Mucuna Pruriens: The Dopamine Bean
As we head into the cold, darker days of winter, we wanted to highlight an herb that we’ve been mentioning a lot lately: mucuna pruriens.
Mucuna, also known as velvet bean or dopamine bean, is one of the only naturally occurring and most concentrated forms of L-dopa, an amino acid that boosts dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, playing a role in how we feel pleasure and igniting feelings of joy and bliss.
You can see why we often recommend this herb--or shall I say bean--this time of year. As we discussed in last week's post, this is the time of year that seasonal affective disorder kicks in for some of us, and mucuna can be helpful to combat feelings of depression and anxiety, not only boosting dopamine levels, but serotonin levels as well. It’s an adaptogenic legume, having been used for hundreds of years as a superfood for nutrient density, a mood stabilizer, and energy. As it’s an adaptogen, it can take a few weeks to really feel the effects of mucuna, however, as the effects begin to set in, regular consumption of the dopamine bean will have gentle, yet profound balancing effects on the brain and hormones. Additionally, mucuna has been studied for its effects on sexual health and vitality--specifically in regard to testosterone and infertile males--and pineal gland function.
Side note: one of the hallmarks of ADHD is low levels of dopamine, thus mucuna is an excellent catalyst of this important neurotransmitter. Dopamine helps us regulate emotional responses and take action in our lives, both things that people with ADHD have difficulty doing. As such, if you are someone with ADHD, experimenting with mucuna may be beneficial.
M. Pruriens originated in tropical and subtropical regions of the world, specifically southern China and eastern India. It’s been widely used as a food source, specifically for its high protein and antioxidant content, in Indigenous cultures throughout the world. Ayurvedic practitioners even prescribed mucuna as treatment for Parkinson’s disease. It’s now cultivated in Asia, America, Africa and the Pacific Islands.
This recipe comes from one of our favorite herbal medicine companies, Anima Mundi. It’s called Third Eye Latte: Blue Lotus Mucuna Magic.
Words from Anima Mundi:
The perfect combination of euphoric blue lotus, with the feel-good aphrodisiac/adaptogenic magic of mucuna, along with the energizing bliss of cacao, you basically get a cuppa bliss. This is a super easy cup of magic that you can make essentially any time of day when you want to unwind, feel good and soothe the mind. Mucuna and blue lotus are very complementary chemically, so when combined they exponentiate each other. And don't be afraid to drink this at night. Did you know that cacao has high levels of magnesium and can actually help you relax and even give you better sleep?!
1.5 tbsp raw cacao powder
1 tsp mucuna powder
2 oz steeped blue lotus tea
6 oz hot water
2-4 oz warm plant-based milk of choice
1 tbsp coconut cream powder (optional)
1/4 tsp vanilla bean powder
1-2 tsp coconut sugar (optional)
dash of cinnamon (optional)
First, steep 1 tsp blue lotus flower for 3-5 minutes in about 2 oz of hot water. Strain and combine with the other powders and the 6 oz of hot water. Whisk intensively and add your warm plant-based milk of choice. OR, combine all ingredients in a blender and enjoy immediately. For those who prefer a cold drink, this is ridiculously good served chilled: add ice to the finished product and blend. Enjoy! Makes one serving.