Mucuna pruriens is the Latin name for a creeping vine that grows all over India—particularly in the tropics—and is also found in tropical regions of Africa and the Caribbean.1, 2 Even across different languages, many names for Mucuna pruriens refer to a velvet coating of hairs that cover its seedpods and that, if touched, can cause severe itching and irritation of the skin. Mucuna pruriens is well known by two Sanskrit names, Kapikacchu, which means "one starts itching like a monkey" and Atmagupta, which means "secret self," and hints at the therapeutic value of the seed concealed within the allergenic seedpod.3, 1 In English, the common name for this plant is Cowhage. Banyan offers Mucuna pruriens as Kapikacchu. Mucuna pruriens has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for over two thousand years. There are traditional uses for the root and the trichomes (the irritating hairs themselves), but it is the seed of Mucuna pruriens that is most often employed therapeutically.3 There are actually two varieties of seeds—one black and one white.1
Benefits of Mucuna pruriens
- Supports a healthy central & peripheral nervous system*
- Supports the body’s ability to handle stress*
- Is a natural source of levodopa (L-dopa)*
- Supports physical balance & posture*
- Promotes healthy motor skills & coordination*
- Improves energy & endurance*
- Supports the intellect*
- Bolsters libido*
- Revitalizes both the male & female reproductive systems*
Mucuna pruriens is useful in disorders of a tridoshic origin—those that involve vata, pitta, and kapha—but it is most balancing to vata and pitta. It is a very building herb, one that promotes muscle mass, body weight and can increase kapha.3, 1 Mucuna pruriens is primarily sweet and bitter, and is quite warming. It has an affinity for all of the tissues in the body, but is especially suited to balance the nervous, reproductive, and digestive systems.1
Mucuna pruriens for the Nervous System
Mucuna pruriens has a profoundly balancing and restorative effect on the entire nervous system, particularly when excess vata has accumulated in majja dhatu (the nervous tissue).1 The heavy, oily qualities of the seeds speak directly to the nervous system, and lend strength to any weakened areas of the body, even enhancing the intellect.1 In fact, the seeds of Mucuna pruriens are considered a tonic specific to neurons.3 Energizing, revitalizing, and nourishing, Mucuna pruriens is often taken with milk and honey to enhance its restorative nature.1 Mucuna pruriens can minimize the effects of stress while supporting the body’s natural physical balance and good posture, a healthy gait, as well as fluid muscular movements, proper sensation, coordination, and keen motor skills. It is also widely known that Mucuna pruriens contains naturally occurring levodopa (L-dopa), which is an essential precursor of the neurotransmitter dopamine.2 Dopamine has many functions in the brain and in the nervous system as a whole; it plays an important role in behavior, cognition, voluntary movement, sleep, mood, working memory, and learning.4 And, even though dopamine has been synthesized and can be administered directly, L-dopa reaches the central nervous system more readily and is actually more effective in supporting a body with already healthy dopamine levels.4
Mucuna pruriens for the Reproductive System
In Ayurveda, different parts of plants are seen to work on different tissues in the body. Not surprisingly, fruits and seeds correlate with the reproductive system and the seeds of Mucuna pruriens are revered as one of the best reproductive tonics for men and women alike.1 Mucuna pruriens is an aphrodisiac, bolstering healthy sexual energy and libido.1 It also supports normal fertility, healthy sperm and ova, proper functioning of the reproductive organs, and appropriate genital secretions.1, 3 In truth, Mucuna pruriens supports every aspect of shukra dhatu (the reproductive tissue)—in this case, referring to both men and women.1
Mucuna pruriens for the Digestive System
Because it promotes smooth muscle contractions and ushers in a spreading quality, Mucuna pruriens can help foster healthy digestive function and promote proper elimination.1 Mucuna pruriens is also thought to support healthy blood sugar levels.5 In addition, the seeds are considered to be highly nutritive, with qualities similar to other commonly consumed legumes.6, 7
How to Use Mucuna pruriens
Because taste plays such an important role in the digestive process and signals the body to initiate its own supportive mechanisms, Ayurveda traditionally recommends tasting herbs. Banyan Botanicals makes Mucuna pruriens available in a powdered form and as a liquid extract, and it is also a key ingredient in a several herbal tablets:
Mucuna pruriens Powder
Mucuna pruriens powder offers the full experience of tasting the herb and also provides the most economical option for purchasing it. A typical dose of the powder is ¼–½ teaspoon, once or twice daily, or as directed by your healthcare practitioner. Mucuna pruriens powder can be taken with water, milk, ghee, honey or another anupan (carrier substance), which acts as a medium for delivering the herb to its intended destination and can enhance its effect.1 To learn more about anupans and how they work, see the Ayurveda's Carrier Substances guide.
