Mucuna pruriens L. (DC)


Mucuna pruriens L. (DC)


No documentation.

Vernacular Name

Velvet Bean, Fava-cociera, cabeca-de-frade, Krame, Itchy bean, Mucuna, Cowitch, Cowhage, Buffalo bean.


Mucuna pruriens is an annual climbing shrub in the family Fabaceae.  Occasionally reaching a length of 15m or more at maturity, this climber is initially covered in a velvety pubescence when young.  The stem is thin and, at its base, a light brown in colour.  M. pruriens yields long, ovate or lanceolate leaves which range from  measuring 15cm to 30cm in length.  The leaves are heavily grooved and covered in a light pubescence.  The  inflorescence of M. pruriens is arranged on axillary panicles in groups of two or three.  The flowers are range between white and purple in colour and the bells are no more than measures 1cm wide.  The fruit of M. pruriens is perhaps its most singular characteristic.  The leguminous fruit are encased in measuring an  8cm to 13cm pod.  The dark brown pod is covered heavily in a velvety, light brown pubescence.  Each of the thick hairs on the seed pod is roughly measuring 2.5mm in length.  The seeds are roughly 1cm in diametre and can range in colour from black to white.  Each seed is covered in very small barbs which make them irritating when touched.

Origin / Habitat

M. pruriens belongs to the Fabaceae family and is a tropical legume.  Its traditional uses include aphrodisiac and improving glucose levels.  It is also used as a fodder plant in many areas of the world.

M. pruriens has been used traditionally used in the Ayurvedic system of medicine and originated in India, growing in the southern part of the country and surrounding islands.  This plant requires nutrient rich, moist soil to flourish.  M. pruriens will not survive a frost and needs sunlight and warm temperatures, which explains  why it thrives in tropical climates.

Chemical Constituents

L-dihydroxyphenylalanine (L-dopa, approximately 40 mg/g seed);

Alkaloids mucunine, mucunadine, mucuadinine, pruriendine and nicotine;

B-sitosterol, glutathione, lecithin oils, venolic and gallic acids;

Protein content of 27.9g per 100g;

D-chiro inositol; tryptamine, alkylamines, steroids, flavonoids, coumarins, cardenolides [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]

Plant Part Used

Bean/Seed [5].

Traditional Use

In Central America, M. pruriens is used to make a beverage by grinding and roasting in a process similar to that of making coffee.  It is also used as a food and cooked as a vegetable.  The medicinal uses range broadly depending upon the region and tribal traditions.  These applications include preparations to treat nervous disorders, parasites, intestinal disturbances and impotence [7].  Other reported uses include asthma, Parkinson’s disease, menstrual complaints pleurisy and ringworm [8].



In laboratory animal studies, M. pruriens has been reported to possess antiparkinson and neuroprotective effects in Parkinson's disease [9]. M. pruriens contains L-dopa, and L-dopa is used to make dopamine, the neurochemical involved in behavior and cognition, voluntary movement, motivation and reward, inhibition of prolactin, sleep, mood, attention and learning. M. pruriens also has antioxidant properties, which can lead to neuroprotection [10] [11].A laboratory study found that M. pruriens chelates divalent copper ions in a dose-dependent manner, with the copper chelating property probably one of the mechanisms by which M. pruriens exerts its neuroprotective effects [12].

M. pruriens cotyledon powder (MPCP) has shown antiParkinson and neuroprotective effects in animal models of Parkinson's disease that is superior to synthetic levodopa. In the present study two different doses of MPCP protected both plasmid DNA and genomic DNA against levodopa and divalent copper-induced DNA strand scission and damage.

One of the traditional uses of M. pruriens is in diabetes and blood sugar imbalances. Laboratory animal studies support the use in blood sugar regulation through improving plasma glucose levels, helping prevent polyuria and helping decrease urinary albumin levels [13] [14] [15]. High levels of trace elements like manganese and zinc along with lecithin are found in the seeds and may be a possible link to the ability of M. pruriens to regulated blood sugar [16]. A study found that M. pruriens contains D-chiro-inositol, which also may explain the hypoglycemic effects of M. pruriens seeds [5].

