Velvet bean (Mucuna pruriens) is a nerve tonic and immunity booster, thanks to a compound called levodopa which is a precursor for dopamine, a mood-lifting hormone. Velvet bean also reduces the stress hormone cortisol and increases the happiness hormone serotonin. It also makes you feel energetic by driving the production of ATP, the body’s fuel, in your brain. An immunity booster, velvet bean stimulates immune agents like macrophages and antibodies but also controls inflammation, a side effect, with antioxidants.
Best known for its use as a nerve tonic and immunity booster, velvet bean, also known as kapikacchu, owes its accolades to a compound called L-dopa or levodopa. The body, too, naturally synthesizes this compound, which it converts to dopamine – a game changer for mental well-being. With an extra supply of L-dopa from this legume, you could smoothly transition from healthy to healthier.
The seeds are where the magic lies, including rich reserves of protein. No wonder they help increase muscle mass!
Take a look at some of the other components:
Why It’s So Great
1. Improves Mental Well-being
As much as your state of mind depends on your life situation and your circumstances, there’s no denying that your brain has a big part to play as well. It has all you need – certain brain chemicals and hormones communicating among themselves – to deal with stress and feel happy.
Velvet bean helps by increasing and influencing some of these communicators, especially those involved in the stress response.
- Dopamine: Dopamine is a nerve-signaling chemical crucial to feeling motivated, focused, and relaxed. Because velvet bean supplies your brain with L-dopa, your dopamine level increases. Here’s the chain reaction of conversions:
L-dopa => Dopamine => Norepinephrine => Epinephrine
- Epinephrine and norepinephrine: As a consequence of more dopamine, more norepinephrine and epinephrine are produced. These hormones help you react to stress more effectively.
- Cortisol: Velvet bean also reduces the stress hormone cortisol, helping you feel less glum.
- Serotonin: Further lifting your spirits, the herb ensures “happy” messages are able to reach your brain. It does this by leveling up the chemical messenger serotonin carrying “happy” messages. Velvet bean seeds, too, have serotonin and may be involved.
In the midst of all of this, velvet bean also helps you feel energized by driving the production of the body’s fuel, ATP, in your brain. A cluster of enzymes called mitochondrial complex I are activated to achieve this.
2. Bolsters Immunity
The immune system is perpetually geared for war to keep out disease-causing invaders – bacteria, viruses, and the like. It has front-line troopers called macrophages dedicated to “eat” the invaders (through a process called phagocytosis) and fire chemical ammo at them. With time, the immune system also fabricates custom-made ammo called antibodies to get rid of any remaining invaders.
- Velvet bean offers assistance at both these levels, stimulating the phagocytic activity of macrophages and enhancing antibody production.
Here again, L-dopa gets most of the credit, but it’s probably a team of compounds working together.
3. Limits Inflammation
Inflammation is one way the immune system walls off pathogens and prevents the spread of infections. However, anything that doesn’t match the body’s own sensibilities – like normal wear and tear of joints with age – is recognized as a threat too. Velvet bean may restrict this kind of inflammation. Here’s what happens.
Inflammation involves the firing of free radicals – damaging molecules meant to harm invaders but which may end up harming your body’s own cells. The body has fail-safes called antioxidants to scavenge free radicals and prevent self-harm. Velvet bean can supply you with an extra battalion of antioxidant compounds like phenolic acids, polyphenols, and flavonoids and turn the tide in your favor.
4. Stabilizes Blood Glucose
Velvet bean can integrate itself into your body’s specialized system for managing blood glucose. It possibly does this with a compound called D-chiro-inositol, which seems to mimic insulin. More insulin or insulin-like chemical means less glucose in the blood.
Start with 100 mg of velvet bean dried seed powder thrice a day (a total of 300 mg). You may gradually work your way up to a maximum of 1 gm a day.
If you’re directly eating the seeds and not the seed powder, make sure you roast them first. This is needed to prevent their interference with the way you digest protein.
Importantly, remember to be patient and give the herb the time it needs to make a difference.