herr, G Forbes, D Halliday, Effect of testosterone on muscle mass and muscle protein synthesis J Appl Physiol (1985). 1989
Bodybuilders and athletes significantly benefit from this action of Mucuna.
Mucuna treatment has shown profound effects on male fertility.
Several studies demonstrate its ability to improve sperm count, motility, and semen volume in men with low fertility markers.9Kamla Kant Shukla 1, Abbas Ali Mahdi, Mohammad Kaleem Ahmad, Satya Narain Shankhwar, Singh Rajender, Shyam Pyari Jaiswar, Mucuna pruriens improves male fertility by its action on the hypothalamus-pituitary-gonadal axisFertil Steril. 200910Kamla Kant Shukla, Abbas Ali Mahdi, Mohammad Kaleem Ahmad, Shyam Pyari Jaiswar, Satya Narain Shankwar, and Sarvada Chandra Tiwar, Mucuna pruriens Reduces Stress and Improves the Quality of Semen in Infertile Men Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2010
A similar study also suggests Mucuna seed powder’s effectiveness in restoring spermatogenesis and improving overall semen and sperm quality to increase fertility in men with low sperm count and unhealthy semen profile.11Mohammad KALEEM Ahmad, Abbas Ali Mahdi, Kamla Kant Shukla, Najmul Islam, Shyam pyari Jaiswar, Sohail Ahmad, Effect of Mucuna pruriens on semen profile and biochemical parameters in seminal plasma of infertile menFertility and sterility. 2007
Mucuna Pruriens has demonstrated many neuroprotective benefits in clinical studies.
The incidence of dyskinesia (involuntary muscle movements) in patients with Parkinson’s disease showed improvement after Mucuna seed powder administration. This result presents the advantages of L-dopa from Mucuna over synthetic L-dopa preparations.12R Katzenschlager, A Evans, A Manson, P Patsalos, N Ratnaraj, H Watt, L Timmermann, R Van der Giessen, and A Lees, Mucuna pruriens in Parkinson’s disease: a double blind clinical and pharmacological study J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2004
Another study documents the effectiveness of L-dopa preparation from Mucuna cotyledon powder. Compared to synthetic L-dopa preparation, Mucuna cotyledon powder restored levodopa, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin.13Bala V Manyam , Muralikrishnan Dhanasekaran, Theodore A Hare, Neuroprotective effects of the antiparkinson drug Mucuna pruriens Phytother Res. 2004
These findings demonstrate a promising future for using Mucuna cotyledon to treat low L-dopa and other related hormones.
Much evidence points to Mucuna’s ability to manage Parkinson’s disease symptoms, showing its potential as an alternative treatment regime for more expensive L-dopa drugs.14Roberto Cilia, MD,corresponding author Janeth Laguna, MD, Erica Cassani, MD, Emanuele Cereda, MD, PhD, Nicolò G. Pozzi, MD, Ioannis U. Isaias, MD, PhD, Manuela Contin, PharmD, Michela Barichella, MD, and Gianni Pezzoli, MD, Mucuna pruriens in Parkinson disease Neurology. 2017
Inflammation causes many diseases, including most neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Literature frequently links these diseases with neuroinflammation and degeneration of neurons.15Etienne C Hirsch , Stéphane Hunot, Neuroinflammation in Parkinson’s disease: a target for neuroprotection? Lancet Neurol. 2009
Mucuna’s anti-inflammatory action effectively lowers oxidative stress, which results in lower latency and occurrence of dyskinesia.16Francisca Idalina Neta, Ianara Mendonça Costa, Francisca Overlânia Vieira Lima, Luciana Cristina Borges Fernandes, José Rodolfo Lopes de Paiva Cavalcanti, Marco Aurélio De Moura Freire, Eudes Euler De Souza Lucena, Amália Cínthia Meneses Rêgo, Irami Araújo-Filho, Eduardo Pereira De Azevedo, Fausto Guzen, Effects of Mucuna pruriens (L.) supplementation on experimental models of Parkinson’s disease: A systematic review Pharmacognosy Reviews. 2018
Aside from the l-dopa in Mucuna, the hydroalcoholic extract shows potential as an antidepressant.17Digvijay G. Rana and Varsha J. Galani, Dopamine mediated antidepressant effect of Mucuna pruriens seeds in various experimental models of depression Ayu. 201418Dipanwita Pati, Dilip Kumar,Radhakrishnan Mahesh, Vadiraj Kurdekar Anti-Depressant-Like Activity of Mucuna Pruriens; A Traditional Indian Herb in Rodent Models of Depression Pharmacologyonline. 2010
Results of imaging studies present strong evidence that links healthy levels of dopamine transporters, such as l-dopa abundant in Mucuna, and depression and further supporting the evidence of l-dopa for depression.
