Mucuna Pruriens is also known as Velvet Bean extract. It is an established herbal medicine, containing L-dopa, also known as levodopa, which is linked to improvements in nervous disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. Known as the magic Velvet Bean, powder from all parts of the plant are believed to have powerful medicinal properties.
Mucuna is a legume and is grown in tropical and sub-tropical regions in the world. Good news for growers is that the plant is a vigorous climber and is widely cultivated in China as a crop. It is one of the most popular green crops in tropical and sub-tropical areas because of its health and medical properties. In Asia and the Pacific Islands, it is cultivated as a vegetable rather than a nutritional supplement or a medicine. It is a high source of protein and dietary fibre, comparable to other pulses such as soybean, rice bean and lima bean. Therefore, before considering the amazing medical benefits of the extract, it is fair to say that this legume is a good source of nutrients. A super food in itself, it can be used in cooking.
Human contact with the Mucuna plant will end badly, as it results in a very itchy skin rash. Only the velvet bean varieties are non-stinging and have appressed, silky hairs rather than its pricklier cousin. It is the long, leathery pods that give this its name “Velvet Bean”, as the pods are covered in hair. The pods average 4 inches long and are shaped like a kidney, with each pod containing between 4 and 6 seeds.
However, many health experts suggest that Mucuna is better when taken with B6, or pyridoxine, which is the nutrient required for proper production and synthesis of neurotransmitters. Ayurvedic healers have used Mucuna alone for centuries but some people believe taking B6 at the same time increases Velvet Bean powder’s bioavailability and therefore its effectiveness. It is said that Velvet Bean extract should always contain at least 15% of L-dopa, if you are to believe that it is effective.
Mucuna Pruriens Benefits
Mucuna is an important herb from the Indian medical system called Ayurveda. These traditional people used muruna pruriens in the treatment of snake bites. They also believe it has widespread therapeutic properties, using it since 1500 BC to treat ailments such as intestinal disorders, sexual response and melancholy mood. However, the benefits far outstrip these most ancient of applications, including a boost to testosterone, a boost to libido, a means of slowing the onset of Parkinson’s disease, benefits for the skin and in the battle against diabetes and epilepsy. It is easy to see why this Velvet Bean extract is thought to be magical.
A Treatment for Parkinson’s Disease
The most modern applications of the Velvet Bean powder have been in support of brain health and stress management. Containing a high concentration of L-Dopa, Standardized Velvet Bean Extract is used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. Levadopa is a powerful neurotransmitter pre-cursor, important for the body’s ability to produce adrenaline, noradrenaline and dopamine.
L-dopa can pass the blood-brain barrier, which means it can increase levels of dopamine and therefore improve levels of cognition. Studies in animals seem to suggest that standardized Velvet Bean extract goes further in promoting health of the brain. It is an anti-oxidant, meaning it fights the creation of free radicals, which can cause electrons to lose oxygen and become unstable. This can particularly inflame the brain, which is a factor in brain degradation.
Parkinson’s disease is partly caused by a reduction of dopamine production. Many drugs have attempted to artificially replicate L-dopa, to supplement dopamine levels. Dopamine is essential for healthy motor skills and the proper function of the nervous system. The lack of dopamine in the mid-section of the brain causes the muscles to tense up and tremble, rather than relax.
Mucuna Prurians are claimed to have equivalent or even better results in trials, compared to synthetic levodopa. The natural Velvet Bean extract is also claimed to have less side effects than the pharmaceutical medicines, with a reduction of nausea, headaches and involuntary muscle movement. The mucuna seed powder, some experts claim, have significant advantages over conventional, synthetic Levadopa concoctions.
Nobody is suggesting that Mucuna Prurien is a cure for Parkinson’s disease but it is useful in helping people manage the symptoms of the condition. Scientists suggest that trials of the natural supplement are offering promising benefits over other more synthesised concoctions.
Help with Depression and Stress
Dopamine is a hormone closely related to mood. If a person struggles with particularly low levels of dopamine it results in depression – a perpetual state of low mood. Encouraging the adrenal system, Velvet Bean extract can help restore the parts of the brain that excretes dopamine into the body. Ayurvedic specialists go further, suggesting that the herb is “Vata dosha” or calming to the nervous system. The extract is suggested to work to tone and strengthen the nervous system and so help it perform more efficiently.
If the connection between low mood and Velvet Bean is seen as doubtful by some, experts still concede that it can help to regulate sleep. One of the major causes of mood disorders is insomnia or disturbed sleep patterns. Therefore, it is definitely beneficial to those who consistently struggle with depression.
More compelling, is the impact of Mucuna on the effects of stress. A study of 120 men who suffered from mental stress showed that this was relieved with the use of Mucuna. It is believed that the supplement reactivates the antioxidant defence systems, an essential means of your body maintaining homeostasis.
