Nipai is a climbing or spreading, annual, hairy vine reaching a length of several meters. Leaflets are thin, ovate to oblong-ovate, 5 to 12 centimeters long, the lateral ones oblique. Racemes are pendulous, 10 to 25 centimeters long, with many flowers. Calyx is gray-hairy with intermixed brown, stinging hairs. Corolla is dark purple, almost black, about 4 centimeters long. Pods are stout, compressed, slightly curved near the apex, 6 to 11 centimeters long, 2 centimeters wide, densely covered with stiff, somewhat appressed, brown, very irritating, stinging hairs. Seeds are ovoid, about 12 millimeters long, compressed, brownish, and mottled with black.
- In dry thickets and secondary forests at low altitudes in the Rizal and Laguna Provinces.
- Also occurs in India to Malaya.
- Seeds contain are high in protein, carbohydrates, lipids, fiber and minerals.
- Seeds contain a high concentration of L-dopa; in velvet bean, 7-10%.
- Serotonin has also been found in the pod, leaf and fruit.
- Yields ß-sitosterol, glutathione, lecithin, venolic acid, and gallic acid.
- Bioactive compounds include mucunadine, mucunine, mucunainine, prurienine, purienidine.
- Stinging hairs contain the mucunain, responsible for the skin itch and irritation.
- Plant also yields alkaloids, alkyamines, arachidic acid, behenic acid, beta-sitosterol, dopamine, flavones, mucunain, mucunine, mucunadine, trypsin, tryptamine, among many others.
- Silage yields 11-23% crude protein, 35-40% crude fiber, and dried beans 20-35% crude protein.
- Nutritional composition analysis (% concentration) yielded moisture 8.30 ± 0.02, crude protein 34.16 ± 0.02, crude fat 2.30 ± 0.05, ash 5.80 ± 0.03, carbohydrate 16.94 ± 0.04, crude fiber 32.50 ± 0.13, and calorific value
of 224.86 Kcal/100g. (25)
Mineral and vitamin analysis (mg/100g) yielded iron 8.10 ± 0.12, zinc 5.10 ± 0.05, vitamin A 0.05 ± 0.01, vitamin C 82.50 ± 0.43, and vitamin E 40.00 ± 0.23. (25)
- Phytochemical composition (mg/100g) yielded phytate 1.00 ± 0.17, oxalate 5.00 ± 0.05, tannin 3.25 ± 0.06, saponin 3.50 ± 0.30, alkaloid 2.67 ± 0.01, cyanogenic glycosides 0.02 ± 0.06, and flavonoids 2.86 ± 0.02. (25)
- Phytochemical screening of ethanol extract of leaves yielded the presence of flavonoids, saponin, tannins, cardiac glycosides, triterpenes, and reducing sugars. (see study below) (34)
Mucuna / L-Dopa
- In 1937 it became known that the seeds of Mucuna contains L-Dopa - about 250 mg per 7.5 gm of seed powder. In the 70s, studies were done to compare the seeds' dopamine activity with other dopamine-like substances. In 1978, clinical findings on the use of the plant for Parkinson's disease was reported. Finally, in 2004, a double-blind study reported its efficacy, tolerability and absence of dyskinesias.
- Studies have further suggested that Mucuna contains additional substances which could be neuroprotective against L-Dopa toxicity.
- Hairs are very irritating; the effect purely mechanical. Irritation is often so intense, it is regarded as poisonous. The hairs produce an intolerable itching, followed by pain, redness, swelling and an eruption. Hairs from dried herbarium specimens are as irritating as the fresh plants.
- Seeds regarded as a nervine tonic, aphrodisiac and astringent.
- Considered diuretic, blood purifier, aphrodisiac, uterine stimulant, tonic.
- Studies have suggest antioxidant, anxiolytic, antibacterial, wound heallng, antidiabetic, hypolipidemic, anti-fertility, anti-parkinsonism, nephroprotective, antitussive, antitumor, fertility-enhancing, anti-inflammatory, diuretic properties.
Roots, pod hairs, seeds.
In India, young and tender pods are cooked and eaten.
In Brazil, toasted ground seeds used as coffee substitute.
- Roots used for paralysis and affections of the nervous system.
- In India, roots used as tonic.
- Infusion of root mixed with honey prescribed for cholera.
- In the West Indies, decoction of root used as powerful diuretic and kidney cleanser. Also, an ointment from the roots used for elephantiasis.
