Drugs A - Z

Cowhage (Mucuna pruriens)

treats Parkinson's disease

Generic Name: Mucuna pruriens

Category

Herbs & Supplements

Synonyms

Dolichos pruriens, Fabaceae (family), kapikachu, kiwach, Mucuna birdwoodiana, Mucuna pruriens, Mucuna sempervirens, velvet bean.

Background

Cowhage (Mucuna pruriens) seeds have been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine to treat Parkinson's disease. This traditional use is supported by laboratory analysis that shows cowhage contains 3.6-4.2% levodopa, the same chemical used in several Parkinson's disease drugs that is a precursor to dopamine. In a few clinical trials in Parkinson's disease patients, three cowhage treatments yielded positive results. However, more research should be conducted to elucidate the treatment that is the most effective. In addition, cowhage seeds have nutritional quality comparable to soy beans and other conventional legumes, but several antinutritional/antiphysiological compounds prevent these seeds from being used as a food source.

Evidence

DISCLAIMER: These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.

Parkinson's disease : Traditional Ayurvedic medicine and preliminary evidence suggests that cowhage contains 3.6-4.2% levodopa, the same chemical used in several Parkinson's disease drugs. Cowhage treatments have yielded positive results in early studies. However, more research should be conducted to determine the treatment that is the most effective.
Grade: C

Tradition

WARNING: DISCLAIMER: The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.
Anticoagulant (blood thinner), diabetes, fracture healing, hyperprolactinemia (excessive prolactin in the blood).

Dosing

Adults (18 years and older):

There is no proven effective dose for cowhage in adults. For Parkinson's disease, 15 and 30 grams of a cowhage preparation has been taken by mouth for a week. Sachets containing a derivative of cowhage, called HP-200, have also been used.

Children (younger than 18 years):

There is no proven safe or effective dose for cowhage in children.

Safety

DISCLAIMER: Many complementary techniques are practiced by healthcare professionals with formal training, in accordance with the standards of national organizations. However, this is not universally the case, and adverse effects are possible. Due to limited research, in some cases only limited safety information is available.

Allergies

Avoid in individuals with a known allergy or hypersensitivity to cowhage (Mucuna prurient) or its constituents. Hairs on cowhage flowers and pods can cause severe pruritus (itching).

Side Effects and Warnings

Few adverse effects have been reported for cowhage. In one study in Parkinson's disease patients, a derivative of Mucuna prurient caused mild adverse effects that were mainly gastrointestinal in nature. Cowhage has also caused acute toxic psychosis, which may be due to its levodopa content. Use cautiously in patients with Parkinson's disease and/or taking levodopa, dopamine, dopamine agonists, dopamine antagonists, or dopamine reuptake inhibitors as cowhage seeds contain the dopamine precursor levodopa.

Hairs on cowhage flowers and pods can cause severe pruritus (itching), and have also been used to artificially induce pruritus.

Use cautiously in patients taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), as the levodopa in cowhage seeds may interact and cause high blood pressure.

Use cautiously in patients taking anticoagulants (blood thinners) or with diabetes or hypoglycemia, due to the potential for additive effects.

Avoid in patients with psychosis or schizophrenia, as cowhage has caused acute toxic psychosis.

Avoid in pregnant or breastfeeding patients as cowhage may inhibit prolactin secretion.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Cowhage is not recommended in pregnant or breastfeeding women due to a lack of available scientific evidence. Two early studies indicate that cowhage may inhibit prolactin secretion.

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