Popularly known as velvet beans, mucuna pruriens is a legume found in regions of Africa and Asia.
The plant has many agricultural, medicinal, and horticultural uses, many of which we’ll be exploring in this article. But we’ll also look at its effects of taking mucuna pruriens before sleep and other effects it might have on the body.
But First: What is Mucuna Pruriens?
Mucuna pruriens, also called velvet beans, is a shrub that grows annually and has vines that can reach over 15 meters in length! Unlike the older plants, the young velvet bean plant is usually completely covered with hair. It can bear 3 different colors of flower including lavender, purple and white.
The beans are usually eaten and used to make different meals, especially in Indonesia where the plant itself is also used as a natural fertilizer. But they’ve also been used for medicinal purposes for centuries too.
Due to its affinity to the reproductive and nervous system, eating mucuna pruriens has been said to be effective in the treatment of various diseases including Parkinson’s disease. There are also claims that it increases testosterone levels in men. We’ll get to that later.
TAKING MUCUNA PRURIENS BEFORE BED
One of the main chemicals that can be found in velvet beans is Levodopa (L-DOPA) a precursor to dopamine.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the body. AND is one of the main messengers in the body so it plays several important roles in the body’s cells.
Dopamine pathways play a major role in controlling the release of various hormones in the body and these influence our emotional and physical states. That’s why it is regarded as being the main chemical responsible for pleasure.
It also performs vasodilatory functions in the kidney where it helps increase the excretion of sodium and urine output.
Dopamine is also responsible for various body processes including sleeping, motivation, mood, pain, heart rate, and so on. However for our purposes, we will focus on its effects on sleep:
Taking Mucuna Pruriens Before Bed: The Influence of Dopamine on Sleep
There are different schools of thought regarding the effects of dopamine on sleep. We’ll explore them right here so you can see the effects of taking mucuna pruriens before bed.
Studies have shown that dopamine inhibits the effects of Norepinephrine, an hormone that induces sleep. That’s an issue, as if this hormone is inhibited by dopamine, it means that dopamine will indirectly prevent you from sleeping.
Dopamine is also associated with wakefulness and alertness. So taking mucuna pruriens before bed could result in insomnia.
However, in 2012, a study carried out on 18 men and women with sleep-impaired abilities had something else to say. During the course of the study, a supplement which contained Chlorophytum borivilianum and Mucuna pruriens was administered. After 28 days, it was discovered that the group reported better sleep quality with no adverse reaction.
That interesting reaction and effect might be a result of its combination with the invigorating properties of the Chlorophytum borivilianum plant.
This is just one study however. And more evidence does appear to point towards mucuna pruriens being more likely to inhibit sleep rather than aid it.
So due to the potential effects on sleep, we would recommend not taking mucuna pruriens before bed. Instead it would be better to supplement with it earlier in the day.
EFFECTS OF MUCUNA PRURIENS ON THE BODY
Mucuna pruriens have been eaten for their medicinal properties for quite a while, and there’s been both negative and positive effects reported from supplementing with it.
Below are some of the effects mucuna pruriens can have on the body.
1. Severe Itching
This is one of the features that the plant is well known for. Due to the presence of serotonin and mucunain in the hairs of the pods, when the pods come in contact with human skin or flesh, it induces severe itching.
Furthermore, itching the infected area can spread the itching to other parts of the body. The itching is usually severe and uncontrollable and in some cases, it is accompanied by swollen bumps. So it’s no wonder the pods are called “mad beans” and “devil beans” in Mozambique and Nigeria respectively.
2. Gastrointestinal Disturbance
Although adverse reactions to mucuna pruriens are rare, some people may still experience some side effects.
Most of these gastrointestinal disturbances are mild and temporary. They include:
Other side effects include:
- Rapid Heartbeats
3. Reduction of Prolactin and Cortisol
Mucuna pruriens may help in the reduction of cortisol and prolactin in the body.
A high level of cortisol (often known as the stress hormone) in the body can cause Cushing syndrome and other serious health complications like high blood pressure and diabetes. Symptoms of Cushing syndrome include a rounded face and pink or purple stretch marks.
Likewise, a high level of prolactin can cause infertility and decreased sex drive. Mucuna pruriens may help reduce this hormone, which is why some folks use it as a fertility drug.
4. Parkinson’s Disease
Some studies claim that formulations including mucuna pruriens can help improve symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. One of the medications used to treat symptoms of Parkinson’s disease is L- DOPA and since mucuna pruriens is a rich source of L-DOPA, it can be effective in treating this disease.
In addition, Parkinson’s disease is usually caused by a decrease in dopamine levels. L- DOPA is a natural precursor to dopamine, so taking substances like mucuna pruriens that contain L-DOPA naturally can help promote the production of it and thereby potentially reduce the chances of getting Parkinson’s Disease.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease that mucuna pruriens might help alleviate include:
– Muscular pain
5. Increased Muscular Mass
This is one of the major effects of mucuna pruriens on the male gender. Some reports claim that mucuna pruriens can help improve the production of the male sex hormone – Testosterone.
Testosterone is the primary hormone involved in the sexual and physical growth of males. So taking food substances like mucuna pruriens is said to boost testosterone which might help encourage muscle growth in men.
6. Improved Blood Pressure
A high level of cortisol in the body is usually the main cause of high blood pressure. As mucuna pruriens has properties that might help reduce the level of cortisol in the body, that means that mucuna pruriens may also help reduce and improve blood pressure.
7. Motivation and Emotion Boost
Dopamine is regarded as the pleasure hormone and it is responsible for emotions and mood, as well as motivation.
Mucuna pruriens provide a high level of L-DOPA which is a precursor to dopamine. Eating them can therefore increase the production of dopamine and boost one’s mood, and inspire motivation.
Mucuna Pruriens Before Bed: Our Final Thoughts
There are two major effects of mucuna pruriens that have been proven many times: its itching properties and its ability to increase dopamine.
The rest of the claims are mostly unproven scientifically, but are a result of logically drawn facts.