Plant Profiler

Cowhage (Mucuna pruriens)

Cowhage (Mucuna pruriens) Image
Synonyms / Common Names / Related Terms
Dolichos pruriens, Fabaceae (family), HP-200, kapikachu, kiwach, Mucuna birdwoodiana, Mucuna pruriens, Mucuna sempervirens, velvet bean.

Mechanism of Action


  • Constituents: Mucuna pruriens seeds or beans are known for their high protein (20.2-29.3%) and carbohydrate content (49.9-61.2%).5,1,2,9 The seeds also contain ash 3.3-5.5%, fiber 8.7-10.5%, crude lipid 4.9-7.4%, levodopa 3.6-4.2%, lysine 6.0-6.4%, trypsin 28.5-39.7mg/g, chymotrypsin inhibitor activity 19.3-24.6mg/g, sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, copper, zinc, leucine, and manganese.1,2,3 However, due to the presence of phenolics, tannins, L-dopa, lectins, protease inhibitors, etc., Mucuna pruriens seeds may have restricted nutritional value unless the seeds are properly processed.5,2
  • Anticoagulant effects: In an in vitro study, the leaves of Mucuna pruriens var. utilis showed a dose-related ability to prolong clotting in blood treated with a standardized dose of the venom of the snake Echis carinatus.6
  • Dopaminergic effects: In a clinical study, mucuna preparation increased serum levodopa concentrations in Parkinson's disease patients.4 In addition, there was no difference in dyskinesias.
  • Prolactin secretion inhibition effects: Two early studies indicate that cowhage may inhibit prolactin secretion.8,7


  • In a clinical trial of eight Parkinson's disease patients with a short duration levodopa response and on period dyskinesias, 15 and 30g of Mucuna were compared with standard levodopa/carbidopa (LD/CD).4 Compared with standard LD/CD, the 30g Mucuna preparation led to a considerably faster onset of effect (34.6 vs. 68.5 minutes; p=0.021), reflected in shorter latencies to peak levodopa plasma concentrations. Mean on time was 21.9% (37 minutes) longer with 30g Mucuna than with LD/CD (p=0.021); peak levodopa plasma concentrations were 110% higher and the area under the plasma concentration vs. time curve (area under the curve) was 165.3% larger (p=0.012).


  1. Prakash, D., Niranjan, A., and Tewari, S. K. Some nutritional properties of the seeds of three Mucuna species. Int J Food Sci Nutr  2001;52(1):79-82. 11225181
  2. Vadivel, V. and Janardhanan, K. Nutritional and anti-nutritional composition of velvet bean: an under-utilized food legume in south India. Int J Food Sci Nutr  2000;51(4):279-287. 11027039
  3. Vadivel, V. and Janardhanan, K. Nutritional and antinutritional characteristics of seven South Indian wild legumes. Plant Foods Hum Nutr 2005;60(2):69-75. 16021834
  4. Katzenschlager, R., Evans, A., Manson, A., Patsalos, P. N., Ratnaraj, N., Watt, H., Timmermann, L., Van der, Giessen R., and Lees, A. J. Mucuna pruriens in Parkinson's disease: a double blind clinical and pharmacological study. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 2004;75(12):1672-1677. 15548480
  5. Pugalenthi, M., Vadivel, V., and Siddhuraju, P. Alternative food/feed perspectives of an underutilized legume Mucuna pruriens var. utilis--a review. Plant Foods Hum Nutr 2005;60(4):201-218. 16395632
  6. Houghton, P. J. and Skari, K. P. The effect on blood clotting of some west African plants used against snakebite. J Ethnopharmacol 1994;44(2):99-108. 7853871
  7. Vaidya, R. A., Aloorkar, S. D., Sheth, A. R., and Pandya, S. K. Activity of bromoergocryptine, Mucuna pruriens and L-dopa in the control of hyperprolactinaemia. Neurol India 1978;26(4):179-182. 572921
  8. Vaidya, R. A., Sheth, A. R., Aloorkar, S. D., Rege, N. R., Bagadia, V. N., Devi, P. K., and Shah, L. P. The inhibitory effect of the cowhage plant-Mucuna pruriens-and L-dopa on chlorpromazine-induced hyperprolactinaemia in man. Neurol India 1978;26(4):177-178. 753997
  9. Rajyalakshmi, P. and Geervani, P. Nutritive value of the foods cultivated and consumed by the tribals of south India. Plant Foods Hum Nutr 1994;46(1):53-61. 7971787

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