Mucuna pruriens

Mucuna pruriens is a tropical legume known as velvet bean or cowitch and by other common names (see below). The plant is infamous for its extreme itchiness produced 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.


In many parts of the world Mucuna pruriens is used as an important foragefallow and green manure crop.[3] 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.[3] M.pruriens is said to not be invasive outside its cultivated area.[3] 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 phtochemical compounds such as levodopa, making the product more suitable for consumption. If consumed in large quantities as food, unprocessed M pruriens is toxic to nonruminant mammals including humans.

Medicinal Uses

Traditionally, M. pruriens has been used as an effective aphrodisiac [4][5] It is still used to increase libido in both men and women due to its dopamine inducing properties and in Ayurvedic medicine it is said to increase sperm count. Dopamine has a profound influence on sexual function.[1][6][7] Use of Mucuna pruriensis well documented in Siddha medicine for a host of uses.[8] 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 (Cobra),[9] Echis (Saw scaled viper),[10] Calloselasma(Malayan Pit viper) and Bangarus (Krait) [11] have shown that it has potential use in the prophylactic treatment of snakebites.M.pruriens seeds have also been found to have antidepressant properties in cases of depressive neurosis when consumed.[12] and formulations of the seed powder have shown promise in the management and treatment of Parkinson disease [13] Dried leaves of M.pruriens are sometimes smoked.[1] M.pruriens has also recently become popular among lucid dreaming enthusiasts: when combined with other supplements it stimulates the cholinergicsystem.

{Information courtesy Wikipedia}