Mucuna pruriens – also known as velvet bean and cowhage – is an ancient tropical legume that was used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine from 1500 BC onwards. Mucuna pruriens was traditionally used to treat illnesses, conditions and injuries such as intestinal disorders, snakebite, sexual dysfunction, and even depression.
Despite its ancient use, it is currently shaking up the alternative medicine community due to recent studies showing that it can be used to treat stress and emotional problems, as well as support brain health overall and boost testosterone.
Let’s take a further look at this rare medicinal product by weighing out the benefits and the cautions to look out for, as well as how exactly you use it.
The active compounds of a plant are responsible for its benefits, particularly the way these compounds interact with each other.
Mucuna pruriens is known for containing L-dopa, a compound that promotes brain health by increasing dopamine in the brain, which helps to stabilize mood.
Traditionally, Mucuna pruriens was used to treat mental health, such as stress and depression. While it can still be used for this, it’s also sought-after for the effect it has on boosting testosterone.
One recent study [i] in particular involved putting 120 men, all suffering from stress, on a Mucuna pruriens supplement. The result was that the majority noticed a great improvement in their stress levels.
However, something else strange happened. A number of these men suffered from fertility issues beforehand, and the supplement appeared to have increased quantity and quality of sperm count.
The study didn’t end there, either. The researchers also concluded that the antioxidant defense system is reactivated with the ongoing use of Mucuna pruriens.
How to Use It
The use of Mucuna pruriens in modern day alternative medicine comes in the form of pills, seeds and powdered extract. They are all perfectly safe, but we always recommend going with raw or extract form.
If you buy Mucuna pruriens capsules, make sure you take 1-2 daily, and no more. If you’re consuming the extract in a powdered form, Mucuna is usually taken in really small doses. About 1/4 teaspoon is a good starting point, which equals to about 1 gram of herb.
For a boost in sexual energy, try boiling a teaspoon of the seeds in a cup of hot water, letting it cool slightly, and then drinking it.
If you have any breathing problems, half a teaspoon of powdered Mucuna pruriens with half a teaspoon of ghee is said to act as an effective bronchodilator.
When you do buy Mucuna pruriens in any form, you should make sure that the product is organic and certified, and contains no other unnecessary chemicals.
Although the benefits of Mucuna pruriens are worth it, there are side effects and cautions to be aware of.
The product is considered safe if taken for up to 20 weeks. The most common side effects include nausea and bloating, while the less common include vomiting and insomnia. These side effects are usually to a minor extent, if at all.
Rarer side effects might include confusion, agitation and hallucinations. In this case, you should stop taking the supplement all together.
It’s important to know that Mucuna pruriens is not considered safe for women who are pregnant, and people who have any of the following:
- Low blood sugar
- Heart or blood vessel disease
- Liver disease
- Upcoming surgery
- A history of skin cancer
This is all due to the effects of L-dopa. While Mucuna pruriens is shown to help stress and mental well-being, it shouldn’t be used with any kind of clinical mental illness before consulting a doctor.
[i] Shukla KK, Mahdi AA, Ahmad MK, Jaiswar SP, Shankwar SN, Tiwari SC. Mucuna pruriens Reduces Stress and Improves the Quality of Semen in Infertile Men. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2010 Mar;7(1):137-44.