Mucuna Pruriens Benefits for Dopamine, Testosterone and Better Sleep
Mucuna pruriens is one of the more potent mood enhancing and libido stimulating superfoods available, with noticeable health benefits and a long list of uses.
This powerful herb can have a direct influence on your brain’s neurotransmitters and potentially have beneficial effects on your mental state, energy levels, ability to relax and even body composition and libido.
Mucuna isn’t for everyone though and it’s important to read the dosage information and potential precautions before taking it. Strength and quality varies but there are details on high potency mucuna pruriens capsules and an organic seed powder at the end of this article.
What is Mucuna Pruriens?
Mucuna pruriens is a tropical vine that produces bean pods covered in prickly velvet hair. The seeds inside of these pods are the most valuable part of the plant from a medicinal point of view.
Also known as kapikachhu, cowhage and velvet bean, mucuna pruriens has been used for centuries in many traditional cultures as a healing plant for a variety of different ailments.
In Ayurvedic medicine, kapikachhu is known as a nerve tonic and adaptogen that helps the body deal with stress. It is one of the few herbs, alongside ginseng, brahmi and the amazing amla, known to balance all three of the doshas. It also has quite a reputation as an aphrodisiac.
Modern science has revealed the velvet bean to be one of the best food sources of the amino acid L-dopa. Also called levodopa, L-dopa is a direct precursor to dopamine, a powerful neurotransmitter in your brain involved in mood, alertness, sexuality and many other important functions.
Dopamine doesn’t cross the blood brain barrier so it cannot be taken or administered directly for therapeutic results. You can however potentially increase your dopamine levels if you’re low on it by making available more of the amino acid L-dopa for dopamine creation.
Low Dopamine and L-Dopa
The neurotransmitter dopamine acts upon your central nervous system and, in concert with other neurotransmitters, plays a vital role in motivation, attention, memory, mood, relaxation, sexual desire, sleep and many other areas. You can read much more on the complexities of how dopamine works here.
Regularly using stimulants like caffeine, high levels of sugar, nicotine and other drugs can lead to a lowering of dopamine production in the brain and leave you feeling edgy, craving food, restless and unable to relax.
Possible longer-term symptoms of low dopamine levels include difficulty concentrating, constant tension, social anxiety, general negativity, ongoing low-energy and decreased libido.
People suffering Parkinson’s disease are known to lack dopamine in the brain and some research has shown that mucuna pruriens may benefit the condition. Scientists are also studying the link between low dopamine and depression.
If mucuna pruriens and its L-dopa can be used to normalize dopamine levels for those suffering from Parkinson’s disease or clinical depression it may have important applications as a treatment. Especially since mucuna extract has been shown to be more effective than isolated L-dopa in research studies.
That said, Parkinson’s is a very serious disease and the causes of depressions are varied. Both should be treated by knowledgeable health care professional and the use of herbal supplements discussed first as they may interfere with other treatments.
Particularly in the case of serious depression, mucuna would not be appropriate for many people. This is especially true in cases where symptoms manifest as occasional mania alongside depression as too much dopamine may only increase problems.
Kapikachhu for Mood Enhancement
For someone experiencing lowered dopamine levels due to stimulant use and the stresses of modern life, mucuna can have a significantly positive effect on their mood.
Research like this study shows the L-dopa in mucuna pruriens increases dopamine in the brain cortex. Many people report mood enhancement and elevated alertness within an hour of taking kapikachhu powder or mucuna pruriens supplements on an empty stomach.
It’s important to mention though that more is not better in the case of dopamine and dosages of the L-dopa in mucuna should be low. A gentle increase in available dopamine can have many beneficial effects on mental and physical well being.
On the other hand, large amounts of L-dopa in excess of the recommended dosage may produce negative results like high blood pressure, tension and nervousness. It really is better to start off slow with mucuna pruriens.