- In Suriname traditional medicine, ointment used for swollen glands.
- Vinous infusion of pods used as remedy for dropsy.
- Hairs of the pod used as anthelmintic, for expulsion of intestinal worms, especially Ascaris lumbricoides and A. vermicularis. Also, mixed with syrup or honey to make an electuary. This treatment is deemed dangerous as strong doses of hairs have been reported to cause bowel diseases and even death.
- In Ayurveda, used for worms, dysentery, diarrhea, snakebites, sexual debility, tuberculosis, rheumatic disorders, diabetes, cancer, sterility, gout, parkinsonism.
- In Brazil, seed used internally for Parkinson's disease, edema, impotence, intestinal gas and worms.
- In India and Brazil, used as an aphrodisiac.
- In Nigeria, seeds used as snake bite remedy.
- Fodder: Used as fodder, fallow or manure crop.
- New age: Recently touted for aphrodisiac, testosterone boosting and libido benefits.
- Although cooked fresh shoots and beans are eaten, there are toxicity concerns. Leaching out of phytochemical compounds such as levodopa is accomplished by soaking for 30 minutes to 48 hours prior to cooking and changing the water several times during cooking. Consumed unprocessed in large quantities, it is toxic to non-ruminant mammals including humans.
• Parkinson's Disease / Natural L-Dopa Source: In a double-blind study comparing two different doses of mucuna preparation and the standard L-dopa/carbidopa (LD/CD), the 30 gm mucuna preparation led to a considerably faster onset of effect, with no significant differences in dyskinesias or tolerability. Results suggest this natural source of L-dopa might possess advantages over conventional L-dopa preparations in the long term management of PD. (2)
• Fertility & Semen Benefits / Anxiolytic: Treatment with M. pruriens significantly ameliorated psychological stress, seminal plasma lipid peroxidase levels along with improved sperm count and motility, and restored levels of SOD, catalase, GSH and ascorbic acid in seminal plasma of infertile men. (4)
• Antioxidant: Study of a methanol extract of Mucuna pruriens showed significant antioxidant activity. In addition the MEMP yielded a noticeable amount of total phenols. (5) Study evaluated the antioxidant activity of mucuna in three assays: DPPH, ABTS, and reduction of phosphomolybdenium complex. Results showed M. pruriens possess high antioxidant capacity. However, it was not superior to isolated levodopa. (17)
• Hypoglycemic / Hypolipidemic / Leaves: Study showed ethanol extract of leaves of M pruriens has beneficial effects on blood glucose levels as well as improving hyperlipidemia and other metabolic aberrations. (6)
• Anti-Snake Venom: Recent studies have shown pretreatment with M pruriens seed extract in mice conferred protection against the lethal effects of Echis carinatus and cobra venom. Gene expression studies together with pharmacologic studies support the possibility that the protective effect of the extract of MP against snake venom might involve a direct action on the heart. (7)
• Antioxidant / Antimicrobial: Study showed the methanol extract of Mucuna pruriens had significant in vitro lipid peroxidation and antimicrobial activity. It showed broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity against all tested organisms except Staph aureus and Vibrio cholera. (8)
• Improved Male Fertility/ Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Gonadal Axis: Study investigated the mechanism of action of M. pruriens in the treatment of male infertility. Results showed treatment with M. pruriens regulates steroidogenesis and improves semen quality in infertile men. Treatment with MP significantly improved T, LH, dopamine, adrenaline, and noradrenaline levels in infertile men and reduced levels of FSH and PRL, with increase sperm count and motility. (11)
• Anti-Parkinsonism / Antidyskinetic Mechanisms: Chronic levodopa (LD) therapy in Parkinson's disease can cause drug induced dyskinesias. Study in monkeys evaluated if the natural LD in MP endocarp powder does not cause drug-induced dyskinesias. A water extract of Mucuna pruriens ameliorated parkinsonism without causing drug-induced dyskinesias suggesting M. pruriens acts through a novel mechanisms different from that of LD. (12)
• Neuroprotective / Neurorestorative: M. pruriens exhibited significant antiparkinson activity in a 6-OHDA lesioned rat model of Parkinson's disease. Study evaluated the neurorestorative effect of cotyledon powder on the rat model. Results significantly increased the brain mitochondrial complex-l activity, and significantly restored endogenous levodopa, dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin content in the substantia nigra. (13)
