Mucuna pruriens, also known as velvet bean, velvet bean, pica, picapica, chiporro, bull’s eye, and many other names, is a tropical legume. But what else do you know about her?
Here is a guide for you to get to know this shrub and you can discover its characteristics, properties and the reasons why it is now widely known and used.
Characteristics of Mucuna pruriens
Let’s start by clarifying everything you need to know about Mucuna pruriens. It’s about a climbing shrub that is annual (which means that it loses its leaves in winter to remove them again in spring). Its vines are quite long, even reaching reach 15 meters in length.
Its natural habitat is India, from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. However, the truth is that it is widely distributed throughout the regions of Asia and the tropics. Even now it can be found in other places due to the properties that are known about it and the increasingly widespread use of it.
Something striking in the plant is that, when this is young, you will see that it is completely covered with hairs and, as the years go by, we could say that she is bald.
As for the leaves, they are ovate, tripinate and rhomboid in shape.
Mucuna pruriens is a plant that flowers in a curious way. For a start, its flowers can be white, purple or lavender. They are arranged in axillary panicles that can measure between 15 and 32 centimeters and each one can have a minimum of two flowers, or find that it has many. Next to them you will also see small leaves grow, smaller than the usual ones, since they measure about 12.5cm.
The flowering period of Mucuna pruriens is quite fast. From when you plant it until it blooms, just 120-125 days pass, that is approximately 4 months. Besides, It will continue to flower until, after 180-200 days, it begins to bear fruit.
However, you must be careful with the flowers and pods (where you will find the seeds) because these are covered in white or cream-colored hair and when in contact with the skin it will sting a lot. It is a defense mechanism that the plant has. Therefore, if at any time you want to take the seeds, you should try to do it with good gloves to avoid skin problems.
As for the pods, you should know that they can be 4 to 10 centimeters long and 1 to 2 centimeters wide. Inside you will find a maximum of 7 seedsall of them round or flattened and between 1 and 1.9 cm long and between 0.8 and 1.3 wide.
Mucuna pruriens care
Having Mucuna pruriens is not common. But the truth is that its care is not too complicated and it could serve as a creeper while you enjoy its properties.
For them, The most important care that you must provide are the following:
- A land to be able to be loamy-sandy. He likes it to have good drainage and a soil pH between 5.50 and 7.50.
- An average temperature of 15ºC in winter and 38ºC in summer. It adapts to any climate, from a humid one to a dry one. That’s why you shouldn’t worry.
- A monthly watering in winter and biweekly in summer.
- Subscriber to improve the production of pods and seeds.
- Control pests and diseases, such as the hairy caterpillar (it is the one that can do the most damage).
As for reproduction, there is no doubt that the way to do it is through the seeds. These have to be cleaned when they are taken out of the pod and let them dry to be planted in spring, which will be the moment in which you can put them and in a matter of about 4 months they should be ready to start flowering. Even so, they will continue to grow and develop, so you will have to prune them to control that they do not invade the space of other plants (or areas where you do not want them to be).
Within the plant kingdom, there is no doubt that Mucuna pruriens is one of the plants with the greatest use, not only decorative, but above all medicinal.
Traditionally, it was used (and is used) in Indian medicine. It is known that it was used for years and even centuries. For example, there are writings that make it clear that one of the uses of Mucuna pruriens is as an aphrodisiac. But also as a geriatric tonic, as a vermifuge, to treat menstruation, in constipation, fever, for tuberculosis…
What’s more, more than 4500 years ago, Ayurvedic physicians in ancient India used Mucuna pruriens to treat Parkinson’s. And if we go closer, in the formulations of indigenous drugs, in more than 200 this plant is present.
But what does it offer us?
- Its seeds have L-DOPA, which is a non-protein amino acid that affects mood, sexuality and also movement.
- In addition, they contain other amino acids that are equally important, such as serotonin, nicotine…
- As for the leaves, they also have L-DOPA, although in less quantity than the seeds.
All this makes it possible to use this plant (especially in the case of seeds) for treat various health problems. For example:
- Urinary tract problems.
- Neurological problems. Not just Parkinson’s. In fact, it is said that with only 30 grams of seed powder, patients can be seen to improve, not to the point of curing them, but to treating and keeping the disease at bay.
- Treatment of menstruation.
- antidepressant problems. Especially in cases of depressive neurosis.
- Reduces blood glucose. Being able to help better control diabetes in people who have it (or in those who are about to develop it).
- It works against the poison. Above all, and according to studies, that of snake bites.
- Aphrodisiac. In the case of men, improving psychological stress, sperm count and motility. It also improves semen quality and sexual activity.
The current form of consumption of Mucuna pruriens is through capsules (they are taken once a day for periods) and although it is not well known, for now, it does attract attention for all the properties it has. Have you ever tried them?