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Muira puama (Ptychopetalum olacoides)

Muira puama (Ptychopetalum olacoides) Image
Synonyms / Common Names / Related Terms
Herbal vY®, HV 430, jarrow, lignum, marapama, marapuama, maripuama, muira-puama, muira puama wood, muirapuam, Muirae puama, muirapuamine, Olacaceae (family), olacoides, potency bark, potency wood, potenzholz, Ptychopetali lignum, ptychopetalum, Ptychopetalum guyanna, Ptychopetalum olacoides Bentham, Ptychopetalum unicatum, Ptychopetalum uncinatum Anselmino, Ptychopetalum unicatum Anselmino, Ptychopetalum spp., raiz del macho, Testor-plus®.

Combination product examples: Catuama® (contains extracts of Ptychopetalum olacoides, Paullinia cupana, Zingiber officinalis, and Trichilia catigua), Herbal vX® (contains Ptychopetalum olacoides and Ginkgo biloba).

Note: Not to be confused with Acanthea virilis or Liriosma ovata (also called muira puama).

Mechanism of Action


  • Constituents: P. olacoides root bark produces a volatile oil containing alpha-pinene, alpha-humulene, beta-pinene, beta-caryophyllene, camphene, and camphor. Uncosanoic, tricosanoic, and pentacosanoic acids make up 20% of the constituents of muira puama.7 Other compounds detected in muira puama are coumarin, fatty acid esters of sterols, free fatty acids, and free sterols.3,4,5 Muira puama also contains a small amount of beta-sitosterol in both free and bound forms.8 Alkaloids have been detected but not fully characterized.1 A lipophilic constituent has also been found in the bark and was identified as lupeol. Lupeol content is much higher in the bark of Ptychopetalum olacoides than in Ptychopetalum uncinatum.3
  • Acetylcholinesterase effects: P. olacoides ethanol extract significantly inhibited acetylcholinesterase 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 P. olacoides ethanol extract (100mg/kg, intraperitoneally).9
  • Antinociceptive effects: Recent in vivo studies in mice have determined significant antinociceptive properties of muira puama (Ptychopetalum olacoides) extract, as well as of the combination product Catuama® (containing 5% muira puama extract as well as 5% extracts of Paullinia cupana, Zingiber officinalis and Trichilia catigua), which also showed pronounced analgesic effects.2 The herbs' action may be related to an interaction with the naloxone sensitive opioid system.
  • Antioxidant effects: Muira puama is proposed to have antioxidant properties.6
  • Endocrine effects: Muira puama is proposed to have testosterone-like properties.6
  • Erectile dysfunction/vasorelaxant effects: An in vitro study in rabbits has shown that injections of the extract of Ptychopetalum olacoides caused dose-dependent relaxation of the corpus cavernosum, which is rapid in onset and of short duration.10 In addition, the extract slightly increased cAMP, which is an important second messenger in mediating the relaxation of smooth muscles. Steroid saponins contained in muira puama bark and roots are believed to be responsible for the plant's reported effectiveness in treating erectile dysfunctions, although, the exact mechanism of action of muira puama is unknown.
  • Memory improvement effects: An animal study showed that a single intraperitoneal administration of Ptychopetalum olacoides ethanol extract (POEE, 50 and 100mg/kg) improved memory retrieval in step-down inhibitory avoidance (p≤0.05 and p≤0.01, test session latency 102 [19.38-300] and 192 [91.3-300]s, respectively vs. control 24.7 [12.9-89.6]), without interfering with acquisition or consolidation in adult (2.5 month-old) mice.11 Comparable results were obtained with POEE given orally at 800 and 1000mg/kg (p≤0.05 and p≤0.01, 52.7 [19.5-297.2] and 85.7 [44.4-260.4] vs. control 20.5 [8-92.6]). Moreover, memory amelioration was also observed (p≤0.01) in aging (14 months) mice presenting memory deficit (14.95 [10.8-41]) as compared to adult (2.5 months) mice (57 [15.7-141.2]), with the extract given acutely intraperitoneally 100mg/kg (300 [133.1-300] vs. control 14.95 [10.8-41]) or orally 800mg/kg (28.4 [15.1-84.6] vs. control 11.5 [7.8-23.3]). Aging mice treated with POEE (800mg/kg, orally) performed as well as adult mice. Consistently with its traditional use, the data suggest that POEE facilitates memory retrieval.
  • Nervous system effects: Muira puama is proposed to have sympathomimetic properties.6
  • Neuroprotective effects: One study evaluated the neuroprotective properties of Ptychopetalum olacoides ethanol extract (POEE) using hippocampal slices from Wistar rats exposed to oxygen and glucose deprivation (OGD, followed by reoxygenation).12 Mitochondrial activity, an index of cell viability, was assessed by the MTT assay; in addition, the free radicals content was estimated by the use of dichlorofluorescein diacetate as probe. The OGD ischemic condition significantly impaired cellular viability, and increased free radical generation. In non-OGD slices, incubation with POEE (0.6μg/ml) increased (approximately 40%) mitochondrial activity, without affecting free radical levels. In comparison to OGD controls, slices incubated with POEE (0.6μg/ml) during and after OGD exposure had significantly increased cellular viability. In addition, at this same concentration, POEE prevented the increase of free radical content induced by OGD.