• Antibacterial: Study of methanol extract of roots and seeds yielded alkaloids, anthraquinones, flavonoids, phenols, tannins, terpenoids, and xanthoprotein. The hexane, PE, benzene, methanol and aqueous extracts of root and seeds showed various degrees of significant inhibitory effect against the tested organisms (S aureus, K pneumonia, B subtilis, P aeruginosa, S typhi and E coli). (14)
• Drug Interactions: Major (1) Antidepressants (MAOIs): Taking cowhage with antidepressant might cause serious side effects such as fast heart rate, high blood pressure, seizures, anxiety, etc. Antidepressant examples are phenelzine (Nardil) and tranylcypromine (Parnate). (2) Methyldopa: Methyldopa (Aldomet) is taken as an antihypertensive. Taking cowhage with methyldopa may cause excessive lowering of blood pressure. Minor (1) Synergistic lowering of blood pressure with guanethidine (Ismelin). (2) Increase decrease of blood sugar in patients taking antidiabetic medications. (3) Cowhage increases brain dopamine and may counter the effects of medications used to decrease dopamine ( Thorazine, Clozaril, Prolixin, Haldol, Zyprexa, etc.) (4) Cowhage may interact with surgical anesthesia because of its levodopa contents. Cowhage should be discontinued two weeks prior to surgery. (16)
• Acute Oral Toxicity / Seed: Study assessed acute oral toxicity of seed extract in Wistar albino rats with a single high extract dose of 2000 mg/kg body weight. Results showed seed extract was non toxic and helped with weight gain, with an LD50>2000 mg/kbw. Also, it acted as a neurosuppresant with potential use in the treatment of neurological disorders associated with neuronal hyperactivity. (18)
• Antioxidant / Seeds: In vitro and in vivo studies evaluated the alcoholic extract of seeds of M. pruriens for antioxidant property. Results suggest the extract of seeds possess antilipid peroxidation property, which is mediated through the removal of superoxides and hydroxyl radicals. (19)
• Safety Concern / Precipitation of Manic Symptoms / Case Report: Study reports on a case of an adolescent male presenting with acute manic excitement after consumption of an ayurvedic preparation containing "kochbeej" (Mucuna pruriens) which is rich in I-3,4 dihydroxyphenyl alanine, a precursor of dopamine. (20) (also see: interactions:16)
• Hypotensive / Antihypertensive / Hydrosylates: Study evaluated the hypotensive and antihypertensive potential of M. pruriens protein hydrolysates in in vitro and in vivo models. Biological potential was measured in vitro based on IC50 value and in vivo effect measure systolic and diastolic blood pressure in Wistar-Kyoto rats. Results showed antihypertensive effects and suggests the protein hydrolysates has potential as functional ingredient to prevent blood pressure increase. (21)
• Parkinson Disease / Double-blind, Randomized, Controlled, Crossover Study: Study evaluated M. pruriens, a levodopa-containing leguminous plant as an alternative source of levodopa for indigent patients with Parkinson disease (PD) who cannot afford long-term therapy with marketed levodopa preparations. Compared to LD+DDCI (dopa-decarboxylase inhibitor bensarazide), patients treated with MP-Ld showed similar motor response with fewer dyskinesias and adverse events, changes in blood pressure and heart rate. MP-Hd (high dose) induced less adverse events than LD+DDCI and LD-DDCI. Single-dose MP met all noninferiorty efficacy and safety outcome measures compared to dispersable LD/benserazie. Clinical effects of high dose MP were similar to LD alone at high dose, with more favorable tolerability profile. (22) (read also: 2)
• Antitumor / Antioxidant
/ Ehrlich Ascites Carcinoma: Study evaluated the antitumor effect and antioxidant role of M. pruriens methanol extract against EAC bearing Swiss albino mice. Results showed decrease in tumor volume and viable cell count. The ME also decreased the levels of lipid peroxidation and increased the levels of GSH, SOD, and CAT. Study suggests significant antitumor and antioxidant effects in EAC bearing mice. (23)
• Phytochemical Constituent Concerns: Oxalic acid is an anti-nutrient that may interfere with mineral availability, especially calcium. M. pruriens contains appreciable level of oxalate and saponins than alkaloids and flavonoids. Although some levels may be high, hazard concerns are decreased by the various processing methods the vegetable may undergo before eating. (see constituents above) (25)
