Mucuna Pruriens and Testosterone: A Review on Benefits and Side Effects

Mucuna Pruriens and Testosterone: Scientific Review on Benefits and Side Effects

Mucuna Pruriens has been used for 1000s of years to treat a variety of conditions. Recently, it is beginning to make waves in the scientific community for its powerful effects on male health.

This article will cover everything you need to know about Mucuna Pruriens supplementation and its interaction with testosterone

TL;DR

Mucuna Pruriens has been shown to have powerful testosterone boosting effects in infertile men. More research is needed to confirm whether this effect carries on to effect otherwise healthy men as well. 

What is Mucuna Pruriens?

Mucuna Pruriens, aka Velvet Bean, is a legume that grows from trees and is native to India and tropical regions of Africa (1). 

Traditionally, Mucuna Pruriens has been used in Ayurverdic Healing (an ancient branch of Indian herbal medicine) to treat Parkinson's disease (2, 3, 4). It has also been used in tribal communities to treat snake bites (5). 

The active ingredient in Mucuna Pruriens is L-DOPA or Levodopa, a direct precursor to dopamine (6). 

Dopamine is a chemical messenger that passes signals between brain cells. It is responsible for a number of bodily functions and a key factor in motivation, productivity, and focus. When you really narrow it down, dopamine is responsible for our pleasure-reward system (7). 

Feelings such as joy, happiness, and excitement can all be tied back to the amount of dopamine circulating in your brain. 

Too little dopamine can leave you feeling unfocused, fatigued, and even depressed. People with a dopamine imbalance frequently compensate by involving in self-destructive behaviour (drugs, gambling, porn, etc) to give their dopamine levels a boost. 

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Does Mucuna Pruriens Increase Testosterone Levels In Humans?

Men with low testosterone generally have low levels of dopamine as well.

Mucuna pruriens provides L-DOPA, which increases the amount of dopamine in your brain. In theory, this should have a positive impact on testosterone levels. Let's see if it carries over in practice.

The following are 4 human trials that have observed the effect of Mucuna Pruriens supplementation on testosterone levels in men. ​

Human Trial #1​

Mucuna Pruriens Improves Male Fertility By Its Action On The Hypothalamus-pituitary-gonadal Axis.

Effect

Increase

Trial Design

Cohort

Trial Length

3 months

Number of Subjects

150

Gender

Male

Body Type

Infertile

Methods

150 men (aged 25-40) were recruited for this study. Half of them were infertile, while the other half served as the control group (healthy and fertile).

The 75 infertile subjects were further split into 3 groups based on their sperm quality:

  1. Normozoospermic infertile men (normal sperm parameters)
  2. Oligozoospermic infertile men (low sperm concentration)
  3. Asthenozoospermic infertile men (reduced sperm motility)

The infertile men were prescribed to receive a daily dose of 5g of mucuna pruriens seed powder for 3 months.

Semen and blood samples were collected at baseline and at the 3-month mark.

Results ​

Supplementing with mucuna pruriens improved all parameters of sperm quality in all the subjects receiving it: 

  • Normozoospermic men increased sperm concentration by 25.9%. 
  • Oligozoospermic men increased sperm concentration by 576%.
  • Asthenozoospermic men increased sperm motility by 40.8%.

​As for hormonal parameters:

  • ​Normozoospermic men experienced a 23% increase in LH and 27.4% increase in T.
  • Oligozoospermic men experienced a 41.3% increase in LH and a 38.8% increase in T. 
  • Asthenozoospermic men experienced a 39.8% increase in LH and a 38.1% increase in T. 

Key Takeaway

Mucuna Pruriens seems to have a serious positive impact on seminal parameters as well as testosterone levels in infertile men. Whether an effect to this extent carries on in otherwise healthy men as well is still unclear because the control group in this experiment did not receive mucuna pruriens supplementation. 

Effect

Increase

Trial Design

Cohort

Trial Length

3 months

Number of Subjects

230

Gender

Male

Body Type

Infertile

Method

180 infertile men (aged 22-45) ​and 50 healthy fertile men were recruited for this experiment.

Like in Human Trial #1, the infertile subjects were divided into 3 groups (normozoospermic, oligozoospermic, asthenozoospermic) based on their seminal parameters.

The infertile subjects received 5 grams of mucuna pruriens seed powder daily for ​3-months. 

Semen and blood samples were drawn before and after ​the 3 months of treatment. 

Results

Seminal improvements were as follows:​

  • Normozoospermic subjects improved sperm concentration by ​19% and sperm motility by 7%.
  • Oligozoospermic subjects improved sperm concentration by 66.7% and sperm motility by 28.9%.
  • Asthenozoospermic improved sperm concentration by 28.8% and sperm motility by 31.8%.

Hormonal improvements were observed as follows:​

  • ​Normozoospermic subjects increased LH by 25.4% and T by 16.9%.
  • Oligozoospermic subjects increased LH by 56% and T by 43.24%.
  • Asthenozoospermic subjects increased LH by 40% and T by 29.5%.

