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Cowhage Benefits, Uses, Side Effects and Functions

Discover the Function, Sources and Benefits of the Health Supplement Ingredient Cowhage, or Mucuna Pruriens

Mucuna pruriens – also known as cowhage, cowitch or velvet bean – is a plant that grows in tropic and sub-tropic regions. It is classified as a legume and has seed-producing pods. If the hairy outer covering of the pods touches human skin, it can cause contact dermatitis and severe itching; however, extracts from the plant have long been used in traditional medicine. Today, Mucuna pruriens is often used as an ingredient in health and bodybuilding supplements, such as HGH 30,000 Spray, Somatropinne HGH and Anapolan-MAX 50.

Functions of Cowhage

While Mucuna pruriens is technically classified as a vegetable, its extract is more commonly consumed in the form of medicine or supplements. Cowhage is a good natural source of levodopa, or L-dopa, which in the human body serves as a precursor for the neurotransmitter dopamine. Since L-dopa is used in the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease, cowhage has been widely studied for its potential in this area. In addition, cowhage extract is noted for its anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective and antioxidant properties, which are also believed to be due to the presence of L-dopa. And because L-dopa has been shown to stimulate human growth hormone (HGH) secretion and synthesis, some experts believe that the L-dopa in cowhage may act as an HGH releaser.

Sources of Cowhage

Indigenous to southern China and eastern India, Mucuna pruriens is cultivated in Asia, Africa, and parts of North and Central America, as well as the Caribbean and Pacific Islands. The plant is rich in protein and minerals; and in some cultures, cowhage pods and beans are prepared as food. In Mexico and Guatemala, the seeds are roasted and used as a coffee substitute known as “Nescafe” (though there is no relation to the trademarked coffee brand of the same name). However, in the United States, cowhage is most commonly used in extract form as an ingredient in medicines and dietary supplements.

Cowhage Benefits and Uses

As a natural source of L-dopa, cowhage has been most widely studied and used as a treatment for Parkinsonism and Parkinson’s disease. Evidence suggests it may also benefit other dopamine-related conditions, such as tardive dyskinesia. The plant’s L-dopa content has been shown to increase dopamine and testosterone levels in adult males while suppressing prolactin levels, which supports cowhage’s traditional use as an aphrodisiac and fertility enhancer. Studies have also shown it can reduce cortisol levels, which in turn may lower perceived stress levels and contribute to a sense of well-being. Because L-dopa has been shown to stimulate HGH levels, cowhage extract is frequently used as an ingredient in health and bodybuilding supplements, in which it is believed to promote muscle growth and act as a fat-burner.

Numerous other positive effects have been attributed to cowhage extract, including anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, anti-epileptic, anti-microbial and antioxidant properties. Various studies have explored its potential for treating diabetes, skin diseases and other pathologies. Cowhage has also been successfully used as an anti-venom that counters the toxic effects of some snake bites, such as from cobras and other vipers.

Side Effects of Cowhage and Potential Interactions

Supplements containing Mucuna pruriens extract are generally considered safe for healthy adults. Some minor side effects have been reported, such as nausea and a bloated feeling in the abdomen; less common side effects include vomiting, headaches, jitteriness and insomnia. However, individuals with certain medical conditions or anyone taking medications contraindicated for L-dopa should exercise caution when taking supplements containing cowhage extract. L-dopa can cause low blood pressure, lightheadedness and fainting in patients with cardiovascular disease, and it may cause blood sugar levels to drop too low in people with diabetes or hypoglycemia. The L-dopa in cowhage may also worsen some conditions, such as liver disease, melanoma, gastrointestinal ulcers or mental illness. Cowhage supplements should not be taken in conjunction with monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) antidepressants or when taking methyldopa for hypertension. Moderate interactions may occur with other antihypertensive drugs (guanethidine), insulin, diabetes medications, antipsychotic drugs, tricyclic antidepressants or anesthesia.

More detailed safety information on cowhage side effects and interactions can be found on healthcare websites such as WebMD. As with any medication or health supplement, it is best to consult your physician before taking dietary supplements containing cowhage extract.

