Mucuna pruriens and Testosterone
Extracts of Mucuna pruriens have been used in traditional Hindu medicine (Ayurveda) and in the middle east and asia as part of traditional Unani medicine.
The plant contains L-DOPA, a precursor to the neurotransmitter dopamine. It also contains smaller amounts of;
- Serotonin : a monoamine neurotransmitter thought to contribute to feelings of happiness.
- Nicotine : a potent and addictive alkaloid used as an insecticide but best known in relation to tobacco.
- N, N-DMT : a psychadelic compound of the tryptamine family used by indiginous Amazonian tribespeople (and the occasional brave western traveller) of hallucinogenic voyages of internal discovery administered by the Shamen
- Bufotenine : an alkaloid found in the skins of toads and in mushrooms. Psychoactive in that it changes brain function and alters perception and mood.
- 5-MeO-DMT : like bufotenine, a powerful psychoactive tryptamine found in rainforest plants and a toad species. Again used in religious rituals by the Shamen of forest dwelling tribes who like to party hard.
So….all in all some pretty potent goodies to be found in Mucuna pruriens then. The livestock of south east asia must have pretty interesting lives if that’s what they are fed on all the time. Does it help boost testosterone levels in men though?
Does Mucuna pruriens boost Testosterone?
This is clearly the pertinent question. Bear with us here – we will arrive at an answer but it’ll take a few steps. Hopefully you’ll learn a thing or two here so roll up your sleeves…
As previously mentioned Mucuna pruriens is a high yielding source of L-DOPA which converts directly to dopamine in the body via a process called decarboxylation. Dopamine is, by turn, a neurotransmitter that is associated with the pleasure and reward systems of the brain. It is also responsible for sexual arousal. It has a bi-directional relationship with testosterone via the hormone prolactin.
Prolactin (PRL) is a protein that is best known for being responsible for milk production in women. It is also released from the male pituitary gland in response to sexual gratification in order to counter the dopamine and reduce your sexual arousal. This is the reason why you just want to either roll over and go to sleep after sex, or go and watch the football – it’s your body’s way of stopping you being permanently sex mad.
The release of prolactin is controlled by pituitary releasing hormone. An increase in the release of prolactin causes a reduction in testosterone production.
Pituitary releasing hormone is, however, neutralized by dopamine which stimulates the release of prolactin inhibiting factor. As it’s name suggests it inhibits the pituitary from releasing prolactin.
So…increase dopamine and you increase prolactin inhibiting factor which reduces prolactin and increases your body’s own natural testosterone production. Phew, we got there in the end. The biological and chemical explanation for Mucuna pruriens and it’s status as a testosterone booster is down to the concentration of L-DOPA in it.
OK great – so why don’t I just take an L-DOPA supplement then?
Good question. If the only reason you are taking Mucuna pruriens is to boost your dopamine levels and increase your test that way then why not just take synthesised L-DOPA directly?
Well the answer to that is that it’s been looked into clinically and it is about half as effective as taking it in dietary form via Mucuna pruriens. A study looking at the effects of L-DOPA on Parkinson’s Disease found this to be the case, and the assumed explanation for this was that Mucuna pruriens also contained other pharmacological agents that modified the effects of L-DOPA and made it more effective at producing natural dopamine.*
* – 1998 Ghazala Hussian andBala V. Manyam. Mucuna pruriens proves more effective than L-DOPA in Parkinson’s disease animal model – Abstract
Mucuna pruriens and Testosterone – Clinical appraisal
There have been numerous studies conducted on the effects of Mucuna pruriens in rats. Which is great if you are rat. We are not rats and if you are reading this then you are (probably) not a rat either. Let’s have a look at the human study.
Study: Mucuna pruriens improves male fertility by its action on the hypothalamus-pituitary-gonadal axis
Shukla K., Mahdi A., Ahmad M., Shankhwar S., Rajender S., Jaiswar S.
Department of Biochemistry, C.S.M. Medical University, Lucknow, India.
The aim of the study, which was carried out between 2005 and 2007, was to understand the mechanism of Mucuna pruriens supplementation on male infertility. A total of 150 participants took part, with 75 in the normal control group and 75 men undergoing infertility screening.
The subjects in the test group took 5mgs of Mucuna pruriens orally every day in a single dose (along with milk) for three months. They measured the following;
- Serum Testosterone
- Luteinizing Hormone
- FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone)
Mucuna pruriens significantly increased the levels of the test in group and the results were strongly suggestive that Mucuna pruriens could be beneficial to fertility, with the paper concluding by describing it as a ‘wonder herb’. Serum testosterone increased in the men with normal sperm counts by 27%.
Men with low sperm counts (Oligozoospermic) had an average increase in testosterone levels of 38%, whilst men with low sperm motility (Asthenozoospermic) also showed an average increase of 38%.
Luteinizing Hormone increased in the normal men by 23% and Prolactin dropped by 19%. In the men with low sperm count Luteinizing Hormone increased by 41% and Prolactin dropped by 32%. Men with low sperm motility saw their LH levels rise by an average of 40% and Prolactin drop by 11%.
This same research group were later to do another study focussing on sperm motility and concentration which concluded that Mucuna pruriens assisted with those biological functions as well so it doesn’t just raise your testosterone levels.
Mucuna pruriens has been shown to be clinically effective at boosting testosterone levels in men with normal sperm counts….but even more so in men with low sperm counts or low sperm motility.
Our top rated supplement for low test contains Mucuna pruriens, read more about it in our Prime Male review.