Mucuna pruriens is a legume, found in Africa, India and the Caribbean. It is an annual, climbing shrub which grows over 13 – 15 m height. The young plant is completely covered by hair where as older plants are free of it. The leaves are tripinnate. Flowers are white, lavender, or purple. The fruits are leguminous. The husk is very hairy and carries up to seven seeds.
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.
This plant is also known as cowhage, cowitch, Velvet Bean, Itchy bean, Buffalo bean etc. In India it is known as Kevancha, kavach or kevach (Hindi). Ayurveda acharyas have grouped this plant under Balya (body strengthening herbs), Madhura skanda (herbs with sweet taste) and Vatasamshamana (Herbs which normalize vata dosha).
According to ayurveda principles the plant Mucuna pruriens or kapikacchu is heavy to digest and increases moistness of tissues. It has both sweet and bitter taste and the potency is hot.
Ayurveda medicinal properties:
This plant normalizes vata and increases kapha and pitta. Hence it is administered in diseases caused due to vitiation of vata. The roots and seeds of kapikacchu help to strengthen the nervous system and reduce stress. Therefore it is used as nervine tonic. The hairs on fruits help to eliminate intestinal parasites. It is usually administered with honey, butter and jaggery. Seeds of mucuna pruriens act as vrishya (aphrodisiac). The seeds of this plant are eulogized as the best vrishya and vajikara which increase sexual functions in men. They help in conditions like erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation and low sperm count.
Regular use of these seeds increase libido in men. Hence seeds of kapikacchu are used in vajikarana preparations. Kapikacchu seeds increase sperm count and sperm motility.
Seeds of velvet bean or mucuna are also effective in dysmenorrhea (gynecological condition of pain during menstruation) in women. Texts of ayurveda mention the usage of seeds to strengthen the muscles of vagina. Roots of velvet bean have diuretic properties. Ayurveda acharyas recommend use of this herb to strengthen the body, increase stamina and muscle bulk.
Studies have shown that Mucuna Pruriens help to increase the male hormone testosterone. Testosterone increases muscle mass, libido and rectifies erectile dysfunction. The seeds improve male fertility by increasing concentration of male hormones. This increases quality and quantity of semen. Seeds contain protein, lipids, dietary fiber, ash, carbohydrates, minerals and it contains plenty of alkaloids, saponins and sterols. The main ingredients are L-dopa , mucanine and serotonin. L-Dopa acts as anti-Parkinson's and increases testosterone. The tribal people use plant and its extracts as anti venom for various snake bites.