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Mucuna pruriens (syn. Dolichos pruriens) is a tropical legume known by a multitude of common names, including velvet bean, cowitch, cowhage, kapikachu, nescafe, sea bean, kratzbohnen, konch, yerepe (Yoruba) and atmagupta. The plant is an annual, climbing shrub with long vines that can reach over 15 m.
It bears white, lavender, or purple flowers and pods that are covered in loose orange hairs which cause a severe itch if they come in contact with skin. The beans are shiny black or brown. It is found in tropical Africa, India and the Caribbean.
Mucuna pruriens seed powder contains high concentrations of levodopa, a direct precursor of the neurotransmitter dopamine and has long been used in traditional Ayurvedic Indian medicine for diseases including parkinsonism. In large amounts (30 g dose) it and has been shown to be equally effective in the treatment of parkinsons disease as pure levodopa/carbidopa medications but no data on long-term efficacy and tolerability is available.
The hairs lining the pods contain serotonin and are very dangerous as they can cause severe irritations. In Africa these hairs are used to murder people by sprinkling them on to the food of the unsuspeting victim, who would then die from internal bleeding as the sharp hairs slice into the stomach and the intestinal lining.
In history, Mucuna has been used as an aphrodisiac. It is still used to increase libido in both men and women due to its dopamine inducing properties. Dopamine has a profound influence on sexual function.
In addition to levodopa, Mucuna allegedly also contains 5-HTP, nicotine, N,N-DMT, bufotenine, and 5-MeO-DMT. As such, it would have psychedelic effects, and has purportedly been used in ayahuasca preparations.
- Mucuna puriens var. utilis (Photos)
- Manyam BV, Dhanasekaran M, Hare TA. Effect of antiparkinson drug HP-200 (Mucuna pruriens) on the central monoaminergic neurotransmitters. 2004. Phytother Res 18:97-101. DOI: 10.1002/ptr.1407 PMID 15022157
- Manyam BV, Dhanasekaran M, Hare TA. Neuroprotective effects of the antiparkinson drug Mucuna pruriens. 2004. Phytother Res 18:706-712. DOI: 10.1002/ptr.1514 PMID 15478206
- Katzenschlager R, Evans A, Manson A, et al. Mucuna pruriens in Parkinson's disease: a double blind clinical and pharmacological study. 2004. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 75:1672-1677. DOI: 10.1136/jnnp.2003.028761 PMID 15548480 free full text
- Amin KMY, Khan MN, Zillur-Rehman S, et al. (1996) "Sexual function improving effect of Mucuna pruriens in sexually normal male rats". Fitoterapia, jrg.67 (nr.1): pp. 53-58. Quote: The seeds of M. pruriens are widely used for treating male sexual dysfunction in Tibb-e-Unani (Unani Medicine), the traditional system of medicine of Indo-Pak sub-continent.
- Giuliano F, Allard J. Dopamine and male sexual function. 2001. Eur Urol 40:601-608. PMID 11805404
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- Erowid entry(2002),