  • An in vitro study in rabbits showed that injections of muira puama (Ptychopetalum olacoides) extract have a rapid onset and short duration of action, which was not quantified by the author, and resulted in causing dose-dependent relaxation of the corpus cavernosum.10
  • An in vitro study in male Swiss mice using the combination product Catuama® (containing Ptychopetalum olacoides, Paullinia cupana, Zingiber officinalis and Trichilia catigua) reached its maximal analgesic effect six hours after oral administration and the effect lasted for at least 12 hours.2


  1. Steinmetz E. Muira puama. Quart J Crude Drug Res 1979;11(3):1787-1789.
  2. Vaz ZR, Mata LV, and Calixto JB. Analgesic effect of the herbal medicine catuama in thermal and chemical models of nociception in mice. Phytotherapy Research 1997;11:101-106.
  3. Auterhoff, H. and Momberger, B. [Lipophilic constituent of Muira puama]. Arch Pharm Ber Dtsch Pharm Ges  1971;304(3):223-228. 5291273
  4. Ito Y, Hirayama F, Aikawa Y, and et al. Constituents from Muira-puama (the roots of Ptychopetalum olacoides). Natural Medicines 1995;49(4):487.
  5. Toyota A. Studies of Brazilian crude drugs. 1. Muira-puama. Shoyakugaku Zasshi (Natural Medicines) 1979;33(2):57.
  6. Bucci, L. R. Selected herbals and human exercise performance. Am J Clin Nutr 2000;72(2 Suppl):624S-636S. 10919969
  7. Pankow, E. and Auterhoff, H. [Contents of Muira puama. 2]. Arch Pharm Ber Dtsch Pharm Ges  1969;302(3):209-212. 5262142
  8. Auterhoff, H. and Pankow, E. [Contents of Muira puama]. Arch Pharm Ber Dtsch Pharm Ges  1968;301(7):481-489. 5249989
  9. Siqueira, I. R., Fochesatto, C., da Silva, A. L., Nunes, D. S., Battastini, A. M., Netto, C. A., and Elisabetsky, E. Ptychopetalum olacoides, a traditional Amazonian "nerve tonic", possesses anticholinesterase activity. Pharmacol Biochem Behav 2003;75(3):645-650. 12895682
  10. Antunes, E., Gordo, W. M., de Oliveira, J. F., Teixeira, C. E., Hyslop, S., and De Nucci, G. The relaxation of isolated rabbit corpus cavernosum by the herbal medicine Catuama and its constituents. Phytother Res 2001;15(5):416-421. 11507734
  11. da Silva, A. L., Piato, A. L., Bardini, S., Netto, C. A., Nunes, D. S., and Elisabetsky, E. Memory retrieval improvement by Ptychopetalum olacoides in young and aging mice. J Ethnopharmacol  2004;95(2-3):199-203. 15507336
  12. Siqueira, I. R., Cimarosti, H., Fochesatto, C., Nunes, D. S., Salbego, C., Elisabetsky, E., and Netto, C. A. Neuroprotective effects of Ptychopetalum olacoides Bentham (Olacaceae) on oxygen and glucose deprivation induced damage in rat hippocampal slices. Life Sci 8-27-2004;75(15):1897-1906. 15302233

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