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Ptychopetalum olacoides


Ptychopetalum olacoides


No documentation

Vernacular Name

Muira puama, potency wood, marapuama, marapama, muiratã, muiratam, pau-homen, potenzholz


A completely different species of Brazilian tree, Liriosma ovata, also goes by the common name of muira puama; do not confuse.  Ptychopetalum olacoides is a relatively nondescript tree, which has caused botanists to be unsure of its biological origins.

Reaching a height of 15m, P. olacoides is covered in a dark-grey bark, which, when scarred, has a pink interior.  The leaves are ovate, glabrous and range from dark-green to almost brown in color.  The small, fragrant flowers give off an odor comparable to jasmine.  They are small, white or off-white in color, and grow directly on the leafstalk.  P. olacoides is almost morphologically identical to the other species in its genus, Ptychopetalum uncinatum, the only noticeable difference being a lower concentration of the chemical lupeol in the latter.

Origin / Habitat

P. olacoides is indigenous to South America, specifically the Amazon in Brazil but now grows throughout the region.  This plant needs tropical climate and a good amount of water to thrive.  The floods of the Amazon river provide lush, nutrient-rich soil for P. olacoides to grow, which limits the areas in which this plant can grow.

Chemical Constituents

Alpha-copaene, alpha-elemene, alpha-guaiene, alpha-humulene, alpha-muurolene, alpha-pinene, alpha-resinic acid, alpha-terpinene, arachidic acid, allo-aromadendren, behenic acid, beta-bisabolene, beta-caryophyllene, beta-pinene, beta-resinic acid, beta-sitosterol, beta-transfarnesene, borneol, campesterols, camphene, camphor, car-3-ene, caryophyllene, cerotic acid, chromium, coumarin, cubebene, delta-cadinene, dotriacontanoic acid, elixene, ergosterols, eugenol, essential oils, gamma-muurolene, hentriacontanoic acid, heptacosanoic acid, lignoceric acid, limonene, linalool, lupeol, melissic acid, montanic acid, muirapuamine, myrcene, nonacosanoic acid, para-cymene, pentacosanoic acid, phlobaphene, stigmasterols, trichosanic acid, and uncosanic acid.[1]

Plant Part Used

Bark and root

Medicinal Uses


Sexual health







Most Frequently Reported Uses

Sexual health




Dosage Range

Dried root/bark: 250-500mg up to 3 times daily.


Most Common Dosage

Powdered extract (4:1w/v):  1.5g daily in divided dosages

Liquid extract (1:4w/v): 60 drops (2mL) in favorite beverage, 2-4 times daily.

It is recommended to take P. olacoides on a 2 week on, 1 week off schedule.


Standardization Dosage

There is no current standardization for P. olacoides



The importance of decreasing the effects of chronic stress on the body to achieve health is well published.  Laboratory studies have found that P. olacoides extracts have anti-stress properties, termed adaptogenic.[2],[3] An adaptogen is a substance that helps the body “adapt” to various stressors, including physical, mental and emotional.

P. olacoides has been reported in a laboratory study to prevent stress-induced hypothalamic pituitary axis (HPA) hyperactivity.[4] The HPA axis is a complex set of interactions between the hypothalamus and pituitary gland in the brain and the adrenal glands at the top of each kidney. The HPA axis helps regulate things such as your temperature, digestion, immune system, mood, sexuality and energy usage, and is a major part of the system that controls your reaction to stress, trauma and injury. Chronic imbalances in the HPA axis can lead to many health problems such as insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, heart disease, chronic inflammatory conditions, autoimmune conditions, depression and mood disorders, sleep problems and immune imbalances like cancer.

Laboratory studies have reported that extracts of miura puama have neuroprotective activity. The proposed mechanisms of neuroprotection includes inhibition of acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity which may help lead to improved memory and cognition.[5],[6]  Another laboratory study found the neuroprotective qualities of P. olacoides may be related to an increase in nerve growth factor (NGF), leading to an increased survival of nerve cells during stressful situations.[7]

In a laboratory study, administration of P. olacoides extract to laboratory animals reduced free-radical production in the hypothalamus, lead to significant decrease in lipid peroxidation in the cerebral cortex, striatum and hypothalamus, as well as in the carbonyl content in cerebellum and striatum, suggesting that P. olacoides contains compounds able to improve the cellular antioxidant network efficacy in the brain, ultimately reducing the damage caused by oxidative stress.[8] Another laboratory study also found that P. olacoides extract may help decrease destruction of brain cells after stroke through antioxidant support.[9]

The neuroprotective uses of P. olacoides also may help in depression and mood disorders. Consistent with traditional use in depression, a laboratory animal study found that an extract of P. olacoides possessed antidepressant-like effects, possibly mediated by activity at beta-adrenergic and D1 dopamine receptors.[10] Another laboratory study found that extracts of P. olacoides also alter serotonin levels, acting as an agonist at 5HT2A serotonin receptors.[11]


Presently, the mechanism of action of P. olacoides on sexual health is unknown. A combination of P. olacoides (4:1w/v) and ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) was administered to 202 healthy women complaining of low sex drive.[12]  The subjects were asked about various aspects of their sex life and were rated before and after 1 month of treatment. Responses to the self-assessment questionnaires reported significantly higher average total scores of sexual health from baseline in 65% of the sample after taking the P. olacoides /ginkgo extract. Improvement in frequency of sexual desires, sexual intercourse, and sexual fantasies, as well as in satisfaction with sex life, intensity of sexual desires, excitement of fantasies, ability to reach orgasm, and intensity of orgasm was reported. One proposed mechanism of P. olacoides’s enhancement of sexuality includes alpha-adrenoceptor agonist activity.[13]

Interaction and Depletions

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation

Interaction with Drugs

Based on pharmacology, use with caution in individuals with bleeding disorders or those taking blood-thinning medications such as aspirin or warfarin (Coumadin).