Mucuna pruriens is available as a tablet and several of Banyan’s herbal tablets combine Mucuna pruriens with a blend of equally supportive herbs. Herbal tablets offer a more convenient way to take Mucuna pruriens, especially for those who are frequently traveling or on the go. The tablets also provide a nice alternative for those who find the taste of a particular herb a deterrent to taking it. Banyan provides herbs in a tablet form (rather than a capsule) because tablets offer a sample of the taste, allowing the digestive process to receive appropriate signals about what you are about to ingest and inviting the body to initiate other healing mechanisms. A typical dose is one to two tablets, once or twice daily, or as directed by your healthcare practitioner. Tablets including Mucuna pruriens are Healthy Vata, Men’s Support, and Stress Ease.
Few adverse effects have been reported in clinical studies involving Mucuna pruriens seed powder.6 In one open study involving a derivative of Mucuna pruriens, mild adverse effects—primarily of a gastrointestinal nature—were reported.6 In combination with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), levodopa (a constituent of Mucuna pruriens) may cause high blood pressure.6 Contact with the hairs on Mucuna pruriens flowers and seedpods can cause severe itching.6
Mucuna pruriens should be avoided in cases of high ama (toxicity), congestion, or in acute conditions.1 It should be used with care during pregnancy and while breast-feeding because it may affect the secretion of prolactin.6 Avoid if there are known allergies to Mucuna pruriens, its constituents, or other members of the Fabaceae (pea) family.6 Mucuna pruriens should also be avoided in patients with psychosis, or schizophrenia.6 Because of the potential for additive effects or interaction, use caution in patients who are diabetic and on medication or who are taking anticoagulants, antiplatelets, antidepressant agents, levodopa, dopamine, dopamine agonists, dopamine antagonists, or dopamine reuptake inhibitors.6 If you are taking prescription medication of any kind, it is always best to check with your doctor before introducing an herbal regimen.
Buying Mucuna pruriens
You can find Mucuna pruriens in a several Banyan products:
- Kapikacchu Powder (powdered Mucuna pruriens)
- Mucunu Pruriens liquid extract
- Healthy Vata
- Men’s Support
- Stress Ease
When purchasing Mucuna pruriens and products containing this herb, there are a number of questions to consider that will help you to evaluate the quality of the herbs, the values upheld by the company that produced them, and the price of the product in relation to its quality.
1 Pole, Sebastian. Ayurvedic Medicine: The Principles of Traditional Practice. Churchill Livingston Elsevier, 2006. 77, 206.
2 “Mucuna pruriens.” Wikipedia. Online. 5 Apr. 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mucuna_pruriens
3 Gogte, Vaidya V. M. Ayurvedic Pharmacology & Therapeutic Uses of Medicinal Plants. Reprint. Chaukhambha Publications, 2009. 329-330.
4 “Dopamine.” Wikipedia. Online. 10 Apr. 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dopamine
5 Grover, J.K., S. Yadav, and V. Vats. “Medicinal Plants of India With Anti-Diabetic Potential.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 81.1 (2002): 81-100. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12020931?dopt=Abstract
6 “Cowhage (Mucuna pruriens).” Natural Standard: Professional Monograph. Online. 10 Apr. 2012. http://www.naturalstandard.com/databases/herbssupplements/cowhage.asp
7 Vadivel, V. and K. Janardhanan. “Nutritional and Anti-Nutritional Composition of Velvet Bean: An Under-Utilized Food Legume in South India.” International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition. 51.4 (2000): 279-287. Online. PubMed. 11 Apr. 2012. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11027039?dopt=Abstract