Getting a sufficient amount of quality sleep is incredibly important for your health and well-being. Sleep is an essential function that allows your mind and body to recharge and can help to improve your productivity, learning, memory, and decision-making. Sleep deprivation is associated with decreased immune function, decreased productivity, and an increased likelihood of obesity.
Unfortunately, modern-day living tends to get in the way of sleep, whether it’s because of stress that leads to insomnia or technological advancements that impact the quality of sleep. As a result, sedatives and hypnotics rank among the 20 most widely used prescription medicines in the world(1).
Even though it’s recommended to stop using electronic devices at least 30 minutes before going to bed, many people are unable to do so. It’s not advisable to use sleeping pills to help you get to sleep because of their negative side effects. These are some reasons why so many people are looking for natural remedies to improve their sleep quantity and quality.
Mucuna pruriens, or velvet bean, has been shown to be one of the best natural sleep aids available. Mucuna is a climbing legume that is native to southern China and eastern India, but is now being cultivated in much of the world. It has a long history in Ayurvedic medicine as a sleep agent.
How Long Does It Take for DOPA Mucuna To Work?
If you’re taking Mucuna pruriens to enhance sleep quality, the best time to take it is about 30 minutes before bedtime. Mucuna pruriens contains an amino acid called levodopa (L-dopa), an active component needed for your brain to produce dopamine.
Mucuna starts working immediately after ingestion, but it takes approximately 30 minutes after consumption for L-dopa levels to peak in the bloodstream(2).
Healthy levels of dopamine result in improved memory and focus, while low levels can have adverse physical and psychological impacts, including decreased sleep quality. The benefits of consuming L-dopa include enhanced sleep, improved mood, and reduced stress. Due to its dopamine-enhancing activity, Mucuna is used in the treatment of Parkinson's disease to improve the life and sleep quality of patients.
The Role of the Pineal Gland in Sleep
The pineal gland also has receptors for dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays a critical role in the sleep-wake cycle. In addition to enhancing dopamine levels in the body, mucuna has other neuro-restorative qualities as it helps balance norepinephrine and serotonin levels. Norepinephrine and serotonin also play a role in the sleep-wake cycle, including increasing melatonin.
Research shows Mucuna Increases Dopamine and Improves Deep Sleep
Several studies have shown that Mucuna improves sleep quality in people with sleep difficulties(1,3). L-dopa stimulates the production of growth hormone, which is closely related to deep, slow-wave sleep. As a result, consuming Mucuna just before bed can improve sleep quality and help you get the recommended amount of sleep. Additionally, the small boost in dopamine can raise your mood a little, helping you wake up more relaxed and with more energy.
Other healthful benefits of Mucuna pruriens include improved learning, increased motivation, reduced anxiety, and enhanced endurance. For these reasons, Mucuna can also be used to boost exercise performance and to enhance feelings of general well-being(2).
Does Mucuna Have Any Side Effects?
Mucuna is a safe supplement for most people, though it may have some minor side effects for a small percentage of the population. The most common side effects are nausea and a feeling of abdominal bloating(4).
Mucuna is not recommended for:
- Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding
- Individuals with heart disease or other cardiovascular conditions
- People with diabetes or those prone to hypoglycemia
- People with liver disease
Mucuna is available as a stand-alone supplement that can be mixed with water, juice, yogurt, added to a smoothie or infused into a tea. Mucuna is also an ingredient in Lean Factor’s Peak Male for men, EmpowHER for women, and the Nootropic Brain Booster, Limitless Mind.
- McCarthy CG, Alleman RJ, Bell ZW, Bloomer RJ. A dietary supplement containing Chlorophytum borivilianum and velvet bean improves sleep quality in men and women. Integrative medicine insights. 2012 Jan;7:IMI-S9720.
- Verma SC, Vashishth E, Singh R, Pant P, Padhi MM. A review on phytochemistry and pharmacological activity of parts of Mucuna Pruriens used as an ayurvedic medicine. World Journal of Pharmaceutical Research. 2014 May 24;3(5):138-58.
- Deokar G, Kakulte H, Kshirsagar S. Phytochemistry and pharmacological activity of Mucuna pruriens: A review. Pharmaceutical and Biological Evaluations. 2016;3(1):50-9.
- Cilia R, Laguna J, Cassani E, Cereda E, Raspini B, Barichella M, Pezzoli G. Daily intake of Mucuna pruriens in advanced Parkinson's disease: a 16-week, noninferiority, randomized, crossover, pilot study. Parkinsonism & related disorders. 2018 Apr 1;49:60-6.