The primary neurotransmitters that govern most of the body’s functions are serotonin and dopamine. These two neurotransmitters act as a system to inhibit or increase the flow of information in the nervous system. Tryptophan or 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is usually used to affect serotonin levels in the brain. Research has shown that in order to increase dopamine levels in the brain, either tyrosine or an extract from a bean called mucuna pruriens are most useful. In this post we will discuss mucuna pruriens – what it does, what’s its good for and what you need to watch out for when using it.
Mucuna pruriens – a natural form of L-dopa
Mucuna pruriens is a legume that grows in the tropics. In its natural state the bean contains about 3% to 6% L-dopa. (1, 2) L-dopa is a precursor to dopamine; therefore, the naturally occurring L-dopa in mucuna pruriens can be transported across the blood-brain-barrier into the brain where it can be readily converted to dopamine.
What is Mucuna pruriens good for?
Mucuna pruriens has been used extensively for those with Parkinson’s disease, both with and without conventional medications. (1,3,4,5) It has also been used in clinics across the country as a dopamine source for those with depression, anxiety, ADD/ADHD, insomnia, migraine headaches, obesity, addiction, OCD, bipolar disorder and trichotillomania.
What to watch out for
The amount of L-dopa in Mucuna pruriens varies widely; therefore, only a product that contains a standardized amount of L-dopa should be used. Even amongst standardized products, the lower the amount of L-dopa per capsule the more pills you have to take to achieve a given amount of L-dopa. In addition, quality control varies widely in the supplement market and many products contain chemicals, heavy metals and other adulterants that may be harmful to your health.
We use a Mucuna pruriens product that is standardized to 40% L-dopa, so it contains 120 mg of L-dopa per capsule. To our knowledge, this is the highest amount of any product on the market, allowing you to take fewer pills to achieve desired results. In addition, this product is regularly tested for purity and is only available through trained health care providers. This insures the highest quality control and safety available when a dopamine source is needed.
- HP-200 in Parkinson’s Disease study group. An alternative medicine treatment for Parkinson’s disease: Results of a multicenter clinical trial. J Alt Comp Med 1995; 1:249-55.
- Infante ME, Perez AM, Simao MR, et al. Outbreak of acute toxic psychosis attributed to Mucuna pruriens. Lancet 1990;336:1129.
- Nagashayana N, Sankarankutty P, Nampoothiri MRV, et al. Association of l-DOPA with recovery following Ayurveda medication in Parkinson’s Disease. J Neurol Sci 2000;176:124-7.
- Vaidya AB, Rajagopalan TG, Mankodi NA, et al. Treatment of Parkinson’s disease with the cowhage plant-Mucuna pruriens Bak. Neurol India 1978;26:171-6.
- Katzenschlager R, Evans A, Manson A, et al. Mucuna pruriens in Parkinson’s disease: a double blind clinical and pharmacological study. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 2004;75:1672-77.