Mucuna pruriens

From The Lycaeum
Jump to: navigation, search
Mucuna pruriens
File:Mucuna pruriens flower.jpg
Mucuna pruriens inflorescence
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Faboideae
Tribe: Phaseoleae
Genus: Mucuna
Species: M. pruriens
Binomial name
Mucuna pruriens
(L.) DC.

Many, see text

Mucuna pruriens is a tropical legume known as velvet bean and by other common names (see below), native to Africa and Asia and widely naturalized.[1] The plant is notorious for the extreme itchiness it produces on contact, particularly with the young foliage and the seed pods. It has value in agricultural and horticultural use and has a range of medicinal properties.


File:Mucuna pruriens RHS.jpeg
Mucuna pruriens flowers (colored engraving)

The plant is an annual, climbing shrub with long vines that can reach over 15 m in length. When the plant is young, it is almost completely covered with fuzzy hairs, but when older, it is almost completely free of hairs. The leaves are tripinnate, ovate, reverse ovate, rhombus-shaped or widely ovate. The sides of the leaves are often heavily grooved and the tips are pointy. In young M.pruriens plants, both sides of the leaves have hairs. The stems of the leaflets are two to three millimeters long. Additional adjacent leaves are present and are about 5 mm long.

The flower heads take the form of axially arrayed panicles. They are 15 to 32 cm long and have two or three, or many flowers. The accompanying leaves are about 12.5 mm long, the flower stand axes are from 2.5 to 5 mm. The bell is 7.5 to 9 mm long and silky. The sepals are longer or of the same length as the shuttles. The crown is purplish or white. The flag is 1.5 mm long. The wings are 2.5 to 3.8 cm long.

In the fruit ripening stage, a 4 to 13 cm-long, 1 to 2 cm-wide, unwinged, leguminous fruit develops. There is a ridge along the length of the fruit. The husk is very hairy and carries up to seven seeds. The seeds are flattened uniform ellipsoids, 1 to 1.9 cm long, 0.8 to 1.3 cm wide and 4 to 6.5 cm thick. The hilum, the base of the funiculus (connection between placenta and plant seeds) is a surrounded by a significant arillus (fleshy seed shell).

M.pruriens bears white, lavender, or purple flowers. Its seed pods are about 10 cm long[2] and are covered in loose, orange hairs that cause a severe itch if they come in contact with skin. The chemical compounds responsible for the itch are a protein, mucunain and serotonin.[3] The seeds are shiny black or brown drift seeds.

The dry weight of the seeds is 55 to 85 g/100 seeds.[4]


Mucuna pruriens seeds of two different colors
Mucuna pruriens seed pod

In many parts of the world, Mucuna pruriens is used as an important forage, fallow and green manure crop.[5] Since the plant is a legume, it fixes nitrogen and fertilizes soil.

M. pruriens is a widespread fodder plant in the tropics. To that end, the whole plant is fed to animals as silage, dried hay or dried seeds. M. pruriens silage contains 11-23% crude protein, 35-40% crude fiber, and the dried beans 20-35% crude protein. It also has use in the countries of Benin and Vietnam as a biological control for problematic Imperata cylindrica grass.[5] M. pruriens is said to not be invasive outside its cultivated area.[5] However, the plant is known to be invasive within conservation areas of South Florida, where it frequently invades disturbed land and rockland hammock edge habitats.

M. pruriens is sometimes used as a coffee substitute called "Nescafe" (not to be confused with the commercial brand Nescafé). Cooked fresh shoots or beans can also be eaten. This requires that they be soaked from at least 30 minutes to 48 hours in advance of cooking, or the water changed up to several times during cooking, since otherwise the plant can be toxic to humans. The above described process leaches out phytochemical compounds such as levodopa, making the product more suitable for consumption. If consumed in large quantities as food, unprocessed M. pruriens is toxic to non-ruminant mammals, including humans.

Traditional medicine

The seeds of Mucuna pruriens have been used for treating many dysfunctions in Tibb-e-Unani (Unani Medicine), the traditional system of medicine of Indo-Pakistan Subcontinent.[6] It is also used in Ayurvedic medicine.

The plant and its extracts have been long used in tribal communities as a toxin antagonist for various snakebites. Research on its effects against Naja spp. (cobra),[7] Echis (Saw scaled viper),[8] Calloselasma (Malayan Pit viper) and Bangarus (Krait) [9] have shown it has potential use in the prophylactic treatment of snakebites.