Cowhage Research and Studies

Numerous studies have examined the pharmacological effects of Mucuna pruriens extract, primarily in relation to its L-dopa content. A 2012 review published in Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine highlights the plant’s medicinal properties and related research findings, many of which are summarized above in the “Cowhage Benefits and Uses” section of this article. Research published in Clinical Neuropharmacology, Parkinsonism & Related Disorders, and the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry have demonstrated the value of cowhage extract in treating the symptoms of Parkinsonism and Parkinson’s disease. In fact, some studies suggest that cowhage extract may have advantages over conventional L-dopa preparations, such as reducing the risk of drug-induced dyskinesia (DID).

Research dating from the early 1970s to present has established that L-dopa has the potential to stimulate HGH secretion and synthesis, as documented in Clinical Interventions in Aging and in several studies published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. One study featured in Nutrition and Metabolic Insights specifically investigated the effects of a Mucuna pruriens (velvet bean) and Chlorophytum borivilianum blend supplement on serum growth hormone levels in exercise-trained men, and found that it produced an increase in circulating HGH levels.

Other studies have indicated that cowhage supplements may contribute to a wide range of health benefits, from treating male infertility to improving sleep quality. Animal studies also suggest that cowhage extract may help reduce blood glucose levels and lower cholesterol, triglycerides and phospholipids. However, further clinical studies are needed to definitively support these findings and their potential applications in humans.

For additional cowhage research, refer to the PubMed site sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Supplements With Cowhage

Athletes, bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts can harness the health benefits of cowhage through natural fitness and bodybuilding supplements from

HGH 30,000 Nanograms Spray – This convenient HGH spray features a proprietary blend of ingredients designed to stimulate HGH release. In addition to L-dopa from cowhage seed extract, other natural ingredients include GABA, deer antler velvet, long jack and L-group amino acids. HGH 30,000 Spray is formulated to support muscle growth, mass gain, fat burning and other health benefits.

Somatropinne HGH – Purity Select’s natural Somatropinne HGH capsules contain a proprietary blend of plant extracts, including cowhage seeds, maca, hawthorn berry and horny goat weed. As an over-the-counter HGH releaser, this supplement is intended to help athletes build lean muscle and gain increased energy, while also providing weight-loss and anti-aging benefits.

A-MAX 50 – Anapolan-MAX is formulated to support lean muscle gain while increasing HGH production and testosterone levels. In addition to cowhage extract, the proprietary blend of ingredients in A-MAX 50 includes Tribulus terrestris, shilajit, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and L-tyrosine.

References (Function, Sources, Benefits/Uses and Side Effects/Interactions): “Mucuna Pruriens”; published under “Supplements”; accessed June 16, 2015.

Gonzalez, Adam. “Supplement Spotlight: Get Shredded With Fat Burners”; Muscle & Fitness; accessed June 16, 2015.

Men’s Fitness Editors. “Fat Burner Buyer’s Guide Q&A”; Men’s Fitness; accessed June 16, 2015.

University of Maryland Medical Center. “Mucuna Pruriens”; published under “Complementary and Alternative Medicine Guide”; last reviewed April 8, 2014; accessed June 16, 2015, 2015.

WebMD and Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. “Cowhage”; published under “Vitamins & Supplements”; accessed June 16, 2015.

Research Sources:

Alleman, Rick J., Jr.; Robert E. Canale; et al. “A Blend of Chlorophytum Borivilianum and Velvet Bean Increases Serum Growth Hormone in Exercise-Trained Men”; Nutrition and Metabolic Insights; October 2, 2011.

Chihara, Kazuo; Yoichi Kashio; et al. “L-Dopa Stimulates Release of Hypothalamic Growth Hormone-Releasing Hormone in Humans”; The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism; March 1986.

Dharmarajan, Satheesh Kumar and Kottai Muthu Arumugam. “Comparative Evaluation of Flavone From Mucuna Pruriens and Coumarin From Ionidium Suffruticosum for Hypolipidemic Activity in Rats Fed With High Fat Diet”; Lipids in Health and Disease; October 2012.

