|Mucuna pruriens inflorescence|
Mucuna pruriens is a tropical legume native to Africa and tropical Asia and widely naturalized and cultivated. Its English common names include velvet bean, Bengal velvet bean, Florida velvet bean, Mauritius velvet bean, Yokohama velvet bean, cowage, cowitch, lacuna bean, Lyon bean, Donkey eye, monkey tamarind, and Buffalo beans (the last also refers to Thermopsis rhombifolia). The plant is notorious 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 seed 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 itch is caused by a protein known as mucunain. The seeds are shiny black or brown drift seeds.
The dry weight of the seeds is 55 to 85 g/100 seeds.
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 the plant can be toxic to humans. The soaking leaches out the L-DOPA, making the product more suitable for consumption. If consumed in large quantities, unprocessed M. pruriens is toxic to non-ruminant mammals, including humans.
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.
Dried leaves of M. pruriens are sometimes smoked. it is also used in siddha system of medicine for various purposes..
The hairs lining the seed pods contain a protein known as mucunain, which in addition to the 5HT also present in the plant causes severe itching 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 "mad beans" (feijões malucos). The seed pods are known as "Devil Beans" in Nigeria.
M. pruriens contains L-DOPA, a precursor to the neurotransmitter dopamine and formulations of the seed powder have been studied for the management and treatment of Parkinson's disease.
In large amounts (~ 30g 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 L-DOPA, it contains minor amounts of serotonin, 5-HTP, nicotine, dimethyltryptamine, bufotenine, and 5-MeO-DMT. M. pruriens could potentially have psychedelic effects, and has purportedly been used in ayahuasca preparations.
The seeds of the plant contain about 3.1–6.1% L-DOPA, with trace amounts of serotonin, nicotine, dimethyltryptamine-n-oxide, bufotenine, 5-MeO-DMT-n-oxide, and beta-carboline. One study using 36 samples of seeds found no tryptamines present.
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
- Bieh in the Madurese language
- Ci mao li dou 刺毛黧豆 in Chinese
- Nasagunnikaayi ([ನಸಗೂನ್ಣೆಕಾಯಿ]) in Kannada
- Kara benguk in the Javanese language
- Atmagupta (आत्मगुप्ता) or Kapikacchu (कपिकच्छु) in Sanskrit
- Kiwanch (किवांच) or Kooch (कोंच) in Hindi
- Khaajkuiri in Marathi
- Alkushi/আলকুশি (Bengali)
- Poonaikkaali (பூனைக்காலி) in Tamil
- Juckbohne (German: "itch bean")
- Fogareté (Dominican Republic); Picapica (everywhere), in Spanish
- Werepe or YerepeYoruba
- "Devil Beans" (Nigeria) in English
- Duradagondi(దురదగొండి) or 'Dulagondi' 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
- Đậu mèo rừng, đậu ngứa, móc mèo in Vietnamese
- Kavach beej
- Inyelekpe (Nigeria) in Igala
- Upupu in Kiswahili
- Baidanka ବାଇଡଙ୍କin Oriya
- Pois mascate (Reunion Island) in French
- Wandhuru Mæ in Sinhala
- Kway lee yerr thee in Myanmar
- Agbala (Nigeria) in Ibo
- "Bandar Kekowa" (বান্দৰ কেকোঁৱা) in Assamese
- "picapica (puerto rico).
- Akpakru (Nigeria)Bekwarra
- "Kauchho" or "Kauso" (काउछो / काउसो ) in Nepali
- Mamui (หมามุ่ย) in Thai
- 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.
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The seeds of M. pruriens are used for treating sexual dysfunction in Tibb-e-Unani (Unani Medicine), the traditional system of medicine of Indian subcontinent
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- Research Paper Showing Quantitative Phytochemical Analysis
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