Mucuna pruriens is an exotic looking plant found in the tropics of India, Africa and the Caribbean that is well known for its adaptogen properties. It is purported to be an aphrodisiac, anti-toxin (snake bite), improves libido in both sexes, treats some vaginal discharges and menorrhagia, supports muscle function, increases milk production in lactating women, improves brain dysfunction such as Parkinson’s, depression and sleeping disorders, and supports healthy digestion. For those of you into ayeureditics, Mucuna pruriens is said to bring about balance to all three doshas. Macuna pruriens shares similar properties with Gotu kola and Ginseng.

So, how does Mucuna pruriensaccomplish so many different functions. To start with this herb contains high concentrations of L-DOPA. L-DOPA is a precursor of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is an excitatory transmitter involved with the pleasure areas of the brain and reward. These areas are associated with the limbic and basal ganglia areas or what is known as the reptilian brain known for flight and fight responses and primitive sexual behaviors. Inadequate amounts of dopamine may allow for various types of addiction to develop. Dopamine is also known to release human Growth Hormone (hGH) from the pituitary important to growth and longevity and increase slightly the production of testosterone through the release of follicle stimulating hormone from the brain.

This becomes important as we age as our production of testosterone and hGH decreases. Behaviorally, this is observed as decreases in libido, fertility, weak muscles, fat deposits, osteoporosis, fatigue and the signs of aging throughout. This herb is also known to contain 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) which is the precursor of serotonin which is known as the feel good transmitter. Dopamine and serotonin often work synergistically to produce a sense of well being. Decreases in serotonin and dopamine can bring about depression and despair.

When rats have been given Mucuna pruriens, they increase the number of mounting behaviors and shorter times between mountings. It has been proposed that this herb decreases hypersensitivity in the genital area preventing premature ejaculation allowing for longer intimate encounters.

It has been suggested that Mucuna pruriens be administered to individuals suffering from various addictions and depression since it contains the precursors of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. Increasing the level of these transmitters even by a small amount allows individuals to overcome an addiction and elevates mood to bring about a sense of well being and motivation.

Recent studies on Mucuna pruriens and its anti-snake qualities have brought to light the underlying mechanism. First it must be known that you need to continually take this herb for it to be effective when you need it. How this works is that a component of the Mucuna pruriens extract (MPE) causes the immune system to make an anti-MPE immunoglobulin G that recognizes a number of snake venoms. In fact, anti-MPE binds to 2 different toxins, one being an enzyme and the other a neurotoxin known to be present in cobras which essentially neutralizes the venom’s effect.

Mucuna pruriens is an easy and safe way to elevate hGH and add precursors necessary to the increased production of feel good transmitters such as dopamine and serotonin. It has been reported that individuals who take this herb for long periods of time have increased levels of antioxidants that are naturally produced in your body known as superoxide dismutase, catalase, glutathione and vitamin C. Along with the slight increase in testosterone production providing for an increase in sex drive, fertility, lean muscle mass and increased energy, Mucuna certainly lives up to its name as an adaptogen.