Mucuna seed pruriens

 

Mucuna pruriens is a tropical annual vine in the legume family and is known for its jet black, velvety seed pods and purple flowers. The beans can range form almost pure black to speckled to spotted beige. Growing as large as 15 meters in height, it is native to Africa, India and the Caribbean.  In India it is an important in ayurvedic medicine and is considered an aphrodisiac, especially in combination with tribulus terrestris.  It is also said to relieve pain, calm nerves, kill parasites, reduce muscle spasms and reduce cholesterol and inflammation.   Its chemical makeup consists of a wide range of compounds, the most plentiful of which is L-dopa, a precursor to dopamine that is useful in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.  Mucuna Pruriens has also been used a coffee substitute in Central and South America where the beans are roasted in the same way as coffee.  The hairs on the seed pods are a skin irritant, which has given way to the name cowitch.  Velvet bean is also a beneficial garden plant because it is a nitrogen fixer and will help improve your soil.