|Mucuna pruriens inflorescence|
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Mucuna pruriens is a tropical legume known as velvet bean or cowitch and by other common names (see below), found in Africa, India and the Caribbean. The plant is infamous 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.
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 seeds shell).
M.pruriens bears white, lavender, or purple flowers. Its seed pods are about 10 cm long 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. The seeds are shiny black or brown drift seeds. It is found in tropical Africa, India and the Caribbean.
The dry weight of the seeds is 55 to 85 g/100 seeds. With 2n = 20, 22 or 24 chromosomes.
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. M. pruriens is said to not be invasive outside its cultivated area. 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.
Medicinal uses 
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. It is also used in Ayurvedic medicine. M. pruriens has been shown to improve dopamine levels in rats.
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), Echis (Saw scaled viper), Calloselasma (Malayan Pit viper) and Bangarus (Krait)  have shown 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. and formulations of the seed powder have shown promise in the management and treatment of Parkinson's disease.
Dried leaves of M. pruriens are sometimes smoked. The herb contains L-DOPA, a precursor to the neurotransmitter dopamine. The L-DOPA content increases when extracts are prepared. L-DOPA converts into dopamine, an important brain chemical involved in mood, sexuality, and movement.
The hairs lining the seed pods and the small spicules on the leaves contain 5-hydroxytryptamine (serotonin) which cause severe itching (pruritus) when touched. 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. 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.
M.pruriens seeds contain high concentrations of levodopa, a direct precursor of the neurotransmitter dopamine. It has long been used in traditional Ayurvedic Indian medicine for diseases including Parkinson's disease. 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.
In addition to levodopa, it contains 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.
The mature seeds of the plant contain about 3.1–6.1% L-DOPA, with trace amounts of 5-hydroxytryptamine (serotonin), nicotine, DMT-n-oxide, bufotenine, 5-MeO-DMT-n-oxide, and beta-carboline. One study using 36 samples of the seeds found no tryptamines present in them.
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.
Nomenclature and taxonomy 
Common names 
- Bieh in the Madurese language
- Ci mao li dou 刺毛黧豆 in Chinese
- 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 in Tamil
- Velvet bean, Donkey eye, Cowhage, Cowitch and Buffalo beans in English (the latter also refers to Thermopsis rhombifolia)
- Juckbohne (German: "itch bean")
- Fogareté (Dominicam Republic); Picapica (everywhere), in Spanish
- Werepe or warapa in Yoruba
- 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
- Nasagunnikaayi in Kannada
- Upupu in Kiswahili
- Baidanka in Oriya
- Pois mascate (Reunion Island) in French
- Wandhuru Mæ in Sinhala
- Kway lee yerr thee in Myanmar
- Mucuna pruriens ssp. deeringiana (Bort) Hanelt
- Mucuna pruriens ssp. pruriens
- Mucuna pruriens var. hirsuta (Wight & Arn.) Wilmot-Dear
- Mucuna pruriens var. pruriens (L.) DC. 
- Mucuna pruriens var. sericophylla
- Mucuna pruriens var. utilis (Wall. ex Wight) L.H.Bailey is the non-stinging variety grown in Honduras.
Synonyms of M. pruriens, M. pruriens ssp. pruriens and M. pruriens var. pruriens:
Synonyms of M. pruriens var. hirsuta:
Synonyms of M. pruriens var. sericophylla:
Synonyms of M. pruriens var. utilis:
See also 
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Mucuna pruriens|
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- Rätsch, Christian. Enzyklopädie der psychoaktiven Pflanzen. Botanik, Ethnopharmakologie und Anwendungen. Aarau: AT-Verl. p. 15. ISBN 978-3-85502-570-1.
- "Factsheet - Mucuna pruriens". www.tropicalforages.info. Retrieved 2008-02-23.
- "Factsheet - Mucuna pruriens". www.tropicalforages.info. Retrieved 2008-05-21.
- Amin KMY, Khan MN, Hakim Syed Zillur Rahman, et al. (1996) "function improving effect of Mucuna pruriens in normal male rats". Fitoterapia, jrg.67 (nr.1): pp. 53-58. Quote: The seeds of M. pruriens are used for treating sexual dysfunction in Tibb-e-Unani (Unani Medicine), the traditional system of medicine of Indo-Pakistan Subcontinent.
- 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. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2009.03.025. PMID 19429384.
- "Characterization of the factor responsible for the antisnake activity of Mucuna Pruriens’ seeds". Journal of Preventive Medicine and Hygiene 40: 25–28. 1999.
- Medicinal Plants: Chemistry And ... - Google Book Search. books.google.com. 2006. ISBN 978-1-57808-395-4. Retrieved 2008-05-23.
- Katzenschlager, R; Evans, A; Manson, A; Patsalos, PN; Ratnaraj, N; Watt, H; Timmermann, L; Van Der Giessen, R et al. (2004). "Mucuna pruriens in Parkinson's disease: a double blind clinical and pharmacological study". Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry 75 (12): 1672–7. doi:10.1136/jnnp.2003.028761. PMC 1738871. PMID 15548480.
- Medical Toxicology - Google Book Search. books.google.com. 2004. ISBN 978-0-7817-2845-4. Retrieved 2008-03-15.
- YERRA RAJESHWAR, MALAYA GUPTA and UPAL KANTI MAZUMDER (2005). "In Vitro Lipid Peroxidation and Antimicrobial Activity of Mucuna pruriens Seeds". IJPT 4: 32–35.
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- Katzenschlager R, Evans A, Manson A, et al. Mucuna pruriens in Parkinson's disease: a double blind clinical and pharmacological study. 2004. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 75:1672-1677. DOI: 10.1136/jnnp.2003.028761 PMID 15548480 free full text
- "Erowid Mucuna pruriens Vault". www.erowid.org. Retrieved 2008-03-02.
- "Species Information". sun.ars-grin.gov. Retrieved 2008-03-02.
- "The phytochemistry, toxicology, and food potential of velvetbean". www.idrc.ca. Retrieved 2008-03-02.
- Chemical Compounds Found in "Mucuna Puriens"
- 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, 197-199.www.ijp-online.com
- "Mucuna pruriens information from NPGS/GRIN". www.ars-grin.gov. Retrieved 2008-02-23.
- Mucuna pruriens (U.S. Forest Service)
- www.hort.purdue.edu Crop Fact Sheets
- Mucuna pruriens (Tropical Forages)
- Mucuna pruriens protects against snakebite venom
- Mucuna pruriens var. utilis (Photos)
- Chemicals in: Mucuna pruriens (L.) DC. (Dr. Duke's Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases)
- Mucuna pruriens a Comprehensive Review
- Mucuna pruriens Seed L-DOPA Content on the Basis of Seed Color
- Research Paper Showing Quantitative Phytochemical Analysis
- Caldecott, Todd (2006). Ayurveda: The Divine Science of Life. Elsevier/Mosby. ISBN 0-7234-3410-7. Contains a detailed monograph on Mucuna pruriens (Kapikacchu, Atmagupta) as well as a discussion of health benefits and usage in clinical practice. Available online at http://www.toddcaldecott.com/index.php/herbs/learning-herbs/349-kapikachu
- Mucuna pruriens in West African plants - A Photo Guide.