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Mucuna Pruriens: Dopaminergic Dynamo
Mucuna Pruriens, aka velvet bean, is a traditional Indian herb with dynamic actions only recently appreciated. As an ancient Ayurvedic remedy, Mucuna was used in nervous and sexual diseases. But the key modern fact about Macuna is that it is an excellent -- truly outstanding -- source of L-DOPA (dihydroxy-phenylalanine, a derivative of phenylalanine). L-DOPA is the direct precursor in the brain of the key neurotransmitter dopamine. Because of this, L-DOPA is well-known as the drug of choice in Parkinson's Disease -- essentially a dopamine-deficiency disease. But, as you will see, Mucuna-source L-DOPA has a lot of value and action besides just for Parkinson's sufferers.
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  L-DOPA for Dopamine
Mucuna is an excellent source of L-DOPA for dopamine formation -- and this has been proven in human clinical trials demonstrating Mucuna's benefits for dopamine-deficient Parkinson's patients. Dopamine is one of the stimulating, alerting neurotransmitters in the brain. It wakes you up, gets you moving, and focuses attention. People with too little dopamine feel tired and sluggish, have to drink five cups of coffee (which stimulates dopamine release, by the way), and generally cannot perform well. In addition, dopamine is known as the "feel good" neurotransmitters and with an increased levels comes greatly improved mood and feelings of well-being. Some users have reported feeling almost euphoric. Another major action of dopamine is to depress prolactin levels. Prolactin is a pituitary hormone, and one that can interfere with normal sexual functioning. In fact, drugs that stimulate the release of prolactin often cause impotence. For this reason, as well as other actions, Mucuna has been used in sexual difficulties (see below).

Growth Hormone Release

For athletes, one of the key actions of Mucuna is to stimulate growth hormone release. L-DOPA itself is a powerful releaser of growth hormone. Actually -- to get technical -- L-DOPA stimulates the release of growth hormone releasing hormone, or GHRH, which in turn stimulates the pituitary to release growth hormone. In case it is necessary to mention: growth hormone is fantastic stuff for bodybuilders and athletes. It is powerfully pro-anabolic (right up there with testosterone and insulin in this respect), while at the same time stimulating the breakdown of bodyfat. With high levels of growth hormone it is possible to change body composition very rapidly -- more muscle, less fat.

Everyone's Favorite Subject

Sex, of course! Mucuna appears to have some powerful effects in this department as well. In animal studies, Mucuna stimulates libido and sexual behavior, and boosts performance, while elevating serum testosterone levels. One rat study, for example, observed a ten-fold increase in (male to female) mounting activity. Other studies demonstrated sustained sexual stimulation, as evidenced by decreases in the so-called post-ejaculatory interval (the male "refractory" period after having had one orgasm). Mucuna extracts also delay the time to ejaculation, suggesting possible utility in men with premature ejaculation problems. Further, the bioactive alkaloids in Mucuna Pruriens -- mucunine, mucunadine, mucuadinine, prurienine and purienidine -- have been found to stimulate testosterone secretion and increase the sperm count of animals. Remarkably, they also increase testicular size! This sounds very much like a Luteinizing Hormone (L.H.) action: pituitary L.H. is the hormone that maintains testicular size as well as testosterone synthesis and release. Though no one has studied it as yet, it appears likely that Mucuna stimulates L.H. release. Mucuna's libido-stimulating action may be due in part to suppression of prolactin by dopamine. Prolactin is a powerful ANaphrodisiac -- i.e. the opposite of an aphrodisiac!

In terms of overall results, Mucuna appears to be one of the most promising herbs to hit the market in years. Users report improved mood and feelings of well-being, increased energy levels, and more. This is one of just a few herbs that produces noticeable effects almost immediately, leaving little doubt as to efficacy.

Composition for Potentiating a Growth Hormone and a Method For Preparation of Said Composition. Mesko, Charles A: US Patent #6,340,474, 2002.
Bioavailability of L-DOPA From HP-200-A Formulation of Seed Powder of Macuna Pruriens (BAK): A Pharmacokinetic and Pharmacodynamic Study. Mahajani,SS: Doshi,VJ: Parikh,KM: Manyam,BV: Phytother Res 10 3: 254-256 (1996)
Occurrence of L-DOPA and Dopamine in Plants and Cell Cultures of Macuna Pruriens and Effects of 2,4-D and Sodium Chloride on These Compounds. Wichers,HJ :Visser,JF: Huizing,HJ: Pras,N: Plant Cell Tissue Organ Cult 33 3: 259-264 (1993)
Determination of L-DOPA Content and Other Significant Nitrogenous Compounds in the Seeds of Seven Macuna and Stizolobium Species in China. Yang,X: Zhang,X: Zhou,R: Pharmaceutical Biol 39 4: 312-316 (2001)
The Inhibitory Effect of the Cowhage Plant Macuna Pruriens and L-DOPA on Chlorpromazine-Induced Hyperprolactinemia in Man. Vaidya,RA: Sheth,AR: Aloorkar,SD: Rege,NR: Bagadia,VN: Devi,PK: Shah,LP: Neurology (India) 26 : 177-178 (1978)
Activity of Bromoergocryptine, Macuna Pruriens and L-DOPA in the Control of Hyperprolactinemia. Vaidya,RA: Aloorkar,SD: Sheth,AR: Pandya,SK: Neurology (India) 26 : 179-182 (1978)
Macuna Pruriens Proves More Effective than L-DOPA in Parkinson's Disease Animal Model. Hussain,G: Manyam,BV: Phytother Res 11 6: 419-423 (1997)
Study of the Effects of Speman on Semen Quality in Oligospermic Men. Pardanani, DS et al. Indian J Surg 38 : 34-39 (1976)
Speman in Oligospermia. Madaan,S: Probe 1985 : 115-117 (1985)
Experimental Assessment of Relative Efficacy of Drugs of Herbal Origin on Sexual Performance and Hormone Levels in Alcohol Exposed and Normal Rats. Mitra,SK: Muralidhar,TS: Rao,DRB: Phytother Res 10 4: 296-299 (1996)
Sexual Function Improving Effect of Macuna Pruriens in Sexually Normal Male Rats. Amin,KMY: Khan,MN: Zillur-Rehman,S: Khan,NA: Fitoterapia 67 1: 53-58 (1996)
Fortege, and Indigenous Drug in Common Sexual Disorders in Males. Bhargava,NC: Singh,OP: Mediscope 21 6: 140-144 (1978)
Effect of Some Indigenous Drugs on the Sexual Behavior of Male Rats. (Abstract). Rao,MRR: Parakh,SR: Indian J Pharm Sci 40 : 236E-. (1978)
Aphrodisiac Effect of Indigenous Drugs- A Myth or Reality? Nisteswar,K: Murthy,VK: Probe 28 2: 89-92 (1989)