The high antioxidant content in Mucuna seed powder helps relieve stress by increasing the dopamine levels in the brain. Studies proved that low levels of dopamine increased inflammation, stress levels, and incidence of neurodegenerative diseases.19Kamla Kant Shukla,1 Abbas Ali Mahdi, Mohammad Kaleem Ahmad, Shyam Pyari Jaiswar, Satya Narain Shankwar, and Sarvada Chandra Tiwari, Mucuna pruriens Reduces Stress and Improves the Quality of Semen in Infertile Men Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 201020Yun-Zi Liu, Yun-Xia Wang, and Chun-Lei Jiang, Inflammation: The Common Pathway of Stress-Related Diseases Front Hum Neurosci. 2017
The length and control of stress exposure play an important role in changes in dopamine levels. Prolonged exposure to uncontrollable and inescapable stress lowers dopamine release resulting in depleted dopamine levels in the brain.
The length and control of stress exposure play an important role in changes in dopamine levels. Prolonged exposure to uncontrollable and inescapable stress lowers dopamine release resulting in depleted dopamine levels in the brain.21Anil Kumar, Puneet Rinwa, Gurleen Kaur, and Lalit Machawal, Stress: Neurobiology, consequences and management J Pharm Bioallied Sci. 2013
Moreover, chronic and unmanaged stress results in maladaptive neuroendocrine responses.
This leads to severe illnesses that include psychiatric disorders, neurodegenerative, endocrine, metabolic, and autoimmune disease.
Hyperglycemia is the number red flag for diabetes. A blood sugar level greater than 140mg/dl (7.8mmol) can be fatal or lead to other complications.
Ideally, you want this number under 100.
Mucuna seed extract has the potential to control hyperglycemia.22Anusha Bhaskar , V G Vidhya, M Ramya, Hypoglycemic effect of Mucuna pruriens seed extract on normal and streptozotocin-diabetic rats Fitoterapia. 2008
The seed extract contains inositol derivatives, which are proven agents to control insulin resistance.23Basilio Pintaudi, Giacoma Di Vieste, and Matteo Bonomo , The Effectiveness of Myo-Inositol and D-Chiro Inositol Treatment in Type 2 Diabetes Int J Endocrinol. 2016
There are also oligosaccharides known for glycemic control.24Lucia Raffaella Lampariello, Alessio Cortelazzo, Roberto Guerranti, Claudia Sticozzi, and Giuseppe Valacch, The Magic Velvet Bean of Mucuna pruriensJ Tradit Complement Med. 201225Donato Donati , Lucia Raffaella Lampariello, Roberto Pagani, Roberto Guerranti, Giuliano Cinci, Enrico Marinello, Antidiabetic oligocyclitols in seeds of Mucuna pruriens Phytother Res. 2005
Unexplained weight loss is another red flag to look out for in undiagnosed diabetes. However, oral administration of Mucuna seed extract helped to curb excessive weight loss associated with diabetes.26Stephen O Majekodunmi , Ademola A Oyagbemi, Solomon Umukoro, Oluwatoyin A Odeku, Evaluation of the anti-diabetic properties of Mucuna pruriens seed extract Asian Pac J Trop Med. 2011
Ayurvedic medicine has long claimed that Mucuna contains antimicrobial properties. Mucuna extract demonstrates efficacy against gram-positive, gram-negative, and fungi in clinical trials.27Sathiyanarayanan L, and Arulmozhi S, Mucuna pruriens Linn.-A Comprehensive Review Pharmacognosy Reviews,200728Salau, AO; Odeleye, OM, Antimicrobial activity of Mucuna pruriens on selected bacteria African Journal of Biotechnology
Specifically, methanol extracts of Mucuna have strong antibacterial effects on Vibrio harveyi, Vibrio cholera, Escherichia coli, and Staphylococcus aureus in-vitro trials.29Govindan Shanmugavel, In vitro evaluation of the antibacterial activity of alcoholic extract from Mucuna pruriens seed ResearchGate . 2015
We know that an overload of free radicals results in oxidative stress that progresses to inflammation and, eventually, to chronic and life-threatening illnesses.
