Herbs & Plants

Mucuna pruriens

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Botanical Name :Mucuna pruriens
Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Faboideae
Tribe:     Phaseoleae
Genus:     Mucuna
Species: M. pruriens
Kingdom: Plantae
Order:     Fabales

Synonyms: Dolichos pruriens. Stizolobium pruriens. Mucuna prurita. Setae Siliquae Hirsutae. Cowage. Cowitch. Couhage. Kiwach.

Common Names:(French) Cadjuet. Pois velus. Pois à gratter. Liane à gratter. Pois pouilleux. Ceil de bourrique.
(German) Kratzbohnen. Kuhkratze.

* Bieh (in the Madurese language)
* Ci mao li dou  (in Chinese)
* Nasagunnikaayi ( in Kannada)
* Kara benguk in the Javanese language
* Atmagupta or Kapikacchu (in Sanskrit)
* Kiwanch or Konch ( in Hindi)
* Khaajkuiri in Marathi
* Alkushi  (in Bengali)
* Poonaikkaali ( in Tamil)
* Velvet bean, Cowhage, Cowitch, Donkey eye, monkey tamarind, and Buffalo beans in English (the last also refers to Thermopsis rhombifolia)
* Juckbohne (German: “itch bean”)
* Fogareté (Dominican Republic); Picapica (everywhere), in Spanish
* Kapikachu
* Werepe or YerepeYoruba
* Duradagondi (in Telugu)
* Feijão maluco, “mad bean” (Angola and Mozambique); pó-de-mico, “itching powder”, feijão-da-flórida, “Florida’s bean”, feijão-cabeludo-da-índia, “hairy/pilous Indian bean”, feijão-de-gado, “cattle’s bean”, feijão-mucuna, “mucuna bean”, feijão-veludo, “velvet bean”, and mucuna-vilosa, “fleecy mucuna” (Brazil and Portugal), in Portuguese
* Chitedze (Malawi)
* Naykuruna  (in Malayalam)
* Mah mui (in Thai language)
* Móc mèo (in Vietnamese language)
* Kavach beej
* Inyelekpe (Nigeria) in Igala
* Upupu in Kiswahili
* Baidanka (in Oriya)
* Pois mascate (Reunion Island) in French
* Wandhuru Mæ in Sinhala
* Kway lee yerr thee (in Myanmar)
* Agbala (Nigeria) in Ibo
* “Bandar Kekowa” (in Assamese)
* “picapica (puerto rico).

Habitat :Mucuna pruriens is  native to Tropical regions, especially East and West Indies. (It is  widely naturalized  Africa and Asia ).

The plant is an annual, climbing shrub with long vines that can reach over 15 m in length. When the plant is young, it is almost completely covered with fuzzy hairs, but when older, it is almost completely free of hairs. The leaves are tripinnate, ovate, reverse ovate, rhombus-shaped or widely ovate. The sides of the leaves are often heavily grooved and the tips are pointy. In young M.pruriens plants, both sides of the leaves have hairs. The stems of the leaflets are two to three millimeters long. Additional adjacent leaves are present and are about 5 mm long.

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The flower heads take the form of axially arrayed panicles. They are 15 to 32 cm long and have two or three, or many flowers. The accompanying leaves are about 12.5 mm long, the flower stand axes are from 2.5 to 5 mm. The bell is 7.5 to 9 mm long and silky. The sepals are longer or of the same length as the shuttles. The crown is purplish or white. The flag is 1.5 mm long. The wings are 2.5 to 3.8 cm long.

In the fruit ripening stage, a 4 to 13 cm-long, 1 to 2 cm-wide, unwinged, leguminous fruit develops. There is a ridge along the length of the fruit. The husk is very hairy and carries up to seven seeds. The seeds are flattened uniform ellipsoids, 1 to 1.9 cm long, 0.8 to 1.3 cm wide and 4 to 6.5 cm thick. The hilum, the base of the funiculus (connection between placenta and plant seeds) is a surrounded by a significant arillus (fleshy seeds shell).

M.pruriens bears white, lavender, or purple flowers. Its seed pods are about 10 cm long  and are covered in loose, orange hairs that cause a severe itch if they come in contact with skin. The chemical compounds responsible for the itch are a protein, mucunain and serotonin.  The seeds are shiny black or brown drift seeds.