Key Takeaway

Once again, supplementing with 5g of Mucuna Pruriens for 3 months allowed infertile men to improve sperm quality and significantly increase testosterone levels as well. 

Effect

Increase

Trial Design

Cohort

Trial Length

3 months

Number of Subjects

120

Gender

Male

Body Type

Infertile

Methods

60 infertile men (aged 30-38) were randomly selected to receive 5 grams of M. pruriens seed powder for 3 months. 60 healthy, fertile men were kept as the control.

Blood and semen samples were taken at baseline and after the 3-months of treatment. ​

​Like in the above two experiments, subjects were divided based on their seminal parameters. 

Results

M. pruirens supplementation allowed all subjects to experience tremendous improvements in semen quality with sperm concentration increasing by 688% in oligozoospermic subjects and sperm motility increasing by 32% in asthenozoospermic subjects. 

Testosterone levels weren't a measure in this experiment, but researchers did observe cortisol measurements:

  • In normozoospermic subjects, cortisol levels decreased by 27%. 
  • In oligozoospermic subjects, cortisol levels decreased by 81%. 
  • In asthenozoospermic subjects, cortisol levels decreased by 55%.

Key Takeaway

Although testosterone levels were not observed in this experiment, cortisol levels were. Cortisol and testosterone are derived from the same raw material in the body, and therefore hold an inverse relationship. In other words, lower cortisol = higher testosterone. The fact that Mucuna Pruriens supplementation was able to significantly decrease cortisol is a sure-fire signal that it increased testosterone as well. 

The Bottom Line: Mucuna Pruriens Is a Powerful Testosterone Booster In Infertile Men

The current research has only observed how M. pruriens supplementation affects seminal parameters and testosterone levels in infertile men. The results are very promising, but its not for sure that the same effects carry over in otherwise healthy and fertile men as well. 

Based on my analysis of the research, I think that M. pruriens supplementation will increase testosterone levels in otherwise healthy men, but the effect is dependent on condition. So if you already have near optimal T-levels, then supplementation will not be beneficial for you. But if your current levels are below the normal range, then supplementation can help. Keep in mind that this is just my theory. More research is needed to confirm this. 

Now that we have observed the human studies, let's take a look at some animal studies:

  • 1000mg/kg of L-DOPA supplementation in rats significantly increased their LH and T levels over the course of 7-14 days (8). 
  • 480g of M. pruriens per kg of food was given to Japanese Quails daily for 5 weeks, after which the birds were found to have significantly higher testosterone and LH levels (9). 
  • In rats injected with estrogen for 14 days, M. pruriens supplementation for 56 days after was able to help them recover spermatogenic parameters (10). 

Does Mucuna Pruriens Increase Growth Hormone?

​2 human studies have also found an interaction between L-DOPA and growth hormone concentrations: 

  • ​In 26 adolescents, 2 adults, and 4 patients with Parkinson's, 0.5g of L-DOPA supplementation was able to significantly increase growth hormone levels after 60-minutes of ingestion (11). 
  • 9 healthy male subjects given 500mg of L-DOPA were found to have significantly higher growth hormone levels 2 hours after ingestion (12). 

Although the research is still preliminary in this regard, L-DOPA does seem do have a positive interaction with growth hormone concentrations in men.  

Mucuna Pruriens for Bodybuilding

I was unable to find any studies observing the direct impact of Mucuna Pruriens supplementation on muscle growth and strength, but there are some indirect affects that we can infer. 

Given that M. pruriens increases circulating dopamine, it can allow you to generate more focus towards your workouts. This, in turn, can allow you to lift heavier weights for more reps. ​Also, the indirect effects on testosterone and growth hormone can further influence muscle growth.

Keep in mind, though, that these are just assumptions. There's no solid evidence showing M. pruriens supplementation to benefit bodybuilding. 

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Other Mucuna Pruriens Benefits

So far we've looked at Mucuna Pruriens through the lens of its interaction with testosterone. But more dopamine in your brain translates to a variety of other benefits as well: 

  • A healthy central and peripheral nervous system.
  • Increased ability to handle stress.
  • Improved physical balance and posture.
  • Better motor neuron recruitment and coordination.
  • Improved energy and endurance.

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Mucuna Pruriens Side Effects

The most common side effect from mucuna pruriens comes from exposure to the plant itself. Contact with skin causes extreme itchiness due to the serotonin on the surface. 

Other side effects associated with supplementation come from taking it in a dosage that is too high. ​They include:

  • Vomitting
  • Headache
  • Sleeplessness
  • Blood Pressure
  • Hairloss

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The Down and Low On Mucuna Pruriens

Based on the current state of the research, Mucuna Pruriens seems to have a positive influence on testosterone levels. This influence, however, has only been observed in infertile men. More research is needed to solidify its status as a test booster in otherwise healthy men, but the research is promising. 

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