Kansal, Prakash C.; John Buse; et al. “The Effect of L-Dopa on Plasma Growth Hormone, Insulin, and Thyroxine”; The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism; January 1972.

Katzenschlager, Regina; Alan C. Evans; et al. “Mucuna Pruriens in Parkinson's Disease: A Double Blind Clinical and Pharmacological Study”; Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry; December 2004.

Lampariello, Lucia Raffaella; Alessio Cortelazzo; et al. “The Magic Velvet Bean of Mucuna Pruriens”; Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine; October-December 2012.

Lieu, Christopher A.; Allen R. Kunselman; et al. “A Water extract of Mucuna Pruriens Provides Long-Term Amelioration of Parkinsonism With Reduced Risk for Dyskinesias”; Parkinsonism & Related Disorders; August 2010.

Majekodunmi, Stephen O. Ademola A Oyagbemi; et al. “Evaluation of the Anti-Diabetic Properties of Mucuna Pruriens Seed Extract”; Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Medicine; August 2011.

McCarthy, Cameron G.; Rick J. Alleman; et al. “A Dietary Supplement Containing Chlorophytum Borivilianum and Velvet Bean Improves Sleep Quality in Men and Women”; Integrative Medicine Insights; 2012.

Müller, Thomas; Reiner Hellwig; and Siegfried Muhlack. “Levodopa Induces Synthesis of Nerve Growth Factor and Growth Hormone in Patients With Parkinson Disease”; Clinical Neuropharmacology; May-June 2011.

Shukla, Kamla Kant; Abbas Ali Mahdi; et al. “Mucuna Pruriens Reduces Stress and Improves the Quality of Semen in Infertile Men”; Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine; March 2010.

Tan, Nget Hong; Shin Yee Fung; et al. “The Protective Effect of Mucuna Pruriens Seeds Against Snake Venom Poisoning”; Journal of Ethnopharmacology; June 22, 2009.

Walker, Richard F. “Primary Locus Intervention: A Novel Approach to Treating Age-Associated Hormone Insufficiency”; Clinical Interventions in Aging; December 2007.

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With drug testing becoming increasingly more advanced trying to keep up with the production of new supplements and drugs, a new test that detects Human Growth Hormone over the course of several weeks instead of just a few days in your body has caused  two Russian Olympians to fail drug tests and ruined their Olympic hopes.
According to an article published today at The Australian (, Vadim Rakitin was disqualified from preliminary rounds of powerlifting, and Nikolay Marfin was expelled from competition.
Athlete drug testing is primarily handled and controlled by WADA, who is celebrating this failed test by these two Olympians. The Australian quoted, “All sports that are signatories to the WADA code are now using the HGH tests, so cheaters are caught in between Games”. 

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How to avoid failed drug tests and still get the benefits of HGH Supplement

Today's Athletes need to be aware of what they ingest or inject into their bodies. The Australian noted, “The first positive [test] was to Brazilian powerlifter Bruno Pinheiro Carra, who was given a nine-month suspension after a banned substance was found in his green tea capsules.” WADA lists all banned substances that will fail drug tests. This doesn't mean athletes cannot take anything, it simply means they need to be mindful of what they take.

There are a lot of supplements that are perfectly legal and accepted by WADA. Athletes need to review labels of supplements they take and also need to be aware of the manufacturer. The supplement industry is not regulated, so it's possible that label claims aren't accurate and that manufacturers hide certain ingredients in order to make their supplements work better. (Hence someone can fail a drug test by taking green tea capsules). Anyone, athlete or non-athlete should make sure they are taking HGH Supplements (or any supplement) from a reputable company. and Purity Select are 100% transparent in what they are selling, the ingredients in every bottle, and the reviews. We stand by our products and our testimonials speak for themselves. Most of the products found on will indeed pass WADA tests. And for those that don't, as always we're continually ahead of the game by producing and upgrading formulas before certain tests can keep up.

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