Studying the ancient methods of Ayurvedic medicine shows that Mucuna has a rich history of help with mental health. Medicine and science is only now realising the benefits of this herb in the treatment of the mind.
Promotes a higher libido in men and better fertility levels
Testosterone, the distinctly male hormone, is released in lower quantities when dopamine levels are low. And, vice versa: increase dopamine levels and the message is sent out to the Leydig cells in the testes to produce more testosterone. The end result is a higher sex drive after taking standardized velvet bean extract because your body is more tuned into helping you gain an erection.
A study in 2009 concluded that using Velvet Bean extract helps regulate steroidogenesis and therefore improves the quality of semen in infertile men. This means that the activity of sperm in semen is higher and therefore the level of fertility in men rises as a consequence. Animal studies have shown results of a ten-fold increase in the mounting behaviour of male rats. The scientists also noted a shortened recovery time between ejaculation.
It is also worth knowing that Mucuna Pruriens can be used as a treatment for anorgasmia in women. This is the inability of a female to have an orgasm. Therefore, the extract can help both man and woman during sexual activity.
Recovery from addiction
When the body is put under significant stress, such as when taking illegal drugs or excessive alcohol consumption, the dopamine levels in the body deplete. This means that drug addicts and alcoholics show signs of restlessness and the jitters. This in turn continues to damage neurotransmitter in the brain and the cycle of degeneration continues.
As part of a medical regime for addiction withdrawal, Mucuna can help to restore healthy neuron synapsis and help restore normal adrenal production.
Improved results from body building
More than 50% of the Velvet Bean is protein. Protein allows for the faster recovery of muscle after training, so on this level alone the extract is a useful supplement for body builders. However, the extract also naturally stimulates HGH (human growth hormone) and therefore helps the body grow muscle quicker. This mimics the effects of steroid-like performance enhancers, without the possible negative effects on the body from taking other stimulants. As you are helping your body create its own HGH, it is unlikely that the levels will become unnaturally high, as can happen with more chemical based HGH.
The impact of age on the body is most keenly felt in the production of hormones. As we grow older our body stops making hormones as efficiently or counters the impact of some hormones, to facilitate a gentler physicality on the older body. So, for instance, after 30, men’s bodies begin to naturally turn testosterone to estrogen. This can have the effect of hair loss, loss of sex drive and even impotency. It is the body’s way of calming the urges of the body to combat increased physical decline.
However, there is no need to accept these changes to the body. Dopamine works in companionship with testosterone. Generally, the more dopamine you produce the more testosterone you produce. This means Velvet Bean extract can counter the change of testosterone to estrogen and therefore give you the energy of youth for much longer. This means you are more likely to keep your hair and you are less likely to lose your sex drive as you grow older.
Helps manage blood sugar levels and blood pressure
There has been a lot of talk by scientists about the possible benefits of Standardized Velvet Bean Extract in the management of diabetes and the lowering of blood pressure in those suffering with hypertension. However, more note that there needs to be more studies to be able to rate the effectiveness of Velvet Bean powder in the management of these conditions.
Mucuna Pruriens Side Effects
In medicine, the risks of side effects of a medication are rated against the benefits to the patient. When you consider that most levodopa synthetics are known to likely cause severe nausea and some loss of motor control, it seems a better option to go with the natural supplement. There are some reports that Mucuna can cause slight nausea and bloating. Severe nausea is seen as rare, as are motor control problems. Therefore, the balance of risk and reward is certainly in the favour of the herbal supplement.
The supplement also includes small doses of psychotropic compounds. These should certainly not be high enough to cause mental disturbance. However, some people prone to such episodes might wish to show caution when taking the supplement. These people might struggle with headaches and there have been rare reports of hallucinations and delusions.
The Standardized Velvet Bean Extract cause little problem for most taken on a twenty-week course. Some medics suggest that some of these side effects are more likely to occur after long term exposure. However, the raw form of the bean, if in contact with the skin, will always cause irritation – so buying the supplement as Velvet Bean supplement is advised. You certainly don’t want to experience the severe burning itch that comes from being in contact with the velvety hairs!
Remember that ancient Indian tribes use this as a medicine, therefore we should respect the power of this supplement on that level. Time is often a better testament to an herbs impact than scientific studies that might have vested interest in proving chemical formulations to be more effective.
Mucuna Prurien or Velvet Bean has been called magical and a superfood. You can see the point – both an excellent source of protein and dietary fibre, added to which it induces the output of our happy hormone, dopamine. It is an ancient medicinal extract that has been used for centuries for mood disorders and for problems with libido. Although we often worship at the feet of science and technology, sometimes history and the test of time should be seen as the best test. This supplement could revolutionise the life of people who would have quickly deteriorated at the hands of Parkinson’s. It could ensure men can enjoy a full and happy life into older age and that people who struggle with mood can embrace contentment. This is an absolute wonder supplement and should certainly be part of people’s lives.