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Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Core eudicots
Order: Santalales
Family: Olacaceae
Genus: Ptychopetalum

See text

Ptychopetalum is a genus of two species of flowering plants in the family Olacaceae, native to the Amazon rainforest. The indigenous name for the genus is Muira Puama, "potency wood".[1] The species are shrubs or small trees growing to about 14 feet in height belonging to the Olacaceae family (not to be confused with the Oleaceae or olive family) and found in Brazil. Its leaves are short-petioled, up to 3 inches in length and 2 inches in breadth light green on upper surface, dark brown on lower surface. The inflorescences consist of short axillary racemes of 4 to 6 flowers each. The root is strongly tough and fibrous, internally light brown with thin bark and broad wood, has a faint odor, and tastes slightly saline and acrid.[2]



Historically all parts of Muira Puama have been used medicinally, but typically it is the bark and root of Ptychopetalum olacoides which is harvested and used both traditionally and in herbal products. It contains long-chain fatty acids, plant sterols, coumarin, lupeol, and the alkaloid muirapuamine.[citation needed] There is a second almost identical species, Ptychopetalum uncinatum, which is sometimes used as a substitute with the only noticeable difference being a lower concentration of the chemical lupeol.[citation needed]

The root and bark are used for a variety of ailments by indigenous peoples in the Rio Negro area of South America, but the effectiveness of Muira Puama preparations are unproven.[3]

There is evidence that Muira Puama is anxiogenic in rodents (causes anxiety), which would be consistent with a stimulant effect, without affecting coordination.[4] However, rather than increasing the activity of excitatory neurotransmitters, it decreases the activity of an inhibitory neurotransmitter, GABAA.


  1. ^ "Tropical Plant Database file for Muira Puama". Raintree Nutrition Incorporated. Retrieved 2006-04-21. 
  2. ^ Youngken, H.W (1921). "OBSERVATIONS ON MUIRA-PUAMA". Journal of the American Pharmaceutical Association 10 (9): 690–692. doi:10.1002/jps.3080100910. 
  3. ^ "Muira-Puama". PDR health. Retrieved 2006-04-21. [dead link]
  4. ^ Da Silva, A. L. (2002). "Anxiogenic properties of Ptychopetalum olacoides Benth. (Marapuama)". Phytotherapy Research 16 (3): 223–226. doi:10.1002/ptr.825. PMID 12164265.