The documented presence of phenols, polyphenols, and tannins increases Mucuna’s antioxidant activity.30Lucia Raffaella Lampariello,1 Alessio Cortelazzo, Roberto Guerranti, Claudia Sticozzi, and Giuseppe Valacch, The Magic Velvet Bean of Mucuna pruriens J Tradit Complement Med. 201231Sundaram Uma , Parameswaran Gurumoorthi, Dietary antioxidant activities in different germplasms of Mucuna J Med Food. 2013
The high phenolic content of Mucuna seed extract makes it comparable to vitamin C and other commercially-available preparations in terms of antioxidant action.32Joy Ganem Longhi, Elisa Perez, Jair José de Lima, Lys Mary Bileski Cândido, In vitro evaluation of Mucuna pruriens (L.) DC. antioxidant activity Brazilian Journal of Pharmaceutical Science. 2011
How Mucuna Pruriens Works In The Brain
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter responsible for maintaining the reward and movement regulation of the brain.33Hugo Juárez Olguín, David Calderón Guzmán, Ernestina Hernández García, and Gerardo Barragán Mejía, The Role of Dopamine and Its Dysfunction as a Consequence of Oxidative Stress Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2016
It is essential to modulate behavior, promote learning, improve memory, and enhance sleep. It also keeps the mood stable, lengthens attention, and inhibits prolactin production.34Paolo Calabresi , Barbara Picconi, Alessandro Tozzi, Massimiliano Di Filippo, Dopamine-mediated regulation of corticostriatal synaptic plasticity Trends Neurosci. 2007
Mucuna works to improve the conversion of L-dopa to dopamine. It also helps to enhance neurogenesis and the growth and survival of resulting neurons.
The HPA axis stands for the three main parts (hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenal) that positively interact to produce the right amount of hormones and natural processes. These are important in stress response, mood, motivation, metabolic functions, energy levels, and the immune system.
It may further progress to neuropsychiatric diseases, including schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, depression, and other metabolic disorders.36Xin Du and Terence Y. Pang, Is Dysregulation of the HPA-Axis a Core Pathophysiology Mediating Co-Morbid Depression in Neurodegenerative Diseases? Front Psychiatry. 2015
Much evidence demonstrates Mucuna treatment improving HPA axis response, leading to resolved hormonal issues. These hormones – dopamine, adrenaline, and noradrenaline – help improve neuropsychiatric diseases, infertility issues, and metabolic disorders.37Kamla Kant Shukla , Abbas Ali Mahdi, Mohammad Kaleem Ahmad, Satya Narain Shankhwar, Singh Rajender, Shyam Pyari Jaiswar, Mucuna pruriens improves male fertility by its action on the hypothalamus-pituitary-gonadal axis Fertil Steril. 2009
Mucuna revitalizes your body’s antioxidant defense system by enhancing Superoxide Dismutase SOD levels.38Kamla Kant Shukla 1, Abbas Ali Mahdi, Mohammad Kaleem Ahmad, Shyam Pyari Jaiswar, Satya Narain Shankwar, Sarvada Chandra Tiwari, Mucuna pruriens Reduces Stress and Improves the Quality of Semen in Infertile Men Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2010
It works by blocking neutrophils that cause inflammation and ultimately reverses reactive oxygen species (ROS) formation.
Benefits include reversing memory deficits and selective motor neurons’ loss in familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and regulating glucose levels.
