Mucuna is a type of bean that is a star for its many possible health benefits due to its antioxidant effects and its high L-dopamine content.
Also known as the magic velvet bean, Mucuna pruriens has been used since 1500 b.c in Ayurvedic medicine.
Commonly mistaken for an herb, Mucuna is not an herb; it’s actually a type of legume or bean.
In some parts of the world, Mucuna is an established medicine as an aphrodisiac and is used to treat neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease. Many experts consider it an adaptogen, which supports balance in the body.
Take-aways from this post-
Mucuna pruriens benefits may include:
- Supporting healthy fertility
- Increasing dopamine in your body
- Giving people a sense of well-being
- Reducing stress hormones
- Nootropic effects
Mucuna’s Many Names
This wild legume, or bean, grows in tropical regions of the world, such as China and India, and belongs to a class of over 150 beans called Papilionaceae [R].
Other common names for Mucuna include velvet bean, magic velvet bean, dopa bean, cowitch, and cowhage.
Some mucuna varieties are smooth and some have hairs that are very itchy!
The velvet bean is used as a food source in many parts of the world due to its high protein content.
However, it must be boiled multiple times to remove its anti-nutritional factors like trypsin inhibitors, tannins, phytate, and lectins. Other methods to reduce these anti-nutrients is to roast the beans.
Like many other beans, mucunas are a great source of protein and amino acids. Mucuna’s flavor is also very mild.
Mucuna is roasted and used as a coffee substitute as well.
Keep in mind, the boiling process destroys its dopamine content.
Roasting mucuna appears to keep the dopamine content intact.
Mucuna Pruriens Benefits as Medicine
The magic mucuna bean contains many beneficial compounds including:
- Amino acids
- Linoleic acid
- Linolenic acid
Collectively, these compounds demonstrate anti-venom, anti-diabetic, antimicrobial, nerve enhancing, and fertility benefits.
How Does Mucuna Help Us?
Mucuna beans support many aspects of health. Take the following as examples:
- Hormones: Mucuna also helps normalize hormones, such as adrenalin, luteinizing hormone, prolactin, noradrenaline, and testosterone.
- Nerve energy: Mucuna also may help restore levels of NADH, mitochondrial complexes, and coenzyme Q10, all-important for nerve health.
- Neurotransmitters: Neurotransmitters may also improve with the use of mucuna. These neurotransmitters include levodopa, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin.
- This was demonstrated from animal work where these nerve factors were increased in the brain region called the substantia nigra [R].
- Inflammation: Mucuna may reduce inflammation in the body by reducing a compound called NF-kB [R].
Supplemental mucuna increased blood dopamine levels compared to placebo in men struggling with fertility [R]. Dopamine from Mucuna beans may also cross the blood-brain barrier.
Why is Dopamine Important?
Many people seek dopamine because it makes them feel better. If you have depression, mood disorders, or other severe neurological disorders like Parkinson’s, you also may have low dopamine levels.
Dopamine functions to keep us happy and motivated. It also protects neurons because it is an antioxidant.
Fertility and Libido
Mucuna beans have a long track record for their use in supporting healthy reproduction and in supporting sex drive as an aphrodisiac.
Research supports mucuna’s effectiveness for these purposes. Here is the research we have so far.
When men struggle with fertility, they often have a low sperm count. Mucuna appears to boost sperm count. What evidence do we have?
- In a research study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 60 men were given 5 grams mucuna seed powder or placebo.
- Mucuna was able to reduce stress and improve semen peroxide levels as well as increase sperm count.
- Antioxidant levels improved, including superoxide dismutase, catalase, glutathione and vitamin C levels [R].
Sperm count also improved in a randomized trial of 150 men with infertility and normal fertility, particularly in infertile men [R].
Another study found mucuna effective in increasing sperm count in men undergoing infertility screening [R].
Mucuna pruriens benefits may extend to sperm motility.
Clinical study has shown that mucuna at 5 grams per day increased sperm motility in infertile men of average weight [R].
150 men demonstrated improved sperm motility when receiving mucuna in another study as well [R].
Mucuna beans may improve testosterone too. Men with infertility got a boost in testosterone levels when given mucuna-it worked better than placebo [R].
Yet another study of 60 infertile men found that mucuna powder improved testosterone levels [R].
So many men reach for expensive drugs that have risks when looking to improve libido.
Can mucuna help?
No human studies have directly measured whether mucuna improves libido, but several animal studies support this benefit [R]. The potential benefit to libido could be due to improved neurological and hormonal levels, including testosterone.
Nerve Benefits of Mucuna
The most well-known use for mucuna beans is in nerve conditions like Parkinson’s disease.
Emerging research is showing benefits for other conditions, such as ADHD and mood disorders.
Mucuna appears to be neuroprotective in early work [R]. This is called a nootropic effect.
This velvet bean may also increase serotonin levels to balance mood [R].
Several small studies have found positive results of using mucuna pruriens in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. Here is what they found:
A small, but very promising clinical trial found that mucuna powder was as effective or more effective than carbidopa/levodopa in 18 patients with Parkinson’s disease [R]. Mucuna had fewer side effects like dyskinesias and fewer adverse effects than treatment with carbidopa/levodopa in this study.
