6 Benefits of Mucuna pruriens: Dosage & Safety

Mucuna is a plant that has been used for its various health benefits. This herb has been used for millennia in the Ayurvedic medicine tradition in India. It was used …

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Written by: Daniel Powers, MS
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Mucuna is a plant that has been used for its various health benefits.

This herb has been used for millennia in the Ayurvedic medicine tradition in India. It was used to manage male infertility, various nervous disorders, and also as an aphrodisiac.

Also known by its full name, Mucuna pruriens, this herb has powerful effects on the body.

We’ll get into the benefits of mucuna, its history, and safety below.

health benefits and safety of mucuna pruriens

What is Mucuna pruriens?

Mucuna is a plant in the legume family (fabaceae). This plant is widespread in tropical, and sub-tropical, regions of the world.

M. pruriens is also known as “velvet bean”.  It’s one of the most popular crops grown in the tropics. As a food, it’s high in protein, with 23-35% of its macronutrient profile being protein. It’s said to be as digestible as other beans, like soybeans and lima beans.

Mucuna contains many different chemical compounds, most notably L-dopa (4-7%). L-dopa is a precursor to the neurotransmitter dopamine, the “feel-good” chemical in our brains.

Health Benefits of Mucuna pruriens:

Mucuna pruriens benefits the body in many different ways, below is a summary of its top research-backed benefits.

health benefits of macuna pruriens

1. Dopamine Booster & Neuroprotective Activity

Taking M. pruriens boosts dopamine production and overall brain function.

Mucuna beans contain roughly 5% of the amino acid L-dopa.

L-dopa, also known as l-3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine is an amino acid. This amino acid is the precursor to the neurotransmitter dopamine.

Dopamine works in the brain as a feel-good chemical messenger as it stimulates the reward centers within the brain.

L-dopa is typically made within the body by the kidneys and brain. Taking in exogenous L-dopa (i.e. taking a Mucuna pruriens supplement) can help to improve overall dopamine production.

Inadequate amounts of dopamine are associated with a variety of nervous system dysfunction, including Parkinson’s Disease. Thus, individuals with Parkinson’s often take L-dopa drugs (notably Levodopa).

A clinical study showed that taking Mucuna pruriens was more effective than standard synthetic forms of L-dopa in individuals with Parkinson’s. The researchers did note that long-term efficacy and tolerability should be further researched.

Another clinical trial compared M. pruriens to standard synthetic L-dopa and found that the clinical effects were similar at the same dose. The researchers also noted that the natural mucuna form of L-dopa was more tolerable.

Another comparative trial by the same researchers ran into tolerability issues with the M. pruriens group.

Summary:

Human studies indicate that Mucuna pruriens may benefit brain function by increasing dopamine production.

2. May Support Blood Sugar Regulation

Mucuna seeds are said to have an anti-diabetic effect.

In vitro testing shows that various phytochemicals in M. pruriens (including D-chiro-inositol) have an anti-glycemic (or blood sugar lowering) effect.

Further animal studies showed that mucuna helped to reduce blood glucose in rabbits.

It’s noted that the blood sugar-stabilizing properties of M. pruriens seed extract are most likely due to d-chiro-inositol and its galacto-derivatives found in this plant.

Summary:

Several phytochemicals found in mucuna may be responsible for this herb’s ability to regulate blood sugar. Human clinical studies are needed for confirmation of this finding.

3. May Increase Sexual Function

Mucuna has a long history of use as a potent aphrodisiac.

Various animal trials have shown that the alkaloid content in velvet beans works to increase spermatogenesis, testicular weight, and sexual activity.

Human clinical trials have shown that mucuna increased sperm concentration and motility in infertile men.

Further clinical trials have shown that M. pruriens can increase testosterone production, luteinizing hormone, dopamine, adrenaline, and noradrenaline levels. It also worked to reduce levels of follicle-stimulating hormone and prolactin in infertile men.

These studies also found that mucuna helps in the management of stress and improves semen quality.

In review, mucuna seems to be effective in supporting male sexual function, however (as in most cases), further research is warranted.

Summary:

A combination of both human and lab-based trials show that Mucuna pruriens may effectively promote sexual function.

4. Antioxidant Properties

Mucuna is said to have strong antioxidant activity.

Antioxidants are beneficial for health because they help to neutralize free radicals. As a note, free radicals are unstable molecules that “steal” from other molecules in your body. This creates oxidative stress in the body, which can impact health.