Seminal Plasma Glutathione
Glutathione in the seminal plasma helps prevent oxidative damage to maintain sperm health. Low glutathione levels also affect follicle-stimulating hormones (FSH), which helps promote sperm production.40F R Ochsendorf , R Buhl, A Bästlein, H Beschmann, Glutathione in spermatozoa and seminal plasma of infertile men Hum Reprod. 1998
Reduced glutathione levels also affect glutathione enzymes’ activity, as shown in the low glutathione peroxidase in the seminal plasma in infertile men (10 times lower than in healthy men).41Preethi Concessao, Laxminarayana Kurady Bairy, Archana Parampalli Raghavendra1, Effect of aqueous seed extract of Mucuna pruriens on arsenic-induced testicular toxicity in mice Asian Pacific Journal of Reproduction. 2020
Mucuna showed the potential to reverse the ill effects of arsenic-induced impairment in mice. After treatment with Mucuna extracts, sperm count and glutathione levels increased. Mucuna treatment also changed the number of abnormal sperms and high lipid peroxidation.42A Giannattasio 1, M De Rosa, R Smeraglia, S Zarrilli, A Cimmino, B Di Rosario, R Ruggiero, A Colao, G Lombardi, Glutathione peroxidase (GPX) activity in seminal plasma of healthy and infertile males J Endocrinol Invest. 2002
Tyrosine hydroxylase is an active enzyme that is essential in converting tyrosine to dopamine.
Studies show that tyrosine improves cognitive functioning; however, many people do not adequately convert tyrosine to dopamine.43Mirjam Bloemendaal, Monja Isabel Froböse, Joost Wegman, Bram Bastiaan Zandbelt, Ondine van de Rest, Roshan Cools, and Esther Aarts, Name of study eNeuro. 2018
Much of this is due to dysfunction in Tyrosine hydroxylase.
Fortunately, research has demonstrated tyrosine hydroxylase present in the roots, stem, leaves, pods, and immature seeds of Mucuna pruriens.44Bryant J Jongkees , Bernhard Hommel , Simone Kühn , Lorenza S Colzato, Effect of tyrosine supplementation on clinical and healthy populations under stress or cognitive demands–A review J Psychiatr Res. 2015
Because of limited information, there is no official recommended dosage for the use of Mucuna, but some studies showed the effectiveness of Mucuna extract using the following doses:
In diabetic rats, Mucuna seed powder given at a rate of 100-200mg/kg of body weight reduced plasma glucose levels.45Anusha Bhaskar , V G Vidhya, M Ramya, Hypoglycemic effect of Mucuna pruriens seed extract on normal and streptozotocin-diabetic ratsFitoterapia. 2008
Studies also showed that 600-1200mg/kg of hydroalcoholic extract improved depressive symptoms in mice.46Thamma A S, Rangari A A, Namburi S, Tundulwar M R, Tenpe C RANTIDEPRESSANT EFFECT OF MUCUNA PRURIENS ETHANOL EXTRACT IN THE FORCED SWIMMING TEST AND CHRONIC MILD STRESS MODELS OF DEPRESSION Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research, Wardha. 2020
Mucuna administration to Parkinson’s disease patients with 17.5mg/kg resulted in reduced parkinsonism and improved motor skills.47Shelby L. Johnson, Hyun Y. Park, Nicholas A. DaSilva, Dhiraj A. Vattem, Hang Ma, and Navindra P. Seeram, Levodopa-Reduced Mucuna pruriens Seed Extract Shows Neuroprotective Effects against Parkinson’s Disease in Murine Microglia and Human Neuroblastoma Cells, Caenorhabditis elegans, and Drosophila melanogaster Nutrients. 2018
Up to 5g has also been shown effective in human trials for Parkinson’s and fertility.
Like most supplements, it’s best to start low and slow and titrate up as needed.