The dry weight of the seeds is 55 to 85 g/100 seeds

Edible Uses:
M. pruriens is sometimes used as a coffee substitute called “Nescafe” (not to be confused with the commercial brand Nescafé). Cooked fresh shoots or beans can also be eaten. This requires that they be soaked from at least 30 minutes to 48 hours in advance of cooking, or the water changed up to several times during cooking, since otherwise the plant can be toxic to humans. The above described process leaches out phytochemical compounds such as levodopa, making the product more suitable for consumption. If consumed in large quantities as food, unprocessed M. pruriens is toxic to non-ruminant mammals, including humans.

Medicinal Uses:

Parts Used:  The hairs of the pod, seeds.

Chemical Constituents:In addition to levodopa, it contains minor amounts of serotonin (5-HT), 5-HTP, nicotine, N,N-DMT (DMT), bufotenine, and 5-MeO-DMT. As such, it could potentially have psychedelic effects, and it has purportedly been used in ayahuasca preparations.

The mature seeds of the plant contain about 3.1–6.1% L-DOPA,[11] with trace amounts of 5-hydroxytryptamine (serotonin), nicotine, DMT-n-oxide, bufotenine, 5-MeO-DMT-n-oxide, and beta-carboline. One study using 36 samples of the seeds found no tryptamines present in them.

The leaves contain about 0.5% L-DOPA, 0.006% dimethyltryptamine (DMT), 0.0025% 5-MeO-DMT and 0.003% DMT n-oxide.

The ethanolic extract of leaves of Mucuna pruriens possesses anticataleptic and antiepileptic effect in albino rats. Dopamine and serotonin may have a role in such activity

The hairs are usually filled with air, but sometimes contain granular matter, with tannic acid and resin. No tincture or decoction is effective.

A mechanical anthelmintic. The hairs, mixed with syrup, molasses, or honey, pierce the bodies of intestinal worms, which writhe themselves free from the walls, so that a brisk cathartic will bring them away. It is usually a safe remedy, but enteritis has sometimes followed its use. It has little effect upon tape-worm, but is good for Ascaris lumbricoides and in slightly less degree for the smaller Oxyuris vermicularis.

Benefits of Mucuna pruriens

In the form of an ointment, Mucuna has been used as a local stimulant in paralysis and other affections, acting like Croton oil. A decoction of the root or legumes is said to have been used in dropsy as a diuretic and for catarrh, and in some parts of India an infusion is used in cholera.

It is a good medium for the application of such substances as muriate of morphia. In the proportion of 7 to 8 grains of cowhage to an ounce of lard, it should be rubbed in for from 10 to 20 minutes. It brings out flat, white pimples, which soon disappear. Oil relieves the heat and irritation caused on the skin.

The seeds are said to be aphrodisiac.


Other Uses:
In many parts of the world, Mucuna pruriens is used as an important forage, fallow and green manure crop. Since the plant is a legume, it fixes nitrogen and fertilizes soil.

M. pruriens is a widespread fodder plant in the tropics. To that end, the whole plant is fed to animals as silage, dried hay or dried seeds. M. pruriens silage contains 11-23% crude protein, 35-40% crude fiber, and the dried beans 20-35% crude protein. It also has use in the countries of Benin and Vietnam as a biological control for problematic Imperata cylindrica grass. M. pruriens is said to not be invasive outside its cultivated area.[5] However, the plant is known to be invasive within conservation areas of South Florida, where it frequently invades disturbed land and rockland hammock edge habitats.

Medical Research:
M. pruriens contains L-DOPA, a precursor to the neurotransmitter dopamine and formulations of the seed powder have been studied for the management and treatment of Parkinson’s disease.

In large amounts (e.g. 30 g dose), it has been shown to be as effective as pure levodopa/carbidopa in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, but no data on long-term efficacy and tolerability are available.

Known Hazards:
The plant is notorious for the extreme itchiness it produces on contact, particularly with the young foliage and the seed pods. It has value in agricultural and horticultural use and has a range of medicinal properties.

The hairs lining the seed pods and the small spicules on the leaves contain 5-hydroxytryptamine (serotonin) which cause severe itching (pruritus) when touched. The calyx below the flowers is also a source of itchy spicules and the stinging hairs on the outside of the seed pods are used in itching powder. Water should not be used if contact occurs, as it only dilutes the chemical. Also, one should avoid scratching the exposed area since this causes the hands to transfer the chemical to all other areas touched. Once this happens, one tends to scratch vigorously and uncontrollably and for this reason the local populace in northern Mozambique refer to the beans as the mad beans (feijões malucos). They use raw, unrefined moist tobacco to treat the itching. In India, the application of cow dung is very effective to treat the itching caused by the spicules of this herb.