• Renal Toxicity / Seed Extract: Study evaluated the deleterious effect of M. pruriens seed extract on Sprague-Dawley rat. Results showed significantly increased lipid peroxidation along with significant decrease in SOD and glutathione. Renal histological exam showed degenerative changes and tubular necrosis at higher doses, associated with reduced urea clearance possibly attributable to an oxidative stress mechanism. (26)
• Fertility Enhancing / Increase Female Hormones / Seeds: Study evaluated the effect of oral administration of methanolic seed extract of M. pruriens on oestrous cycle, ovulation, reproductive hormones, and oxidative stress in the ovary of cyclic Sprague-Dawley rats. Results showed a dose dependent increase in FSH and LH (p<0.05 at 200 mg/kg) along with an increase in number of oocytes released at ovulation. Results suggest a potential for the seed extract to enhance fertility, possibly attributable to its antioxidant properties. (27)
• Effect on Biochemical Liver Indices / Leaves: Study on Wistar albino rats evaluated the effect of an aqueous leaf extract of Mucuna pruriens on selected biochemical parameters i.e., AST, ALT, and some trace elements. Results showed the aqueous leaf extract to be rich in iron and copper and may be dangerous to the liver as shown by elevated levels of AST and ALT liver markers. (28)
• Antitussive Effect / Seed: Study evaluated the antitussive effect of a seed extract of M pruriens by inducing cough using sulfur dioxide gas compared to centrally acting cough suppressant (codeine phosphate). The seed extract exhibited highly significant antitussive effect (p<0.005). Activity may be related to an inhibitory action on opioid receptor located in the airway passage. (29)
• Efficiency of Various Methods
for Extraction of L-DOPA: Study evaluated various optimization methods for maximum extraction of L-DOPA from M. pruriens seed powder. Results showed cold maceration yielded highest extraction. Further studies were suggested for extraction for industrial applications. (30)
• Anti-Inflammatory / Diuretic / Antibacterial / Aerial Parts: Study evaluated an ethanolic extract of dried aerial parts for possible anti-inflammatory, diuretic and antibacterial activities in animal models. The EE showed significant (p<0.001) reduction in carrageenan induced paw edema in rats. Diuretic activity was evidenced by increased electrolyte loss. The EE showed antibacterial activity against eight species of bacteria i.e., S. saprophyticus, S. sonnie, S. typhi, V. cholera, S. epidermis, S. flexneri, and S. aureus clinical isolates. (31)
• Effect on Semen Count and Biochemical Parameters of Infertile Men: Study evaluated the effect of M. pruriens seeds on semen profiles and biochemical parameters in seminal plasma of infertile men. Results showed significant inhibition of lipid peroxidation, elevated spermatogenesis, and improved sperm motility. The seminal plasma of all infertile groups showed improvement in lipid levels, antioxidant vitamins, and corrected fructose. Results suggest a potential role for MP seed powder as a restorative and invigorating agent for infertile men. (32)
• Wound Healing / Seeds: Study evaluated the wound healing efficiency of a methanolic extract of seeds in 1% and 2% hydrogel formulations of carbapol 974 NF on wounds induced in Swiss albino mice. On the 8th day, study showed a significant increase in percentage wound contraction suggesting an ability to induce cellular proliferation. Increase in tensile strength in the incision wound model suggested a promotion of collagen fibers. (33)
• Neuroprotective / Oxidative and Inflammatory Stress / Human Neuroblastoma Cells / Seeds: Study evaluated a Mucuna pruriens seed extract for neuroprotective effects using in vitro assays. The MPE extract significantly reduced lipopolysaccharide (LPS) induced NO production and decreased H2O2-induced ROS. In neuroprotective study, the MPE showed neuroprotective effects in human neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y cells. Results suggest a potential in the dietary management of neurodegenerative disease, particularly PD. (34)
• Antidiabetic / Leaves: Study evaluated the anti-diabetic activity of M. pruriens leaf extract on blood glucose levels and histopathology of pancreas in alloxan induced diabetic Wistar rats. Metformin was used as standard. The LD50 of the extract was 2154 mg/kg. Study showed significant reduction (p<0.05) in fasting blood sugar levels. Histopathological studies of diabetic animals showed degeneration of pancreatic islet cells, with restoration of pancreatic islet cells in the extract-treated diabetic group. (35)
Supplements, extract capsules, seed powder, and Mucuna formulations in the cybermarket.