How Mucuna Pruriens Increases Testosterone
Testosterone production plays a central role in libido and sexual performance for both men and women. While women produce much less testosterone than men, it is still a vital hormone for sexual interest and desire.
Mucuna has been used traditionally as an aphrodisiac for both men and women. One of the scientific reasons why the herb has been so effective for this purpose is due to another hormone called prolactin.
Prolactin is a hormone with reproductive, metabolic and immunoregulatory functions. It is needed in small amounts but an excess of estrogen in the body can lead to high levels.
Prolactin tends to counteract testosterone in the body, thus reducing sexual interest. In fact, a common side effect of drugs that stimulate prolactin function is impotence in men and low libido for women.
Increased dopamine from the L-dopa found in a high quality mucuna pruriens extract reduces excessive prolactin and increases testosterone in the body. Many women and men quickly notice an increase in sexual desire and performance when taking mucuna from this hormonal shift.
Some men have even reported a significant decrease in the refractory period after making love when the herb is taken a few hours before. This isn’t surprising considering prolactin is heavily involved in that drowsy feeling that makes men want to go to sleep after sex.
Mucuna, HGH and Muscle Mass
By increasing dopamine levels in your body, mucuna may help increase lean muscle mass by stimulating human growth hormone production. Dopamine has been shown to increase HGH levels within the body and human growth hormone is known to increase protein synthesis and help stimulate muscle growth.
While it’s unlikely that just taking a mucuna pruriens capsule and sitting on the couch watching TV will build muscles, human growth hormone is a very beneficial substance to have a little more of in your body. Known as the anti-aging hormone, HGH also enhances fat burning, elevates sexual performance, improves skin tone and texture and has many other positive benefits for your health.
The older we get, the less human growth hormone we produce naturally. Supplementing with a high potency mucuna pruriens extract, especially if you regularly drink coffee, smoke or eat a lot of sugary foods, may start to help restore depleted HGH levels through elevated dopamine.
We often feel compelled to have caffeine, nicotine or other stimulants because of low dopamine levels, which, in a vicious circle, tend to lead to lower and lower dopamine over time. Ideally, by gently increasing dopamine with mucuna, it should be possible to reduce the compulsion for stimulants and make it easier to let go of cigarettes, excessive caffeine or addiction to sugary foods.
Better Sleep with Velvet Bean
Dopamine plays an important role in the brain processes that lead to falling asleep and the REM stage of sleep associated with dreaming.
Animal studies have shown that severely reducing dopamine levels in the brain leads to an inability to sleep. It makes sense that even a mild reduction in dopamine and the associated tension and restlessness would be likely to result in trouble sleeping.
Many people who take velvet bean extract report an improvement in their ability to get to sleep. It’s also common to experience more vivid dreams as a positive side effect of mucuna supplementation.
Elevating dopamine levels too high though may well have the opposite effect so it’s important to start off at a low dosage. Having the herb well before sleep rather than right before bed would also be likely to be more effective.
Side Effects of Mucuna Pruriens
While it is generally considered safe and has helped many people with low dopamine levels, there are some mucuna pruriens precautions and side effects to be aware of.
- People suffering from schizophrenia, manic-depression and other mental illnesses characterized by highly fluctuating levels of dopamine should avoid mucuna pruriens. It’s best to consult a specialist before using it if you have experienced any mental health issues previously.
- While mucuna may have potential in treating depression and Parkinson’s disease its use should be supervised by a knowledgeable health care professional.
- Due to its ability to reduce prolactin, needed for reproductive function and lactation, velvet bean extracts are not recommended for women who are pregnant or breast-feeding.
- The L-dopa in mucuna pruriens can be used by the body to make melanin. This in itself is not harmful but there are some recommendations that people who have had melanoma or at high risk of skin cancer should avoid increasing L-dopa too high.
- Due to the L-dopa in mucuna it is not recommended to be taken with MAO inhibitors or levodopa medications for Parkinson’s disease.
