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Botanical Name : Ptychopetalum olacoides
Common Name : Muira Puama, Potency wood, Marapuama, Marapama, Muiratã, Muiratam, Pau-homen, Potenzholz
Habitat :Muira Puama is native to the Brazilian Amazon and other parts of the Amazon rainforest
Ptychopetalum olacoides is a shrub or a small trees growing to about 14 feet in height. 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.
The small, white flowers have a pungent fragrance similar to jasmine’s. The Ptychopetalum genus is a small one – only two species of small trees grow in tropical South America and five in tropical Africa. The two South American varieties, P. olacoides (found in Brazil, French Guiana, Guyana, and Suriname) and P. uncinatum (found only in Brazil), are used interchangeably in South American herbal medicine systems. The olacoides variety is usually preferred, as it has a higher content of lupeol (one of the plant’s active phytochemicals).
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. 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.
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.
There is evidence that Muira Puama is anxiogenic in rodents (causes anxiety), which would be consistent with a stimulant effect, without affecting coordination. However, rather than increasing the activity of excitatory neurotransmitters, it decreases the activity of an inhibitory neurotransmitter.
Ptychopetalum olacoides, a traditional Amazonian “nerve tonic”, possesses anticholinesterase activity.
The cholinergic hypothesis of Alzheimer disease (AD) has provided the rationale for the current pharmacotherapy of this disease, in an attempt to downgrade the cognitive decline caused by cholinergic deficits. Nevertheless, the search for potent and long-acting acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitors that exert minimal side effects to AD patients is still an ongoing effort. Amazonian communities use traditional remedies prepared with Ptychopetalum olacoides (PO, Olacaceae) roots for treating various central nervous system conditions, including those associated with aging. The fact that PO ethanol extract (POEE) has been found to facilitate memory retrieval in the step down procedure in young and aged mice prompt us to evaluate its effects on AChE activity in memory relevant brain areas. POEE significantly inhibited AChE activity in vitro in a dose- and time-dependent manner in rat frontal cortex, hippocampus and striatum; a significant inhibition was also found in these same brain areas of aged (14 months) mice after acute administration of POEE (100 mg/kg ip). We propose that such AChE inhibitory activity is a neurochemical correlate of a number of therapeutic properties traditionally claimed for P. olacoides, particularly those associated with cognition.
Muira puama is still employed around the world today in herbal medicine. In Brazil and South American herbal medicine, it is used a neuromuscular tonic, for asthenia, paralysis, chronic rheumatism, sexual impotency, grippe, ataxia, and central nervous system disorders In Europe, it is used to treat impotency, infertility, neurasthenia, menstrual disturbances and dysentery. It has been gaining in popularity in the United States where herbalists and health care practitioners are using muira puama for impotency, menstrual cramps and PMS, neurasthenia and central nervous system disorders. The benefits in treating impotency with muira puama has recently been studied in two human trials which showed that Muira puama was proven to be effective in improving libido and treating erectile dysfunction. In a study conducted in Paris, France, of 262 male patients experiencing lack of sexual desire and the inability to attain or maintain an erection, 62% of the patients with loss of libido reported that the extract of muira puama “had a dynamic effect” and 51% of patients with erectile dysfunctions felt that muira puama was beneficial. The second study conducted by Waynberg in France evaluated the positive psychological benefits of Muira puama in 100 men with male sexual asthenia.
It is important to note that to achieve the beneficial effects of the plant, proper preparation methods must be employed. The active constituents found in the natural bark thought to be responsible for Muira Puama’s effect are not water soluble nor are they broken down in the digestive process. Therefore taking a ground bark or root powder in a capsule or tablet will not be very effective. High heat for at least 20 minutes or longer in alcohol in necessary to dissolve and extract the volatile and essential oils, terpenes, gums and resins found in the bark and root that have been linked to Muira Puama’s beneficial effects.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.
Avoid in individuals with a known allergy or hypersensitivity to muira puama (Ptychopetalum olacoides), any of its constituents, or any related members of the Olacaceae family.
Side Effects and Warnings
*Muira puama is generally considered by experts to be a safe herb, and no serious adverse effects have been reported in the available scientific literature.
*Muira puama may raise blood pressure and CNS (central nervous system) stimulation, which may alter blood pressure, heart functions, and CNS effects on heart tissue. Muira puama may also have proposed testosterone-like proprieties, which may cause anabolic side effects, such as increases in energy, aggression, or appetite, changes in voice, or enlargement of genitalia.
*Use cautiously in patients taking steroidal drug therapy or in patients with hormone-sensitive conditions (e.g., breast cancer, endometriosis, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer).
*Use cautiously in patients with hypertension (high blood pressure) or cardiac disease, as muira puama may exacerbate these conditions.
*Use cautiously in patients taking CNS-acting medications, as muira puama may stimulate the CNS.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding : Avoid use during pregnancy due to reported idiosyncratic motor/sacral stimulant properties. Muira puama is not recommended in breastfeeding women due to a lack of available scientific data.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.
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