Mucuna is a tropical velvet bean native to Africa and parts of Asia that was at one time widely cultivated as a green vegetable crop. Its nutritional quotient makes it a viable source of dietary protein comparable to soybeans, rice beans, and lima beans.(1)
Not only is Mucuna pruriens a great addition to your diet, but it also has medicinal properties that have made it a staple in Ayurvedic medicine for generations.
- Mucuna pruriens has been a traditional staple before modern medicine.
- With a superior nutrition profile, mucuna is rich in protein and important vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, potassium, niacin and riboflavin, which are necessary micronutrients for energy metabolism.
- Mucuna is a natural source of L-Dopa, a precursor to the neurotransmitter dopamine, an important brain chemical involved in mood and movement.
The pods and leaves of the velvet bean have been used as a source of food and feed, respectively, by ethnic groups in Asia, Africa, and the Pacific Islands, where the plant was later naturalized. Mucuna also contains the vitamins niacin and riboflavin and a rich variety of minerals, including calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium. (2)
Medicinally, the plant and its extracts have been used as an antidote for snake venom (1). Mucuna is also used to support and may help promote healthy circulation in the body. However, it’s the pharmacological properties of M. pruriens that make it an interesting study. Let’s discuss.
Does Mucuna Pruriens Increase Dopamine?
The most significant compound found in the velvet bean plant is the amino acid levodopa (L-dopa), the precursor to dopamine. (1) L-dopa is a phytonutrient that can cross the blood-brain barrier to boost dopamine neurotransmission in the brain.
The human body uses dopamine to send messages between nerve cells and plays an essential role in how you think and feel. Dopamine is the "feel-good" hormone that causes pleasure and reward-seeking behavior. (3)
Under normal circumstances, dopamine is naturally released when your brain expects a reward. When you come to associate a certain activity with pleasure, even thinking about it may be enough to increase dopamine production. It could be shopping, eating, or scrolling social media – basically, anything you enjoy doing.
Dopamine also affects your behavior and physical functions and can affect cognition, memory, motivation, attention, and learning. It's a critical chemical involved in many body functions, including digestion, executive function, sleep, and stress response. Certain medical conditions and lifestyle factors can significantly affect the nervous system's ability to regulate dopamine resulting in a loss of pleasure in doing things you once found enjoyable, apathy, depression, and a lack of motivation. (3)
Mucuna has been shown to boost dopamine levels in the body. For this reason, L-dopa is useful in the management of Parkinson’s disease, a health condition that presents as a neurodegenerative movement disorder that results in a loss of dopamine neurons.(4) Due to the loss of dopamine neurons, people with Parkinson’s disease often suffer from anxiety, sleep disorders, and cognitive impairments. L-dopa has proven to be effective at reducing the symptoms of the disease and improving the overall life quality of patients. (5)
In healthy individuals, mucuna has an antidepressant effect and can help you maintain a healthy and productive mind.
How Much L-Dopa Is In Mucuna Pruriens?
Mucuna seeds have a concentration of about 3.1-6% L-dopa, earning the plant the name: “dopamine bean.” (2) The seeds also contain trace amounts of serotonin and nicotine. Due to the high concentration of L-dopa, the dopamine bean has an almost magical ability to improve motivation, energy levels, and feelings of wellbeing.
Taking mucuna supplements can also help you stay on task, as L-dopa has also been shown to boost learning and visual reaction time. One study, in particular, found that L-dopa could enhance new-word learning in adults. (6) Who knows, mucuna might just be the supplement you need to master Spanish on Duolingo.
In studies involving infertile men, treatment with mucuna improved their dopamine and adrenaline levels, restoring sperm count and motility. (7) As a result, extracts from Mucuna seeds can be used to fight stress-mediated infertility issues in men. That’s not to say it’s not useful for women. L-dopa may increase vitality in both men and women, resulting in increased stamina and energy levels, making it a great supplement if you've been feeling lethargic and down in the dumps.
How to Take Mucuna Pruriens
Mucuna beans need to be cooked and can be consumed whole. If you decide to try them, remember to wash the beans thoroughly and soak them for about 12 hours before cooking.
Mucuna beans are not readily available in grocery stores or most farmers markets. However, most people find that supplements are the easiest way to add this brain-boosting bean to your diet.
For more information about mucuna, please go here: Mucuna Pruriens Extract powder.
For more information about Limitless Mind, a brain health nootropics supplement that contains mucuna, please go here: Limitless Mind.
- Lampariello, L.R., Cortelazzo, A., Guerranti, R., Sticozzi, C. and Valacchi, G., 2012. The magic velvet bean of Mucuna pruriens. Journal of traditional and complementary medicine, 2(4), pp.331-339.
- Ravindran, V. and Ravindran, G., 1988. Nutritional and anti-nutritional characteristics of mucuna bean seeds. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 46(1), pp.71-79.
- Berke, J. D. (2018). What does dopamine mean?. Nature Neuroscience, 21(6), 787-793.
- Manyam, B.V., Dhanasekaran, M. and Hare, T.A., 2004. Neuroprotective effects of the antiparkinson drug Mucuna pruriens. Phytotherapy Research: An International Journal Devoted to Pharmacological and Toxicological Evaluation of Natural Product Derivatives, 18(9), pp.706-712.
- Rana, D. G., & Galani, V. J. (2014). Dopamine mediated antidepressant effect of Mucuna pruriens seeds in various experimental models of depression. Ayu, 35(1), 90.
- Poornachandra, M.N., Khanam, S., Shivananda, B.G., Shivananda, T.N. and Dris, R., 2005. Mucuna pruriens (L.) DC-A novel drug for learning and memory retrieval.
- Shukla, K.K., Mahdi, A.A., Ahmad, M.K., Jaiswar, S.P., Shankwar, S.N. and Tiwari, S.C., 2010. Mucuna pruriens reduces stress and improves the quality of semen in infertile men. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 7(1), pp.137-144.