Side Effects and Contraindications
When used as a treatment for Parkinson’s disease, Mucuna’s most common side effect is dyskinesia. Involuntary muscle movements following levodopa (l-dopa) treatment characterize dyskinesia.48Sanjay Pandey and Prachaya Srivanitchapoom, Levodopa-induced Dyskinesia: Clinical Features, Pathophysiology, and Medical Management Ann Indian Acad Neurol. 2017
However, research showed that the abnormal involuntary movements of the muscles associated with l-dopa from Mucuna are lower than those taking synthetic l-dopa.49Sanjay Kasture , Silvia Pontis, Annalisa Pinna, Nicoletta Schintu, Liliana Spina, Rosanna Longoni, Nicola Simola, Mauro Ballero, Micaela Morelli, Assessment of symptomatic and neuroprotective efficacy of Mucuna pruriens seed extract in rodent model of Parkinson’s disease Neurotox Res. 200950Christine Tara Peterson, PhD, Dysfunction of the Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis in Neurodegenerative Disease: The Promise of Therapeutic Modulation With Prebiotics, Medicinal Herbs, Probiotics, and Synbiotics J Evid Based Integr Med. 2020
Take extra precaution when taking Mucuna for diabetes since it can cause hypoglycemia or too low blood sugar levels.51Anusha Bhaskar , V G Vidhya, M Ramya, Hypoglycemic effect of Mucuna pruriens seed extract on normal and streptozotocin-diabetic rats Fitoterapia. 2008
This condition is life-threatening, so monitor blood glucose levels regularly.
Levodopa contents in Mucuna may also result in hallucinations and psychosis.
Aggravating factors such as dehydration and infection
Stay away from Mucuna if pregnant or breastfeeding.
There is little evidence to support Mucuna’s safety in these cases, so it is best to stay safe.
Mucuna preparations should not be used in adjunct with L-dopa pharmaceutical preparations since it increases the risk of side effects resulting from decarboxylase inhibitors.52Author(s), Neuroprotective effects of the antiparkinson drug Mucuna pruriens Phytother Res. 2004
Another alarming tidbit of information to consider is levodopa degradation in Mucuna and its effects on the body.
Some researchers hypothesize that the extraction method and mode of administration may affect the degradation of l-dopa into quinones and semiquinones.53Haridas Pulikkalpura, Rajani Kurup, Paravanparampil Jacob Mathew,1 and Sabulal Baby, Levodopa in Mucuna pruriens and its degradation Sci Rep. 2015
Quinones and semiquinones play a role in neuronal cell death in patients with Parkinson’s disease.
Certain drugs dampen the antidepressant effect of Mucuna seed extract. Prazosin, an alpha-blocker used to relax and dilate the blood vessels, lowered Mucuna extract.
Similarly, p-chlorophenyl alanine (p-CPA) used to treat carcinoid syndrome is best to avoid when taking Mucuna extract. It reverses Mucuna’s effect on the serotonin levels of the subjects.
Consult a physician before taking any Mucuna extract as a treatment regime, mostly if comorbid conditions occur or you’re currently taking any maintenance medicine.
Pairs Well With
Green Tea Extract54Ki Sung Kang, Yujing Wen, Noriko Yamabe, Masayuki Fukui, Stephanie C. Bishop, and Bao Ting Zhu , Dual Beneficial Effects of (-)-Epigallocatechin-3-Gallate on Levodopa Methylation and Hippocampal Neurodegeneration: In Vitro and In Vivo Studies PLoS One. 2010
L-Theanine55Mika Takeshima,1 Ikuko Miyazaki, Shinki Murakami, Taizo Kita, and Masato Asanuma, l-Theanine protects against excess dopamine-induced neurotoxicity in the presence of astrocytes J Clin Biochem Nutr. 2016
Pure l dopa makes me horny and angry but mucuna gives me a good night’s sleep and a nice calm.56Reddit Reviews, Experiences with Mucuna Pruriens (L-Dopa) for ADHD and overall well-being Reddit. 2020
fast forward 3 weeks later and I feel amazing, not in the supraphysiological sense, but how normal should feel like. Any kind of brain fog is lifted and fatigue is non existent57Reddit Reviews, Mucuna Pruriens (L-Dopa) makes me feel so good that it’s scary Reddit. 2020
Mucuna Pruriens Amazon Reviews
The stuff is absolutely amazing. So I abused cocaine, alcohol, and heroin so my dopamine levels were shot. I also suffer from borderline personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder I added this to my medication routine and it’s totally worth it. I have the energy, motivation, in a better mood, no longer fatigue, and my hair is growing way faster.58Amazon Reviews, , Amazon Reviews
I notice an immediate boost in my overall motivation. It puts me in a good mood right away and it seems to increase my mental drive to go do a physical work out or one of my physically stimulating hobbies (surfing/hockey).59Amazon Reviews, , Amazon Reviews