The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider



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Spinal Shocks Can Control Parkinson’s

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By electrically stimulating the spinal cords of rodents, scientists have reversed some of the worst symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. As long as a  mild current flows up their spines and into their brains, the animals regain the ability to scamper around their cages, as if they were normal.
The therapy, described in the journal Science, is a potential alternative to direct stimulation, which requires risky and invasive surgery to implant electrodes deep in the brain, researchers said. Only 30% of severely impaired Parkinson’s patients qualify for the operation.

Spinal cord stimulation would be less invasive and inherently safer, and it would reduce the amount of drugs needed to treat the disease, said the report’s lead author, Miguel Nicolelis, a neuroscientist at Duke. In the new treatment, animals whose brains were depleted of dopamine had tiny electrodes, the size of a fingernail, implanted on their spinal cords. Three seconds after a mild electrical stimulation began, they could move about normally.

The treatment was also effective when combined with L-dopa in further experiments; only two doses of L-dopa were needed to produce movement, compared with five doses when it was used by itself. Spinal cord stimulation represents a “big conceptual change” in how to treat Parkinson’s disease, Nicolelis said. Rather than looking at where things happen in the brain, the approach focuses on when things happen, as in the dynamic firing patterns of large circuits of neurons.

These circuits oscillate in harmony and underlie normal brain function. Parkinson’s patients have abnormal low-frequency oscillations in the brain regions controlling movement, Nicolelis said. Stimulation of the topmost layer of the spinal cord, which conveys touch sensations to the brain, may work by disrupting these abnormal oscillations, restoring normal firing patterns across multiple brain structures involved in the control of voluntary movements.

Sources: The Times Of India

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The New Silk Route

Proteins from silkworms can help people suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

Proteins from the tussar silkworm increase the shelf life of L-Dopa

.Subhas Kundu was always interested in silkworms. When the biotechnologist was a child growing up in a remote village in the West Midnapore district of West Bengal, he used to collect cocoons of tussar silkworms falling off Sal trees and exchange them in a neighbourhood shop for a handful of coloured sugar candies.

He is still collecting silkworms, but not for toffees. For long years, he has been studying the caterpillar — which gives us the finest variety of malmal silk. The head of the biotechnology department at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur, has shown that proteins extracted from these worms can play a critical role in bone repair, grafting, delivery of drugs and even in the treatment of diseases such as Parkinson’s.

While mulberry silk, reeled from the domesticated silkworm Bombyx mori, accounts for the lion’s share of silk products globally, there are several wild silk moths such as those that yield prominent silk varieties like tussar, muga and eri.

Silkworm cocoons, be it mulberry or non-mulberry, contain two major proteins — fibroin and sericin. While the fibrous protein fibroin — which constitutes nearly 70 to 80 per cent of the cocoon’s weight — is responsible for silk fibres, sericin acts more like glue and holds the fibres together. Sericin, which is at present thrown away, has potential pharmaceutical, cosmetics and biotech applications.

For instance, Kundu’s team has used these proteins (isolated from the glands of the tussar silkworm or the Antheraea mylitta) in making films, scaffolds, hydrogels and nanoparticles that can be used in medical applications such as wound dressing, skin grafting and even in the delivery of drugs and other bioactive molecules inside the human body. All these new products are in different stages of development, Kundu told KnowHow.

Another important development recently reported by the IIT, Kharagpur, scientists is that the silkworm protein extends the shelf life of a crucial drug, L-Dopa, which is used to treat Parkinson’s disease. L-Dopa seeks to substitute a brain chemical called dopamine that gets lost in the disease. But it’s very difficult to store the drug, for it becomes completely ineffective within a few days if exposed to oxygen and light.

The researchers have now found that if L-Dopa is held together by a matrix made of the silkworm’s fibroin protein, it is effective even after 10 days. “This, I believe, can be an important feat in the management of Parkinson’s,” says Kundu.

Kundu is not alone in this quest for finding novel applications for silk whose properties, such as its smooth texture, shimmering appearance and strength, have made this natural fibre the darling of textile designers all over the world. Researchers in countries like China, Japan and Korea have several silk-based non-textile products such as mulberry tea, nutritive supplements rich in antioxidants and many others.

Sutures made of biocompatible silk fibre have been in use for surgeries for some time now. Scientists elsewhere are even trying to develop blood vessels and heart valves using the fibre.

Kundu thinks that finding high-value application for the Indian silk varieties, which are already suffering from an onslaught from the cheaper mulberry silk from China, can help poor farmers involved in sericulture.

“Going beyond textile applications is the way forward for the silk industry,” says Kanika Trivedi, a researcher at the Central Sericultural Research and Training Institute

Sources: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

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