Velvet bean / Kaincha / Kawach / Cowhage / Kapikachhu is an annual, climbing shrub with long vines that can reach over 15 m. Dark purple flowers (6 to 30) occur in drooping racemes. Fruits are curved pods with black or brown beans inside. The pod is densely covered with loose orange hairs which cause a severe itch if they come in contact with skin. It also has two Sanskrit names, Atmagupta, which means “secret self” and Kapikachhu, which means “one starts itching like a monkey”. It is found in tropical Africa, India (in the Himalayas, at altitudes of 150-1200 m) and the Caribbean. The bean, seed, and hair of the bean pod are used to make medicine. Mucuna P. has been used since ancient times in Ayurvedic medicine for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease due to its high content of L-dopa (levodopa) at high concentrations of four to seven percent. The seed powder of Mucuna pruriens has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine for diseases including Parkinsonism, and has proven in medical tests to have equal or superior effectiveness in the treatment of parkinson’s disease over conventional, synthetic levodopa medications. It also contains hallucinogenic tryptamines, phenols and tannins. Mucuna pruriens is an Ayurvedic remedy that our ancestors have successfully used for centuries to heal male infertility by stimulating the secretion of semen, improving its quality and normalizing erectile function. Another benefit of Mucuna is that it can increase the production of human growth hormone, and extracts are commonly sold as body-building supplements. Mucuna p. extract helps the body build muscle mass, breaks down excess fat tissue in the body, and is sometimes used in sports medicine as a stimulant to improve the quality of training.
As a food, the velvet bean plant is a rich source of crude protein, essential fatty acids, starch and essential amino acids — all parts of the Mucuna plant possess medicinal properties. Multiple scientific reports suggest that Mucuna pruriens possesses pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory, anti-neoplastic, anti-epileptic and anti-microbial activities.
- Parkinson’s disease (early research shows that some cowhage preparations improve symptoms of Parkinson’s disease when used in combination with prescription drugs).
- Mail infertility and ED.
- Bone and joint conditions.
- Muscle pain.
- Scorpion stings.
- Stimulating surface blood flow in conditions that involve paralysis.
- Worm infestations.
- High levels of a hormone called prolactin – hyperprolactinemia (some data shows that cowhage might be useful for treating hyperprolactinemia in men caused by the medication chlorpromazine. But p. does not help treat hyperprolactinemia of unknown cause in women).
Cautions: A powdered preparation of Mucuna p. seed is safe for most people when taken by mouth for up to 20 weeks. The most common side effects include nausea and a sensation of abdominal bloating. Less common side effects include vomiting, abnormal body movements, and insomnia. Rare but possible side effects of other Velvet bean preparations include headache, pounding heartbeat, confusion, agitation, hallucinations, and delusions. The hair of the cowhage bean pod is a strong irritant and can cause severe itching, burning, and swelling.
Special Precautions & Warnings (from: webmd.com):
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking cowhage if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Diseases of the heart and blood vessels (cardiovascular disease): Due to the levodopa (L-dopa) in cowhage, it should be avoided or used cautiously in people with cardiovascular disease. L-dopa can frequently cause low blood pressure on standing (orthostatic hypotension), dizziness, and fainting. Much less frequently, L-dopa can also cause pounding or irregular heartbeat.
Diabetes: There is some evidence that cowhage can lower blood sugar levels and might cause blood sugar to drop too low. If you have diabetes and use cowhage, be sure to monitor you blood sugar carefully. The doses of your diabetes medications might need to be adjusted.
Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia): There is some evidence that cowhage can lower blood sugar levels and might make low blood sugar worse.
Liver disease: Cowhage contains levodopa (L-dopa). L-dopa seems to raise the blood levels of chemicals that indicate liver damage. This may mean that the cowhage is making liver disease worse. If you have liver disease, don’t use cowhage.
Skin cancer called melanoma: The body can use the levodopa (L-dopa) in cowhage to make to the skin pigment called melanin. There is some concern that this extra melanin might make melanoma worse. Don’t use cowhage if you have a history of melanoma or a suspicious changes in the skin.
Stomach or intestinal ulcers (peptic ulcer disease): There have been reports that levodopa (L-dopa) can cause gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding in people with ulcers. Since cowhage contains L-dopa, there is some concern that it might cause gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding in patients with ulcers. However, this problem has not yet been reported with cowhage.
Mental illness: Due to the levodopa (L-dopa) content, cowhage might make mental illness disease worse.
Surgery: Since cowhage might affect blood sugar levels, there is some concern that it might interfere with blood sugar control during and after surgery. Stop taking cowhage at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.