Dried leaves of M. pruriens are sometimes smoked.[2]

It has long been used in traditional Ayurvedic Indian medicine for diseases including Parkinson's disease.[10]


The hairs lining the seed pods and the small spicules on the leaves contain 5-hydroxytryptamine (serotonin) which cause severe itching (pruritus) when touched.[11][12] The calyx below the flowers is also a source of itchy spicules and the stinging hairs on the outside of the seed pods are used in itching powder.[13] Water should not be used if contact occurs, as it only dilutes the chemical. Also, one should avoid scratching the exposed area since this causes the hands to transfer the chemical to all other areas touched. Once this happens, one tends to scratch vigorously and uncontrollably and for this reason the local populace in northern Mozambique refer to the beans as the mad beans (feijões malucos). They use raw, unrefined moist tobacco to treat the itching. In India, the application of cow dung is very effective to treat the itching caused by the spicules of this herb.

Medical research

M. pruriens contains L-DOPA, a precursor to the neurotransmitter dopamine and formulations of the seed powder have been studied for the management and treatment of Parkinson's disease.[10][14][15][16]

In large amounts (e.g. 30 g dose), it has been shown to be as effective as pure levodopa/carbidopa in the treatment of Parkinson's disease, but no data on long-term efficacy and tolerability are available.[10]


In addition to levodopa, it contains minor amounts of serotonin (5-HT), 5-HTP, nicotine, N,N-DMT (DMT), bufotenine, and 5-MeO-DMT. As such, it could potentially have psychedelic effects, and it has purportedly been used in ayahuasca preparations.[17]

The mature seeds of the plant contain about 3.1–6.1% L-DOPA,[11] with trace amounts of 5-hydroxytryptamine (serotonin), nicotine, DMT-n-oxide, bufotenine, 5-MeO-DMT-n-oxide, and beta-carboline.[18] One study using 36 samples of the seeds found no tryptamines present in them.[19]

The leaves contain about 0.5% L-DOPA, 0.006% dimethyltryptamine (DMT), 0.0025% 5-MeO-DMT and 0.003% DMT n-oxide.[20]

The ethanolic extract of leaves of Mucuna pruriens possesses anticataleptic and antiepileptic effect in albino rats. Dopamine and serotonin may have a role in such activity.[21]

Nomenclature and taxonomy

Common names

  • Bieh in the Madurese language
  • Ci mao li dou 刺毛黧豆 in Chinese
  • Nasagunnikaayi ([ನಸಗೂನ್ಣೆಕಾಯಿ]) in Kannada
  • Kara benguk in the Javanese language
  • Atmagupta (आत्मगुप्ता) or Kapikacchu (कपिकच्छु) in Sanskrit
  • Kiwanch (किवांच) or Konch (कोंच) in Hindi
  • Khaajkuiri in Marathi
  • Alkushi/আলকুশি (Bengali)
  • Poonaikkaali {பூனைக்காலி) in Tamil
  • Velvet bean, Cowhage, Cowitch, Donkey eye, monkey tamarind, and Buffalo beans in English (the last also refers to Thermopsis rhombifolia)
  • Juckbohne (German: "itch bean")[2]
  • Fogareté (Dominican Republic); Picapica (everywhere), in Spanish
  • Kapikachu
  • Werepe or YerepeYoruba
  • "Devil Beans" (Nigeria) in English
  • Duradagondi(దురదగొండి) in Telugu
  • Feijão maluco, "mad bean" (Angola and Mozambique); pó-de-mico, "itching powder", feijão-da-flórida, "Florida's bean", feijão-cabeludo-da-índia, "hairy/pilous Indian bean", feijão-de-gado, "cattle's bean", feijão-mucuna, "mucuna bean", feijão-veludo, "velvet bean", and mucuna-vilosa, "fleecy mucuna" (Brazil and Portugal), in Portuguese
  • Chitedze (Malawi)
  • Naykuruna (ML:നായ്ക്കുരണ) (Malayalam)
  • Mah mui (TH: หมามุ่ย) in Thai language
  • Đậu mèo rừng, đậu ngứa, móc mèo in Vietnamese language
  • Kavach beej
  • Inyelekpe (Nigeria) in Igala
  • Upupu in Kiswahili
  • Baidanka in Oriya
  • Pois mascate (Reunion Island) in French
  • Wandhuru Mæ in Sinhala
  • Kway lee yerr thee in Myanmar
  • Agbala (Nigeria) in Ibo
  • "Bandar Kekowa" (বান্দৰ কেকোঁৱা) in Assamese
  • "picapica (puerto rico).