Mucuna pruriens benefits for Parkinson’s disease were demonstrated in another small study. Mucuna worked faster and worked for a longer duration than levodopa/carbidopa. Mucuna increased dopamine levels more so than the drug combination as well [R].
The latest study using Mucuna in Parkinson’s disease found it as effective as a standard treatment but was limited by digestive side effects in some people [R].
Bonus: mucuna may protect nerves from further damage as well. Mucuna antioxidant effects are likely the reason that mucuna seems to have benefits beyond certain drug therapies [R].
So many people struggle with lack of focus and brain fog.
Can Mucuna help with focus?
By increasing dopamine, it is also possible that mucuna beans increase focus. In a study about ADHD, children received a combination of mucuna with vitamins and minerals.
Findings: 77 percent of children had improvement in ADHD symptoms by the end of 10 weeks in this study. While this study wasn’t randomized, it is definitely an intriguing potential therapy if further studies confirm these findings [R].
Mucuna benefits may extend to performance-it improves the sense of well-being.
By helping normalize hormones and neurotransmitters, mucuna may also help with mental and physical performance by reducing inflammation and stabilizing neuron health [R].
Dopamine is involved in muscle movements, mood, and memory, so mucuna may very well enhance performance in people with low dopamine levels [R].
As you may recall, Mucuna increases NADH and coenzyme Q10. These two substances enhance energy as well.
Dopamine is important for a healthy mood. Some people with mood disorders suffer from low dopamine levels. While research is still quite early for using mucuna for mood disorders like depression, mucuna holds a lot of promise.
- In mice, mucuna bean extract had antidepressant effects [R].
- Mucuna reduces psychological stress in men with infertility [R].
- Protects brain tissue from the toxic effects of excess glucose in mice [R].
Other Potential Benefits
Mucuna pruriens benefits may include the following conditions, but more research is needed:
- Diabetes (insulin-mimetic effect of d-chiro-inositol)
- Snake bites
- Skin conditions like eczema and dermatitis
Mucuna side effects and risks
Mucuna beans contain cyanogenic glycosides, which at high levels, can cause cyanide toxicity.
Fortunately, these beans contain far below any toxic level of cyanide, so they do not pose a risk for cyanide poisoning [R].
Supplemental mucuna powder is very unlikely a cause of side effects. Eating more than 15-30 grams a day for 12-20 weeks was very safe, according to Examine.com [R].
Improper preparation of these beans may lead to side effects like digestive distress.
Mucuna does contain dopamine and some people do not need more of this neurotransmitter. Always check with your doctor before starting any supplement, including mucuna.
Excessive dopamine has been linked to [R]:
- Impulse control problems
- Binge eating
- Addictive behaviors
Some websites claim that mucuna may be harmful in conditions like schizophrenia or in people with heart issues. L-dopamine actually has beneficial effects in people with schizophrenia on current drug therapies [R].
Caution should be used in people with heart arrhythmias [R].
The hairs on Mucuna pruriens flowers and seeds are very itchy; do not use mucuna unless it is boiled or roasted.
Context of Risk
Other foods, even bananas, contain dopamine.
We wouldn’t dream of worrying about eating bananas for this reason. I don’t worry about eating mucuna either unless doing so every day or in large amounts.
Keep in perspective the risks and benefits of everything you do.
Do not take mucuna supplements if you are on the following medications:
- Monamine oxidase inhibitors
- Tricyclic antidepressants
- Glaucoma medications
How to Supplement
When supplementing mucuna, make sure to look for roasted mucuna beans.
Because mucuna beans are food, there is no upper limit of safety for mucuna supplements.
Mucuna dosage: Studies typically use doses between 5-30 grams of mucuna per day. Mucuna powder is often used in supplements, but you can also find mucuna extracts.
Lower doses also seem effective, according to many reviews.
Use common sense: as a food, you likely wouldn’t be eating mucuna beans every day, so if you are using mucuna for general health, you probably don’t need to supplement it every day either.
Best Mucuna Pruriens Supplements
Personally, I like blends of adaptogens instead of singular ones.
- Mucuna blends: My favorite blend with Mucuna is called Cacao Elixir. It contains maca, mucuna, raw cacao, ashwaganda, Chaga, spirulina, and hemp protein. You can find it here.
- Mucuna Powder: For an organic mucuna powder, Microingredients is a high-quality choice without fillers or additives. Many people feel like it improves their sleep quality and restless legs syndrome in addition to mood and sexual benefits. You can find it here. I like powders because you can mix them into foods and smoothies and sip on them slowly.
- Mucuna capsules: Some people don’t like to mix and fuss with powders, so mucuna capsules are a nice alternative. I recommend buying organic mucuna capsules. A good one is Naturebell. It contains 1 gram of mucuna per serving and it is highly rated. You can find it here.
Mucuna pruriens benefits the body due to its high dopamine and antioxidant levels. It may help support nerve health, mood, sexual health, and may even be helpful in treating disorders like Parkinson’s disease.
Make sure to try small amounts first to make sure your digestive system tolerates it and always choose boiled or roasted varieties to reduce digestive side effects.
Try blends of mucuna with other adaptogen herbs for a balanced effect on your body. Like this post? Please share on social media like Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter!