Everything You Need to Know About Mucuna
By Sara Novak
It has been called the “dopamine bean” because mucuna is a beneficial legume filled with superfood magic. Ok, maybe not, but the herbal remedy is being touted for a number of its wellness properties. It is known to treat a wide range of illnesses from Parkinson’s disease to anxiety, infertility, arthritis, and even snake bites. A powerful superfood that you have likely never heard of before. Here is everything that you need to know about mucuna and why it might be something that should make a regular appearance in your wellness repertoire.
What is Mucuna?
Mucuna, also known as velvet bean, is a legume native to Africa. A purple climbing shrub, it goes by a number of other names as well including monkey tamarind, Bengal velvet bean, Florida velvet bean, Mauritius velvet bean, Yokohama velvet bean, cowage, cowitch, lacuna bean, and Lyon bean. Today it grows wild throughout tropical Asia as well as the Bahamas and even southern Florida. The bean-like plant is itchy to the skin on contact like poison ivy, but it is widely known for having a number of medicinal benefits.
Mucuna is known for its health benefits, many of which have been widely studied. Specifically, it is commonly used in Ayurveda for the treatment of a host of ailments. Here are a few of the illnesses that mucuna has been known to treat:
- Snake bites
- Parkinson’s disease
- Bone and muscle pain
- Hyperprolactinemia (high levels of the hormone prolactin in the blood)
Mucuna in Ayurvedic Medicine
Mucuna is a treatment that is often used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine. Ayurveda is an ancient practice used in India that is all about balancing the body’s doshas: vata, kapha, pitta, or combinations of each. The seeds, either black or white, have been used to treat any number of ailments for over two thousand years. Mucuna is often taken as a capsule, powder, or tincture.
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Mucuna Side Effects
You should talk to your doctor before taking mucuna if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. For the most part, mucuna is generally considered safe. Side effects include nausea and bloating. Other less common side effects include vomiting and confusion. If applied directly to the skin, it is considered a strong irritant. It can also cause toxicity in some cases. A study published in the Hawai'i Journal of Medicine & Public Health found that a certain variety of mucuna native to Hawaii could cause vomiting and other side effects. You should talk to your doctor before mixing with other medications, which could cause additional side effects.
The Benefits of Mucuna
The science behind mucuna is growing, though there is still much more research to be done. Here is a look at the benefits backed by research thus far.
Researchers have done more work on mucuna and its impact on Parkinson’s disease than any other ailment. Mucuna has been shown to improve outcomes in those with the neurological disease, especially when combined with certain prescription drugs. A study published in the journal Nutrients found that “[mucuna showed neuroprotective effects in Parkinson’s models.” Another study published in the Journal of Neuroanatomy found that mucuna “contain][ed] L-DOPA and ursolic acid which has anti-inflammatory properties and protects or prevents the progression of Parkinson’s disease by inhibiting the neuroinflammatory cascade.” It seems to protect the nervous system against degradation caused by the disease. Another study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that it was a useful Ayurvedic treatment for Parkinson’s disease. And finally, a small double blind study published in the journal Neurology found that mucuna was as effective as some prescription drugs for the treatment of Parkinson’s symptoms.
Mucuna has been widely used in traditional medicine as a mood enhancer. It helps with overall brain health, improving outcomes in patients suffering from anxiety and depression, while simultaneously reducing the impact of stress on the body. It has also been shown to have a number of anti-anxiety and anti-depression properties because of its production of L-Dopa as well as its support for overall brain function. It seems that mucuna may increase L-DOPA in the body, but the question is whether it makes it to the brain where it can impact mental health. More research needs to be done on the subject, but the results thus far are promising. A study published in the International Quarterly Journal of Research in Ayurveda found that the hydroalcoholic extract in mucuna seeds had “antidepressant action, which may be mediated by an interaction with the dopaminergic system.”
Mucuna has been known to reduce symptoms of arthritis. According the European Bulletin of Drug Research, “different preparations of [mucuna] are used for the management of several free radical-mediated diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, atherosclerosis, male infertility, and nervous disorders, in the Ayurvedic system of medicine.” Researchers writing in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine found that the beans have also been used in treating arthritis though little research has been done to prove its effectiveness in patients.
Testosterone is an important hormone in the body that is largely responsible for sex drive, bone mass, strength, sperm production, and red blood cells in men. A study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that “the use of mucuna (velvet bean) and ashwagandha as phyto-therapeutics was effective for improving testosterone concentrations in semen.” You might also consider UMZU’S TESTRO-X, which may increase testosterone in the body. TESTRO-X can help boost hormonal function, improve strength and muscle gain, and optimize sleep and recovery. On top of all that, you will enjoy a boost in energy all day long. Increases in testosterone have also been shown to benefit male fertility. Additionally, mucuna has been shown to increase the quality of semen, which also impacts fertility.
Mucuna Pruriens is well known for increasing dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps with brain function and mental health. It is associated with the “pleasure centers” of the brain and an increasing feeling of well being and contentment. Research published in the journal AYU (An International Quarterly Journal of Research in Ayurveda) found that the extract reduced depression, likely due to its impact on the “dopaminergic system.” Dopamine promotes increased well-being, focus, enjoyment, and interest in life. It is what makes us feel happy and care-free. With 20 percent L-DOPA (the immediate precursor of dopamine), DOPA Mucuna helps the body with what it needs to make this important neurotransmitter. Mucuna pruriens is now available to you in this convenient third-party lab tested supplement. Need an extra boost? Try UMZU’S Mucuna Pruriens: Focus, Well-Being, & Brain Support. It is a high quality, naturally sourced supplement that keeps your brain functioning optimally throughout the day.
This is another place where ample research has shown the benefits of taking mucuna. It has been widely proven in research to positively impact male fertility. A study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that mucuna reduces stress and improves semen quality in infertile men. “It may be concluded that M. pruriens not only reactivates the antioxidant defense system of infertile men but it also helps in the management of stress and improves semen quality.” Another study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility found that “treatment with M. pruriens increased sperm concentration and motility in all the infertile study groups."
It has been shown to reduce the stress and prolactin levels in sperm which can impact fertility. Research has shown that mucuna can increase semen quality by balancing hormones and boosting dopamine. Another study published in the journal Andrologia found that medicinal plants like mucuna should be further investigated for their ability to improve sperm quality and increase levels of testosterone. The authors write that “the mechanisms involved in the beneficial effects of medicinal plants in sperm abnormalities are antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-oedematous, and venotonic activity as well as containing precursors for sperm production and increasing [the] blood testosterone level.” All of these claims are promising for men experiencing infertility.
A study published in the Journal Tropical Animal Health and Production found that when mucuna was given to rabbits, it actually improved their sexual performance. The authors wrote that “it appears [mucuna][mucuna] seeds can be used for erectile dysfunction therapy, especially in patients with metabolic diseases including diabetes.” Researchers think it may be due to polyphenols found in the seed extract. Still, whatever the reason, it has been shown to improve sexual function.
Some research, largely in its infancy, has confirmed that mucuna can help heal poor digestion in the body. It has been widely used in Ayurvedic medicines for thousands of years to do just that. It smooths out digestion and helps with proper elimination through regular bowel movements. It also promotes balance in the body by keeping blood sugar levels in check as well as being a particularly nutrient dense supplement that helps keep the system moving effectively without constipation. In some cases, however, it has been shown to cause bloating.
It is a potent antioxidant
Antioxidants are responsible for many of the herb’s potential health benefits, according to research. A study published in the journal 3 Biotech confirms this. Researchers found that "this legume is considered for use as a future restorative herb because of its anti-cholesterolemic, anti-Parkinson, antioxidant, anti-diabetic, sexual enhancing, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antivenom activities.” The seeds of Mucuna pruriens contain alkaloids, glycosides, saponins, reducing sugars, and tannins, which make it worth exploring for a wide range of uses. The future is promising for mucuna and researchers are only beginning to see what it can do.
When your mood is better, you are more likely to eat well with less snacking and junk food. At least, this has been shown in animal models taking mucuna. A study published in the journal Molecules, found that mucuna showed anti-depressant activities in obese rats and at the same time, “supplementation reduced food intake, body weight, and thoracic and abdominal circumferences in obese rats.” Of course, this is not a human model, but it seemed like a fix for fat rats and it is not surprising because when you look good, you feel good.