Based on pharmacology, use with caution in individuals taking medications that alter sex hormonal activity, such as testosterone, oral contraceptives or HRT (hormonal replacement therapy, including estrogen and progesterone).

Based on pharmacology, use with caution in individuals taking antidepressant medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

Based on pharmacology, use with caution in individuals taking alpha adrenergic agonists, such as methyldopa (Aldomet) and clonidine (Catapres).

Based on pharmacology, use with caution in individuals taking acetylcholinesterase inhibiting medications, such as donepezil (Aricept) and rivastigmine (Reminyl) and galantamine (Razadyne).

Based on pharmacology, use with caution in individuals taking cholinergic drugs, such as bethanechol (Urecholine), pyridostigmine (Mestinon)

Based on pharmacology, use caution when taking anticholinergic drugs, such as antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl), tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptylline (Elavil)

Precautions and Contraindications

Side effects

P. olacoides has been reported safe in recommended doses.

Discontinue if allergy occurs.

Use with caution in individuals with risk factors for heart conditions such as high blood pressure.[15]


Do not use in pregnancy or breastfeeding.

Age limitation

Not to be used with children.

Adverse reaction

Use cautiously in patients taking steroidal drug therapy or in patients with hormone-sensitive conditions (such as breast cancer or prostate cancer).[14]

Read More

  1)  South Central America Herbs


  1. Tang W, Kubo M, Harada K, Hioki H, Fukuyama Y. Novel NGF-potentiating diterpenoids from a Brazilian medicinal plant, Ptychopetalum olacoides. Bioorg Med Chem Lett. 1Feb2009;19(3):882-886.
  2. da Silva AL, Bardini S, Nunes DS, Elisabetsky E. Anxiogenic properties of Ptychopetalum olacoides Benth. (Marapuama). Phytother Res. May2002;16(3):223-226.
  3. Piato AL, Detanico BC, Linck VM, Herrmann AP, Nunes DS, Elisabetsky E. Anti-stress effects of the "tonic"Ptychopetalum olacoides (Marapuama) in mice. Phytomedicine. 12Aug2009.[Epub ahead of print].
  4. Piato AL, Detanico BC, Jesus JF, Lhullier FL, Nunes DS, Elisabetsky E.J Effects of Marapuama in the chronic mild stress model: further indication of antidepressant properties. Ethnopharmacol. 23Jul 2008;118(2):300-304.
  5. Siqueira IR, Fochesatto C, da Silva AL, Nunes DS, Battastini AM, Netto CA, Elisabetsky E. Ptychopetalum olacoides, a traditional Amazonian "nerve tonic", possesses anticholinesterase activity. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. Jun2003;75(3):645-650.
  6. da Silva AL, Piato AL, Ferreira JG, Martins BS, Nunes DS, Elisabetsky E. Promnesic effects of Ptychopetalum olacoides in aversive and non-aversive learning paradigms. J Ethnopharmacol. 12Feb 2007;109(3):449-457.
  7. Tang W, Kubo M, Harada K, Hioki H, Fukuyama Y. Novel NGF-potentiating diterpenoids from a Brazilian medicinal plant, Ptychopetalum olacoides. Bioorg Med Chem Lett. 1Feb2009;19(3):882-886.
  8. Siqueira IR, Fochesatto C, Torres IL, da Silva AL, Nunes DS, Elisabetsky E, Netto CA. Antioxidant activities of Ptychopetalum olacoides ("muirapuama") in mice brain. Phytomedicine. Nov2007;14(11):763-769.
  9. Siqueira IR, Cimarosti H, Fochesatto C, et al. Neuroprotective effects of Ptychopetalum olacoides Bentham (Olacaceae) on oxygen and glucose deprivation induced damage in rat hippocampal slices. Life Sci. 27Aug2004;75(15):1897-1906.
  10. Piato AL, Rizon LP, Martins BS, et al. Antidepressant profile of Ptychopetalum olacoides Bentham (Marapuama) in mice. Phytother Res. Apr2009;23(4):519-524.
  11. da Silva AL, Ferreira JG, da Silva Martins B, et al. Serotonin receptors contribute to the promnesic effects of P. olacoides (Marapuama). Physiol Behav. 3Sep2008;95(1-2):88-92.
  12. Waynberg J, Brewer S. Effects of Herbal vX on libido and sexual activity in premenopausal and postmenopausal women. Adv Ther. 2000;17(5):255-262.
  13. Paiva LAF, Rao VSN, Silveiera ER. Effects of Ptychopetalum olacoides extract on mouse behaviour in forced swimming and open field tests. Phytotherapy Research. 1998;12(4):294-296.
  14. Waynberg J, Brewer S. Effects of Herbal vX on libido and sexual activity in premenopausal and postmenopausal women. Adv Ther. 2000;17(5):255-262.
  15. Paiva LAF, Rao VSN, Silveiera ER. Effects of Ptychopetalum olacoides extract on mouse behaviour in forced swimming and open field tests. Phytotherapy Research. 1998;12(4):294-296.

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