Cowhage (Velvet Bean)

Scientific Names: Mucuna pruriens

Common names:  Cowitch, Cowhage plant, kavach, Kapikachhu, Atmagupta Naikaranam, Kawanch, Kewach

Ayurvedic names: Atmagupta, Mucuna prurience

Chinese names: Ci mao li dou

Bangladesh names: Aalkushi, Dhunargund, Suiashimbi

Arabic names:    الفاصوليا المخملية (al fasoolya al mikhmaliyyah)

Rain Forest names:

Family: Leguminosae Papilionaceae

Approximate Number of Species Known: 150 species 

Common Parts Used:  Hair of the pods and seeds


Annual/Perennial: Annual

Height: 3-18 meters 0r 130 feet height

Actions:  Mechanical anthelmintic

Known Constituents: 

Constituents Explained: The hairs are usually filled with air, but sometimes contain granular matter, with tannic acid and resin. No tincture or decoction is effective. 

Description:   (please note: this is the general characteristics –  colour, flavor etc)

Traditional Use: A mechanical anthelmintic. The hairs, mixed with syrup, molasses, or honey, pierce the bodies of intestinal worms, which writhe themselves free from the walls, so that a brisk cathartic will bring them away. It is usually a safe remedy, but enteritis has sometimes followed its use. It has little effect upon tape-worm, but is good for Ascaris lumbricoides and in slightly less degree for the smaller Oxyuris vermicularis.  In the form of an ointment, Mucuna has been used as a local stimulant in paralysis and other affections, acting like Croton oil. A decoction of the root or legumes is said to have been used in dropsy as a diuretic and for catarrh, and in some parts of India an infusion is used in cholera. It is a good medium for the application of such substances as muriate of morphia. In the proportion of 7 to 8 grains of cowhage to an ounce of lard, it should be rubbed in for from 10 to 20 minutes. It brings out flat, white pimples, which soon disappear. Oil relieves the heat and irritation caused on the skin.  The seeds are said to be aphrodisiac. 

Clinical Studies:

A prospective study was conducted to understand the mechanism of action of Mucuna pruriens in the treatment of male infertility. Seventy-five normal healthy fertile men and 75 men undergone infertility screening.

High-performance liquid chromatography assay for quantitation of dopa, adrenaline, and noradrenaline in seminal plasma and blood. Estimation by RIA of hormonal parameters in blood plasma, namely T, LH, FSH, and PRL.

Before and after treatment, serum T, LH, FSH, PRL, dopamine, adrenaline, and noradrenaline in seminal and blood plasma were measured.

Decreased sperm count and motility were seen in infertile subjects. Serum T and LH levels, as well as seminal plasma and blood levels of dopamine, adrenaline, and noradrenaline were also decreased in all groups of infertile men.

This was accompanied by significantly increased serum FSH and PRL levels in oligozoospermic subjects. Treatment with M. pruriens significantly improved T, LH, dopamine, adrenaline, and noradrenaline levels in infertile men and reduced levels of FSH and PRL.

Sperm count and motility were significantly recovered in infertile men after treatment. Treatment with M. pruriens regulates steroidogenesis and improves semen quality in infertile men.

Another research studied the seed powder of the leguminous plant, Mucuna pruriens which has long been used in traditional Ayurvedic Indian medicine for diseases including parkinsonism. The clinical effects and levodopa (L-dopa) pharmacokinetics following two different doses of mucuna preparation and compared them with standard L-dopa/carbidopa (LD/CD) was assessed.

Eight Parkinson’s disease patients with a short duration L-dopa response and on period dyskinesias completed a randomised, controlled, double blind crossover trial. Patients were challenged with single doses of 200/50 mg LD/CD, and 15 and 30 g of mucuna preparation in randomised order at weekly intervals.

L-dopa pharmacokinetics were determined, and Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale and tapping speed were obtained at baseline and repeatedly during the 4 h following drug ingestion. Dyskinesias were assessed using modified AIMS and Goetz scales.

Compared with standard LD/CD, the 30 g mucuna preparation led to a considerably faster onset of effect, reflected in shorter latencies to peak L-dopa plasma concentrations. Mean on time was 21.9% (37 min) longer with 30 g mucuna than with LD/CD.

peak L-dopa plasma concentrations were 110% higher and the area under the plasma concentration v time curve (area under curve) was 165.3% larger. No significant differences in dyskinesias or tolerability occurred.

The rapid onset of action and longer on time without concomitant increase in dyskinesias on mucuna seed powder formulation suggest that this natural source of L-dopa might possess advantages over conventional L-dopa preparations in the long term management of PD.


Shukla KK, Mahdi AA, Ahmad MK, Shankhwar SN, Rajender S, Jaiswar SP. “Mucuna Puriens Improves Male Fertility By Its Action On The Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Gonadal Axis.” 2009 December

Katzenachlager R, Evas A, Manson A, Patsalos PN, Ratnaraj , Watt H, Timmermann L, Van Der Giessen , Lees AJ. “Mucuna Puriens in Parkinson’s Disease: A Double Blind Clinical And Pgarmacological Study.” 2004 December



Other names: dolichos pruriens, mucuna prurita, setae siliquae hirsutae, stizolobium pruriens

Latin name: Mucuna pruriens

Family: Leguminosae

Common part used: seeds and the hair of the pod

This plant is indigenous to India, Africa, South America and some other tropical regions. It is a climbing plant with long thin branches, alternate lance-shaped leaves and big white flowers. Two or three flowers are grouped into clusters, their corolla is shaped as a butterfly and  purple or blue in colour. 

The legumes pods are thick and covered with stiff brownish yellow hairs, each contains four to six seeds. The fruit is a small, black and curved legume. 

Those who travel in the tropical jungles or even in more civilized parts of the tropical area know  the cowhage plant very well. It is because of the seed-pods, which fall off the plant very easily and cause an immense irritation by their stiff hairs. 

Commercially the cowhage plant appears as a fluffy mass of hairs. Mixed with honey and syrops, these hairs are good against intestinal worms; they poke through their bodies and help to bring them away. It is rather successful remedy, though not against all the worms. For example, tape-worms are quite resistant to it, but other smaller ones succumb easily. 

In some countries the young legumes of this plant are cooked and eaten, and this is supposed to be a nice food to improve the digestion processes. The seeds are considered to be an effective aphrodisiac.

When used as an ointment, the cowhage plant is a good stimulant.