As farfetched as it might sound, happiness can grow on a tree. The tree’s name is mucuna pruriens (also known as velvet bean) and it is a highly reliable source of dopamine for the brain. African cultures have used mucuna pruriens for hundreds of years and modern medicine has found use for the plant as well.
Specifically, mucuna pruriens promotes feelings of happiness and subjective well-being  through the use of a chemical called L-DOPA, which is a precursor for dopamine . This is the primary benefit of mucuna pruriens, but there are many downstream effects. Besides the L-DOPA, mucuna pruriens has advantages that make it a powerful tool for Parkinson’s disease .
Mucuna pruriens is a natural antioxidant  and contains serotonin to also support a healthy mood. In fact, the plant has serotonin on the outside, which makes it itchy to the touch . It is used in a wide variety of natural products and was initially in Onnit’s Alpha Brain product until they replaced it with another dopamine modulator .
Also Known As
Velvet Bean, Cowitch, Werepe, Karara, Agbara
Editors’ Thoughts on Mucuna Pruriens
I love mucuna pruriens and not because I have any reason to besides the L-DOPA and dopamine. I haven’t noticed any significant cognitive improvements as a result of using mucuna pruriens, but I have assuredly increased my mood significantly.
Primarily, I’ve added mucuna pruriens and cocoa powder together in order to have a type of “hot chocolate” that makes me extremely happy. It is a huge mood booster and I always feel great upon usage.
Mucuna pruriens is seriously good stuff especially if you are feeling deficient in dopamine or serotonin.
Mansal Denton, Nootropedia Editor
History of Mucuna Pruriens
Originally from places like India, Africa, and the Caribbean, mucuna pruriens has been used as an herbal supplement for some time. The mucuna plant is a legume and many local tribes consumed the product before creating an extract or product with any kind of nootropic effect. Because the plant is 20 – 35% protein by caloric content, it is often a useful source of foodstuffs in poorer regions of the world . The seeds have been used by native people of central Asia who adhere to “Unani medicine” for hundreds of years .
Benefits of Mucuna Pruriens
The most obvious cognitive benefit of mucuna pruriens is for increased dopamine in the brain. This brain chemical (or neurotransmitter) is responsible for modulating a number of cognitive functions including mood, hand-eye-coordination, and others. This increase in dopamine has downstream effects on both memory and as a neuroprotective.
Mucuna pruriens can be a powerful tool to improve memory and cognitive abilities. One study showed mucuna pruriens could help support memory retention , but more evidence is needed to confirm this benefit. Related benefits, such as neuroprotection, have more research.
A study on neuroprotection showed that mucuna pruriens could increase activity within brain mitochondria  (and mitochondrial health is one of the most important aspects of brain health). Another study suggested mucuna pruriens could help protect the brain from Parkinson’s symptoms .
Of course, the primary mucuna pruriens benefit is increased L-DOPA and dopamine. Studies show that by increasing L-DOPA, it is possible to relieve the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and even prevent it from becoming worse . Evidence suggests that mucuna pruriens can be more beneficial for Parkinson’s disease than some of the pharmaceutical concoctions that are used .
Side Effects of Mucuna Pruriens
Even though mucuna pruriens side effects are rare, they can occur in some situations. People who take too high of a dose can experience dopamine levels that create discomfort and even headaches. L-DOPA is able to easily cross the blood-brain barrier, which typically can create side effects in high doses.
The scientific literature shows that 15 – 30 g of mucuna pruriens showed “no significant adverse effects,” but they did notice one patient who routinely suffered from vomiting due to digestibility and palatability issues .
In general, most people who buy mucuna pruriens do not complain of side effects. If there are any side effects of mucuna pruriens, they are usually rare and related to dosing.
Mucuna Pruriens Dosage
The correct mucuna pruriens dosage will depend on your desires and needs. Most people take the mucuna supplement in a dose of 5 grams of dried powder per day. This dosage is said to have positive effects on Parkinson’s disease and fertility and is considered a good starting point.
There are products that have different standardization of L-DOPA in them. You might find a mucuna pruriens that has 40% L-DOPA or other percentages so make sure to read the label when you buy mucuna pruriens powder.
How and Where to Buy Mucuna Pruriens
Mucuna pruriens is a common herb (legume), which can be found in any health food grocery store. There are dozens of local stores that allow you to purchase mucuna pruriens, but you may want to look online for a few different reasons.
For one, you will be able to save money on affordable or cheap mucuna pruriens through Amazon (where competition is fierce and it is a commodity marketplace). By having the ability to compare mucuna pruriens supplements against one another, you’ll easily find an affordable price. Also, you can get a lot of good information about mucuna pruriens from online retailers that you probably cannot get from a local grocery store clerk.
Finally, when you buy mucuna pruriens online you will have a much clearer understanding of the standardization and L-DOPA content so you can ensure your own safety and the correct dosing of the drug.
Selected Community Experiences
“That said, I’d just like to point out that I’ve been “taken back” by how I’ve been more awake and alert long after taking 1500mg of Mucuna w/ 400 mg EGCG. I don’t notice it “come on” I just notice that 12 hours later I’m still very alert. It’s weird because — to my knowledge — Mucuna is supposed to have a short half-life but I can actually still feel it once the EGCG starts to wear off about 6 hours later.” – AhStro
“Taking l-DOPA very frequently will cause your tyrosine hydroxylase levels to be reduced, so in the long run your dopamine levels will actually become lower than usual. Whether 3x a week is often enough for this to happen honestly depends on your personal biochemistry. I would tread lightly with l-DOPA, because once tyrosine hydroxylase is downregulated, it’s notoriously difficult to bring the concentrations back up.” – avanish11
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