  • Mucuna pruriens ssp. deeringiana (Bort) Hanelt
  • Mucuna pruriens ssp. pruriens[2]


  • Mucuna pruriens var. hirsuta (Wight & Arn.) Wilmot-Dear[22]
  • Mucuna pruriens var. pruriens (L.) DC. [23]
  • Mucuna pruriens var. sericophylla[22]
  • Mucuna pruriens var. utilis (Wall. ex Wight) L.H.Bailey is the non-stinging variety grown in Honduras.[24]


See also


  1. USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. Germplasm Resources Information Network - (GRIN) [Online Database]. National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland.USDA Taxon: Mucuna pruriens (L.) DC.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Rätsch, Christian. Enzyklopädie der psychoaktiven Pflanzen. Botanik, Ethnopharmakologie und Anwendungen. Aarau: AT-Verl. p. 15. ISBN 978-3-85502-570-1. 
  3. Reddy,V.B. et al. Cowhage-evoked itch is mediated by a novel cysteine protease: a ligand of protease-activated receptors J. Neurosci. 28 (17), 4331-4335 (2008) PMID 18434511
  4. "Factsheet - Mucuna pruriens". Retrieved 2008-02-23. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 "Factsheet - Mucuna pruriens". Retrieved 2008-05-21. 
  6. Amin KMY, Khan MN, Hakim Syed Zillur Rahman, et al. (1996). "Sexual function improving effect of Mucuna pruriens in sexually normal male rats". Fitoterapia 67 (1): 53–58. "The seeds of M. pruriens are used for treating sexual dysfunction in Tibb-e-Unani (Unani Medicine), the traditional system of medicine of Indian subcontinent" 
  7. Tan, NH; Fung, SY; Sim, SM; Marinello, E; Guerranti, R; Aguiyi, JC (2009). "The protective effect of Mucuna pruriens seeds against snake venom poisoning". Journal of Ethnopharmacology 123 (2): 356–8. PMID 19429384. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2009.03.025. 
  8. "Characterization of the factor responsible for the antisnake activity of Mucuna Pruriens’ seeds". Journal of Preventive Medicine and Hygiene 40: 25–28. 1999. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Katzenschlager, R; Evans, A; Manson, A; Patsalos, PN; Ratnaraj, N; Watt, H; Timmermann, L; Van Der Giessen, R; Lees, AJ (2004). "Mucuna pruriens in Parkinson's disease: a double blind clinical and pharmacological study". Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry 75 (12): 1672–7. PMC 1738871. PMID 15548480. doi:10.1136/jnnp.2003.028761. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 Medical Toxicology - Google Book Search. 2004. ISBN 978-0-7817-2845-4. Retrieved 2008-03-15. 
  12. YERRA RAJESHWAR, MALAYA GUPTA and UPAL KANTI MAZUMDER (2005). "In Vitro Lipid Peroxidation and Antimicrobial Activity of Mucuna pruriens Seeds". IJPT 4: 32–35. 
  13. G. V. Joglekar, M. B. Bhide J. H. Balwani. An experimental method for screening antipruritic agents. British Journal of Dermatology. Volume 75 Issue 3 Page 117 - March 1963
  14. Lieu CA. Kunselman AR. Manyam BV. Venkiteswaran K. Subramanian T."A water extract of Mucuna pruriens provides long-term amelioration of parkinsonism with reduced risk for dyskinesias." Parkinsonism & Related Disorders. 16(7):458-65, 2010 Aug.
  15. Manyam BV, Dhanasekaran M, Hare TA. Effect of antiparkinson drug HP-200 (Mucuna pruriens) on the central monoaminergic neurotransmitters. 2004. Phytother Res 18:97-101. DOI: 10.1002/ptr.1407 PMID 15022157
  16. Manyam BV, Dhanasekaran M, Hare TA. Neuroprotective effects of the antiparkinson drug Mucuna pruriens. 2004. Phytother Res 18:706-712. DOI: 10.1002/ptr.1514 PMID 15478206
  17. "Erowid Mucuna pruriens Vault". Retrieved 2008-03-02. 
  18. "Species Information". Retrieved 2008-03-02. 
  19. "The phytochemistry, toxicology, and food potential of velvetbean". Retrieved 2008-03-02. 
  20. Chemical Compounds Found in "Mucuna Puriens"
  21. D Champatisingh, P K Sahu, A Pal, and G Nanda. Anticataleptic and antiepileptic activity of ethanolic extract of leaves of Mucuna pruriens: A study on role of dopaminergic system in epilepsy in albino rats. Indian Journal of Pharmacology. 43 (2) 2011,
  22. 22.0 22.1 "Mucuna pruriens information from NPGS/GRIN". Retrieved 2008-02-23. 
  23. Picapica

External links

Personal tools

Lycaeum IRC Chat
TheAntiDrug Diaspora
Starting Points