Summary: The bean-like plant, which is scientifically known as Mucuna Pruriens, has been in use in Ayurvedic medicine since ancient times, especially for the treatment of Parkinson's Disease. Today, even modern studies have supported the potential of Mucuna Pruriens extract in treating Parkinson's Disease-related symptoms and its other positive neurological effects.
Mucuna Pruriens is the scientific name of Cowhage or the Velvet Bean, which is a bean that grows from trees in Africa, the Caribbean and India, and is coated in serotonin so it can cause itchiness when touched. Apart from containing miniscule amounts of various psychoactives, Mucuna Pruriens extract happens to be a rich source of the chemical L-DOPA. Apart from its beneficial nutraceutical content that will be explored in this article, the article “Evaluation of velvet bean …” also points out that Mucuna Pruriens extract also happens to be a legume with a caloric content, up to 35% of which consists of protein.
In studies like “Mucuna pruriens improves male fertility,” it has been seen that circulating levels of dopamine tend to increase as a result of Mucuna Pruriens extract supplementation. Levodopa, which is the primary ingredient in Mucuna Pruriens extract, has been credited for this effect. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that treats blood circulation problems. The study “Mucuna pruriens improves male fertility” has also revealed that taking 5 grams of a supplement containing Mucuna Pruriens extract for more than 3 months lead to an increase in testosterone in healthy infertile men. The supplement even increased testosterone far more significantly in men who had a low sperm count or mobility and even in infertile with otherwise no sperm problems. The study explains that the levodopa content in Mucuna pruriens extract and the increase in dopamine prevent the hormone prolactin from suppressing libido and testosterone.
The article “Flowering plants used against snakebite” highlights one specific traditional use of Mucuna Pruriens extract, i.e. as an anti-venom agent, particularly against the venomous saw-scaled viper or Echis carinatus snake. The article “Effects of Mucuna pruriens Protease Inhibitors” explains that a certain glycoprotein in Mucuna Pruriens extract inhibits protease, degrading the toxin from the saw-scaled viper, and thus, offering protection from it.
Several animal based studies such as “Evaluation of the anti-diabetic properties” and “The effect of Momordica charantia and Mucuna pruriens” have displayed the anti-diabetic effects of Mucuna Pruriens extract. Depending on the dose, Mucuna Pruriens extract continues maintaining and reducing spikes in blood glucose up to 8 hours after a meal has been ingested. While both chronic and acute usage of Mucuna Pruriens extract has proven to be effective, chronic usage has apparently proven to be more potent. Moreover, it has also been seen that this blood glucose lowering effect of Mucuna Pruriens extract is equally effective even in non-diabetic rats. Diabetes decreases certain liver enzymes, such as Glucokinase, Glucose-6-phosphatase and Hexokinase, which are involved in carbohydrate metabolism, and the use of Mucuna Pruriens extract increased those enzymes.
Studies like “Mucuna pruriens in Parkinson's disease” have also shown that Mucuna Pruriens is also able to relieve Parkinson's Disease-related symptoms and even treat this progressive disorder. Based on this double blind, human-based study, a relatively large dose of Mucuna pruriens, between 15 grams and 30 grams every day, can prove to be effective in treating Parkinson's Disease-related symptoms. As seen in the animal based study “Investigation of neuropsychopharmacological …” the use of a blend of herbs that also contained Mucuna Pruriens extract resulted in an increase in memory retention, but it is unclear if Mucuna Pruriens extract was directly responsible for the effect. The study “Neuroprotective effects of …” also indicates that taking Mucuna Pruriens extract can restore catecholamines and serotonin levels in the area of the brain that is affected by Parkinson's Disease.
As seen in the double blind study “Mucuna pruriens in Parkinson's disease,” there are no adverse effects if Mucuna Pruriens extract is taken in a dose between 15 grams and 30 grams for up to 20 weeks. It has been noted that Mucuna Pruriens extract is not easily digestible and not very palatable, which may lead to vomiting in certain cases. Thus, it is apparent that Mucuna Pruriens extract has plenty of beneficial properties, from serving as a potent herbal aphrodisiac to resulting in positive neurological effects.
J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. Mucuna pruriens in Parkinson's disease: a double blind clinical and pharmacological study.