Mucuna pruriens is rich in phenols (specifically flavonoids) which are noted for their ability to stabilize free radicals.

Test tube research shows that M. pruriens possesses high antioxidant and free radical scavenging activities. The researchers noted that these in vitro assays indicate that mucuna is a significant source of natural antioxidants, which could be useful in preventing various oxidative stresses.

Summary:

Lab-based research indicates that mucuna may support overall health through its ability to neutralize free radicals, however, human studies are required for verification.

5. May Support Skin Health

New research findings indicate that mucuna may be beneficial for skin health.

Many skin disorders (such as psoriasis, dermatitis, and eczema) are tied to increased levels of oxidative stress.

As discussed earlier, M. pruriens has strong antioxidant properties. This is due to its high phenolic compound content.

Preliminary studies have shown that human keratinocytes treated with mucuna exhibit down regulation of total protein expression. These studies also showed that this herb helped to decrease the baseline levels of 4HNE present in human keratinocytes.

All of this appears promising for skin health.

Summary:

Mucuna pruriens may possess the ability to benefit skin health, but human clinical research is needed in order to confirm this finding.

6. Anti-Venom Properties

Mucuna has been shown to be effective against snake venom.

While new research shows an anti-venom effect, this is based on traditional knowledge of the plant. Various tribes have used M. pruriens seeds to prevent the toxic effects of snake bites.

The negative effects of snake bites are triggered by toxins. This list includes neurotoxins, cardiotoxins, cytotoxins, phospholipase A2 (PLA2), and proteases.

Research has shown that mucuna contains an immunogenic glycoprotein that stimulates the production of antibodies that neutralize various venom proteins.

More research needs to be done to highlight the specific types of venom that mucuna neutralizes, but the initial research findings are very promising.

Summary:

Research shows evidence of mucuna being a potential treatment for venomous bites. Additional research is required for confirmation of this finding.
6 macuna pruriens health benefits

Mucuna pruriens Safety:

Safety Class: 2B (not to be used during pregnancy)

Interaction Class: A (no clinically relevant reactions are expected)

According to the Botanical Safety Handbook, mucuna (or velvet bean) contains trace amounts of hallucinogenic compounds. It was initially thought that this herb had DMT content, but this has later been disproven. However, analytic analysis has shown that it does contain bufotenin and 5-MeODMT at microscopic concentrations.

If growing or harvesting whole velvet bean pods, it should be noted that skin contact with the fine hairs of the pod can cause severe itching.

Pregnancy & Lactation:

An animal study noted an increase in fetal malformation in rats given mucuna. Based on this research, taking this herb while pregnant is not recommended.

No studies have been conducted on the safety of this herb while nursing. While no concerns have been identified, safety has not been conclusively established. Thus, it is not recommended.

Dosage:

The standard dosing for Mucuna pruriens is 500-1000mg daily. Generally, the seeds are extracted to contain 5-15% L-dopa.

Naming & Taxonomy:

Mucuna pruriens belongs to the Fabaceae family (i.e. the “legume” family).

This legume is widespread in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. It is considered a viable source of dietary protein.

Common names for this plant include velvet bean and cowitch.

The plant originally came from Eastern India and Southern China, where it was at one time widely cultivated as a green vegetable crop.

History & Traditional Use:

M. pruriens is a popular Indian medicinal plant where it has long been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine.

In Ayurvedic medicine, the beans have also been employed as a powerful aphrodisiac and have been used to treat nervous disorders and arthritis.

In Nigeria, the seed is prescribed as an anti-snakebite remedy by traditional practitioners.

It is claimed that when the seeds are swallowed intact, the individual is protected for one full year against the effects of any snakebite.

Constituents:

Polyphenols, trypsin inhibitors, phytate, cyanogenic glycosides, oligosaccharides, saponins, lectins, and alkaloids.

Conclusion:

Mucuna is a herb with promising abilities for nervous disorders (i.e. Parkinson’s disease), sexual function, brain health, and more.

This herb appears to be safe and generally well tolerated.

Consider trying it out and taking advantage of this natural supplement that can help your body naturally support itself.

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About Daniel Powers, MS

Daniel has a master's degree in herbal science from the Maryland University of Integrative Health. He has a passion for herbal medicine and how it can be used to support everyday health & wellness.

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