- There’s some evidence that mucuna benefits include lowering blood sugar levels and taking it may help prevent diabetes. Those already taking diabetes medication or on prescription medicines for heart disease or low blood pressure should consult their doctor before taking mucuna pruriens.
Mucuna Dosage, Timing and Best Price
While it is considered much safer than taking isolated L-dopa, mucuna pruriens can be potent and it’s best to start off at a low dosage so you can monitor your results for the first few days.
After that time you can slowly increasing the dose if needed. Definitely don’t take a large dose on your first time taking the herb as some people can be sensitive to its effects.
Start off slow and never exceed the recommended dosage. It will last much longer and be likely to work more effectively used in small regular doses, rather than occasionally taken in excess.
Mucuna pruriens is usually sold in capsules. A good mucuna supplement should indicate that it is made from the seeds found inside the pod, rather than the leaves or root and show its concentration of L-dopa.
It’s better to take mucuna on an empty stomach before food or other supplements as protein and vitamin B6 in particular can interfere with its absorption.
If it is being taken to improve your mental state and mood during the day, then one capsule would be taken before breakfast with a large glass of water.
If you’re using the herb primarily to increase libido, it could be taken in the evening, several hours after any food you had in the afternoon and ideally an hour or more before dinner.
After several days of using mucuna pruriens with positive results, you could try taking a capsule in both the morning and early evening. It’s much better though to start off with just one at the beginning, whether in the morning or evening, and notice how it makes you feel over the initial few days.
These capsules have a high concentration of L-dopa and many positive reviews. Taken following the directions above, a bottle should last you for at least a couple of months. They are also available with $4 international delivery and a $10 checkout discount for first purchases.
For people who prefer to use the whole powdered herb rather than extracts, I like this organic kapikachhu powder used by some Ayurvedic practitioners. It can be mixed directly in water for a more immediate effect or added to a smoothie without protein powder.
Taking mucuna in this way tends to slow down the rate at which its L-dopa is absorbed and may be a good way for sensitive individuals to have the herb. You still get all the mucuna pruriens benefits. The effects are just less pronounced and perhaps more long-lasting because of it.
Dosage for mucuna pruriens powder is generally one or two teaspoons as it is not as concentrated as the capsule extracts. Once again, it’s best to start off slow, perhaps with just half a teaspoon for the first few days and build your way up to the higher doses, half a teaspoon at a time, over a few weeks.
As with any herbal product with strong physiological effects, it’s recommended to take regular breaks to avoid both tolerance and potential dependence. A commonly recommended cycle for taking mucuna pruriens is five days on and two days off.
Using this cycle, some people take it just on weekdays to help them handle the pressures of their work day effectively and take a break from it on the weekends when they are generally more relaxed anyway.
Some resources also recommend taking a full week off from using velvet bean extract every month or two so your body doesn’t develop too much of a tolerance to the L-dopa in it.
Main Mucuna Pruriens Benefits in Summary
- One of the best food sources of the amino acid L-dopa, a direct precursor to the hormone dopamine.
- Through raising low dopamine levels, mucuna pruriens can have a positive effect on motivation, attention, mood, relaxation, libido, sleep and many other areas.
- Mucuna extract helps reduce excessive prolactin and increases testosterone in the body. Many women and men notice an increase in sexual desire and performance when taking the herb due to higher testosterone levels.
- Raising dopamine with mucuna pruriens also helps stimulate human growth hormone production for enhanced muscle growth, fat burning and anti-aging effects.
Have you tried using mucuna pruriens powder or capsules before? I use organic powder first thing in the morning and find it gently increases my concentration levels and seems to provide a general sense of well being.
While others have reported more dramatic effects in some of the reviews, the best way I could describe it is that it seems much harder to have a bad day when taking mucuna.
I’d be interested to hear your experiences with it, how taking it made you feel and what you personally found the benefits of mucuna pruriens to be.