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The benefits of Mucuna pruriens (for the nervous system, reproductive health...)

Mucuna pruriens, also known as velvet bean, is a distinctive climbing plant with downy seedpods and a wealth of beneficial properties. Spotlight on this health-promoting super-plant.
Pods of the plant velvet bean, also known as Mucuna pruriens
What benefits lie hidden in this L-dopa-rich plant?
Rédaction Supersmart.
2021-03-03 (blog.publication: 2021-03-02)Comments (0)

Mucuna pruriens : an Ayurvedic plant used for thousands of years

A vigorous legume, velvet bean is an invasive vine native to tropical regions. It is recognisable by the yellowy-brown hairy pods which encase the plant’s beans. The populations who first encountered these beans were quick to study and consume them.

In Sanskrit, Mucuna pruriens is known as Atmagupta and is considered to be an important plant in Ayurveda. This age-old system of traditional Indian medicine is a key source of inspiration for Western naturopathy, a natural approach to health care which has become increasingly popular over recent decades.

So it is that cowhage (another name for velvet bean) has been used by humans in many ways for thousands of years. Some of its effects are still being investigated today by those studying nutrition and medicine.

Composition of Mucuna pruriens : a plant rich in L-dopa

It was in 1937 that an Indian scientist, who was analysing the plant’s effects on the body to understand its traditional use in Ayurveda, succeeded in identifying one of its most important active ingredients. We now know that velvet bean’s efficacy is primarily due to its high concentration in L-dopa, the dopamine precursor, (with levels of between 3% and 7%) (1).

As you’re no doubt aware, dopamine is one of the ‘happy hormones’ secreted by the hypothalamus (2). Our bodies produce it, for example, during exercise, when we eat chocolate ... and during sex.

Velvet bean also contains a number of molecules which maximise the effects of this active ingredient.

These include inhibitors of dopa-decarboxylase, which prevent the peripheral conversion of L-dopa without impairing its central conversion to dopamine. Mucuna pruriens also contains specific alkaloids such as prurienine, prurieninine and prurienidine.

Last but not least, this legume contains proteins, oleic acid, linoleic acid and palmitic acid, NADH, coenzyme Q10 and sterols (3).

Velvet bean’s various health benefits

With all these beneficial compounds, velvet bean thus helps to:

Mucuna pruriens : available forms and dosage

The intake generally recommended is between 300 and 2000mg of velvet bean a day, standardised to 15% L-dopa. It is available in the form of a powder for mixing into a drink.

To control your intake more accurately, you can also take pre-dosed vegetarian capsules (such as the product Mucuna pruriens, a formulation which provides a significant 2000mg of Mucuna pruriens extract per daily dose, standardised to 15% L-dopa).

Other Mucuna pruriens supplements worth considering

Velvet bean also features in certain synergistic formulations. One such product is Natural Anti Prolactin Support, a supplement rich in Mucuna pruriens, included here primarily for its role in converting prolactin. This natural supplement also contains maca root, extract of American ginseng, etc.

It is also one of the ingredients in Prosexual Booster Formula, which along with Mucuna pruriens extract, contains fenugreek as well as arginine and citrulline, two amino acids popular with athletes.

References

  1. SIDDHURAJU, Perumal et BECKER, Klaus. Rapid reversed-phase high performance liquid chromatographic method for the quantification of L-Dopa (L-3, 4-dihydroxyphenylalanine), non-methylated and methylated tetrahydroisoquinoline compounds from Mucuna beans. Food chemistry, 2001, vol. 72, no 3, p. 389-394.
  2. SIDDHURAJU, Perumal et BECKER, Klaus. Rapid reversed-phase high performance liquid chromatographic method for the quantification of L-Dopa (L-3, 4-dihydroxyphenylalanine), non-methylated and methylated tetrahydroisoquinoline compounds from Mucuna beans. Food chemistry, 2001, vol. 72, no 3, p. 389-394.
  3. AGBAFOR, K. N. et NWACHUKWU, N. Phytochemical analysis and antioxidant property of leaf extracts of Vitex doniana and Mucuna pruriens. Biochemistry Research International, 2011, vol. 2011.
  4. Champatisingh D, Sahu PK, Pal A, Nanda GS. Anticataleptic and antiepileptic activity of ethanolic extract of leaves of Mucuna pruriens: A study on role of dopaminergic system in epilepsy in albino rats. Indian J Pharmacol. 2011;43(2):197-199. doi:10.4103/0253-7613.77368
  5. Cilia R, Laguna J, Cassani E, et al. Mucuna pruriens in Parkinson disease: A double-blind, randomized, controlled, crossover study. Neurology. 2017;89(5):432-438. doi:10.1212/WNL.0000000000004175
  6. HORNYKIEWICZ, Oleh. Dopamine (3-hydroxytyramine) and brain function. Pharmacological reviews, 1966, vol. 18, no 2, p. 925-964.
  7. MALLURWAR, V. R., JOHARAPURKAR, A. J., et DURAGKAR, N. J. Studies on immunomodulatory activity of Mucuna pruriens. INDIAN JOURNAL OF PHARMACEUTICAL EDUCATION AND RESEARCH, 2006, vol. 40, no 3, p. 205.
  8. MUSTHAFA, Mohamed Saiyad, ASGARI, Syed Mohideen, KURIAN, Amitha, et al.Protective efficacy of Mucuna pruriens (L.) seed meal enriched diet on growth performance, innate immunity, and disease resistance in Oreochromis mossambicus against Aeromonas hydrophila. Fish & shellfish immunology, 2018, vol. 75, p. 374-380.
  9. EZE, James Ifeanyichukwu et NDUKWE, Sunday. Effect of methanolic extract of Mucuna pruriens seed on the immune response of mice. Comparative Clinical Pathology, 2012, vol. 21, no 6, p. 1343-1347.
  10. MUTHU, Krishnamoorthy et KRISHNAMOORTHY, P. Evaluation of androgenic activity of Mucuna pruriens in male rats. African Journal of Biotechnology, 2011, vol. 10, no 66, p. 15017-15019.
  11. KREUTZ, Serge. Scientific proof for the libido effect of L-dopa (mucuna pruriens).
  12. SHUKLA, Kamla Kant, MAHDI, Abbas Ali, AHMAD, Mohammad Kaleem, et al.Mucuna pruriens improves male fertility by its action on the hypothalamus–pituitary–gonadal axis. Fertility and sterility, 2009, vol. 92, no 6, p. 1934-1940.
  13. NOAH, Ojo Temitope, CHINWE, Gbotolorun Stella, et AYODELE, Oremosu Ademola. Fertility Enhancing Potential of Mucuna pruriens Seeds in Female Sprague-dawley Rats. Journal of Advances in Medicine and Medical Research, 2014, p. 3148-3157.
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