M. pruriens is also used traditionally for sexual health and as an aphrodisiac. Laboratory animal studies support this claim, with M. pruriens improving sexual desire [17].

M. pruriens has been reported traditionally to be used in snake bites and is supported in these uses by laboratory studies. Several laboratory animal studies report that pretreatment of rats with M. pruriens seed extract helps protect them against snake venom poisoning, including vipers and cobras [18] [19].Potential uses for M. pruriens in this area include the production of anti-Velvet bean antibodies that could be used in the antiserum therapy of various poisonous snake bites.


A human study of 60 individuals with Parkinson’s disease found that administration of M. pruriens significantly reduced symptoms of the disease [20]. Another study in 8 individuals with Parkinson’s disease found that administration of 30grams M. pruriens (not standardized) decreased dyskinesias (involuntary movements) faster than the synthetic drug levodopa [21].

Human studies also support the use of M. pruriens for sexual health and vitality. A study in infertile men found that treatment with M. pruriens significantly inhibited lipid peroxidation, elevated spermatogenesis, and improved sperm motility [22]. Treatment also recovered the levels of total lipids, triglycerides, cholesterol, phospholipids, and vitamin A, C, and E and corrected fructose in seminal plasma of infertile men. The authors concluded that M. pruriens may play a role as a restorative and invigorating agent for infertile men.

Another study of 60 men in a fertility study suffering from psychological stress found that M. pruriens (5gm daily of seed powder) significantly decreased psychological stress and seminal plasma lipid peroxide levels along with improved sperm count and motility [23]. Treatment with M. pruriens also restored the levels of SOD (serum oxide dismutase), catalase, GSH (glutathione) and ascorbic acid in seminal plasma of infertile men. The authors concluded that M. pruriens may improve sexual health in infertile men under chronic stress by reactivating the anti-oxidant defense system, improving semen quality and by helping in the management of chronic stress.

A study of 75 healthy, fertile men compared to 75 men undergoing fertility screening treatment with M. pruriens significantly improved testosterone levels, luteinizing hormone (LH), dopamine, adrenaline, and noradrenaline levels in infertile men and reduced levels of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and prolactin. M. pruriens also improved sperm count and sperm motility in infertile men [24].

Mechanisms of action in sexual health include anti-oxidant support, nutritional value and activity on the hypothalamus-pituitary-gonadal axis (including inhibition of prolactin secretion) [24] [25].

Interaction and Depletions

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation.

Interaction with Drugs

Based on laboratory studies, use only under the supervision of a doctor if taking anti-coagulant medications, such as aspirin or warfarin (Coumadin) [18].

Based on pharmacology, use only under the supervision of a doctor if taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), as the l-dopa in M. pruriens may interact and cause high blood pressure.

Based on pharmacology, use only under the supervision of a doctor if taking hypoglycemic (blood sugar lowering) drugs including insulin, as M. pruriens may cause alterations in blood sugar levels.

Based on pharmacology, use only under the supervision of a doctor if taking medications for Parkinson's disease patients taking levodopa, dopamine, dopamine agonists, dopamine antagonists, anticholinergics and antiParkinson agents due to possible additive effects of Velvet bean.

Based on pharmacology, use with caution in individuals taking hormone replacement therapy including testosterone.

Precautions and Contraindications

Side effects

M. pruriens has been reported safe in recommended doses.

Discontinue if allergy occurs. Hairs on M. pruriens flowers and pods have been reported to cause severe pruritus (itching) [26].

Avoid in individuals with psychosis or schizophrenia, as M. pruriens has been reported to cause acute toxic psychosis [27].


Avoid in pregnant or breastfeeding as M. pruriens may inhibit prolactin secretion [25]. Use with caution in individuals with an increased risk of prostate cancer or those having prostate disease [24].

Age limitation

No documentation.

Adverse reaction

No documentation.

Read More

  1) Botanical Info

  2) Western Herbs


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