Mucuna pruriens, often referred to as the dopamine bean due to its high levels of L-dopa, is a creeping vine that grows all over India—particularly in the tropics—and is also found in tropical regions of Africa and the Caribbean. This wonderful herb has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for over two thousand years and has been known to support a healthy central & peripheral nervous system, support the body’s ability to handle stress, support physical balance & posture, promote healthy motor skills & coordination, improve energy & endurance, support the intellect, bolster libido, and revitalize both the male & female reproductive systems.
Like Jack’s magic beans in the fairytale, mucuna beans are sometimes called “magical velvet beans”. For researchers, this magic refers to mucuna’s potential to improve a wide range of serious brain diseases. For some users, this bean’s magical properties span from its aphrodisiac effects, while others yet allude to their mild, simultaneous relaxant and stimulating effects on the brain.
Mucuna Helps in Production of Dopamine
Mucuna is a natural source of levodopa (L-dopa), an essential precursor of the neurotransmitter dopamine. 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. 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. L-dopa has been shown to improve cognitive function, increase testosterone levels and libido, improve mental alertness, and increase motivation.
The Use of Mucuna
In India, the seeds of Mucuna. pruriens have traditionally been used as a nervine tonic, and as an aphrodisiac for male virility. The pods are anthelmintic, and the seeds are anti-inflammatory. Powdered seeds possess anti-parkinsonism properties, possibly due to the presence of L-dopa. It is well known that dopamine is a neurotransmitter. The dopamine content in brain tissue is reduced when the conversion of tyrosine to L-dopa is blocked. L-Dopa, the precursor of dopamine, can cross the blood-brain barrier and undergo conversion to dopamine, restoring neurotransmission. Recent research on mucuna uncovered that it also boosts antioxidants and scavenges free radicals in the whole body.
Mucuna pruriens is originally from southern China and eastern India but is now cultivated throughout the tropics. In the Himalayas and Mauritius, both the green pods and the mature beans from Mucuna pruriens are traditionally boiled and eaten. In Guatemala and Mexico, it is roasted and ground to make a coffee substitute widely known in the region as “Nescafé.”
Aside from its L-dopa content, the velvet bean has a good nutritional value. Although a legume, it is easily digestible and rich in minerals, dietary proteins and essential amino acids, fatty acids such as linoleic acid, and starch. For those interested in naturally increasing their levels of energy, improving cognitive functioning, and supporting a healthy nervous system, Mucuna pruriens is truly a medicine worth investing in.