Sex drive booster bean improves sperm quality, cuts stress in infertile men



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December 24, 2007  
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CM NEWS - Extract of a bean used in Indian and Chinese traditional medicines as sex drive booster, known in modern days for being a dopamine engine, has been shown as effective in reducing stress and improving quality of semen of infertile men.

mucuna-prunerien - Tracey Slotta @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS DatabaseScientists at the Department of Psychiatry of King George’s Medical University in India recently showed in a study that Mucuna Pruriens, nicknamed Cowhage, “velvet bean” or li dou (??) in Chinese, could better the anti-oxidant defense system of infertile men under stress as well as the quality of their sperms.

What is Mucuna pruriens? The plant is an annual, climbing shrub with long vines that can reach over 15 m. It bears white, lavender, or purple flowers and pods that are covered in loose orange hairs which cause a severe itch if they come in contact with skin. The seed are shiny black or brown sea beans.

In history, mucuna pruriens has been used as an aphrodisiac. It is still used to increase libido in both men and women due to its dopamine inducing properties. Dopamine has a profound influence on sexual function.

The seeds of the mucuna pruriens plant have long been used to treat Parkinson’s disease in India; it is now receiving attention in conventional circles as it is more effective than l-dopa and has fewer side effects

Mucuna pruriens contains L-Dopa, a precursor to the neurotransmitter dopamine. Mucuna has been used for generations in India for Parkinson’s disease. L-dopa converts into dopamine, an important brain chemical involved in mood, sexuality, and movement. Mucuna pruriens has antioxidant properties. How well mucuna pruriens works in Parkinson’s disease is just beginning to be evaluated in research studies and no definitive conclusions can be made yet.

Scientists are beginning to seriously take a look at the potential benefits of mucuna pruriens herb in a number of conditions including Parkinson’s disease, fertility, and sexual enhancement. Studies in rats show mucuna pruriens supplements influence dopamine content in the cortex of the brain and that the plant is more effective than L-Dopa and has fewer side effects.

The preset study included 60 subjects who were undergoing infertility screening and were found to be suffering from psychological stress, assessed on the basis of a questionnaire and elevated serum cortisol levels. Age-matched 60 healthy men having normal semen parameters and who had previously initiated at least one pregnancy were included as controls.

Under psychological stress, these men were found to have decreased sperm count and motility at the beginning of the study. Moreover, serum cortisol and seminal plasma lipid peroxide levels were also found elevated along with decreased seminal plasma glutathione (GSH) and ascorbic acid contents and reduced superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase activity.

What is the implication of decreased seminal plasma glutathione? Glutathione has a central role in the defence against oxidative damage. One study concludes that intracellular glutathione levels of sperms are decreased in certain populations of infertile men. Studies have shown that stress can lead to a decreased levels of seminal plasma glutathione in male students undergoing exams. Loss of seminal plasma glutathione also leads to poor sperm quality.

On the other hand, superoxide dimutase and catalse activities are related to the subjects’ defense system. Superoxide dismutase (SOD) is an enzyme that removes the superoxide (O2-) radical. SOD can be considered as a natural antioxidant.

These infertile men were administered with mucuna pruriens seed powder (5 g day–1) orally. For carrying out morphological and biochemical analysis, semen samples were collected twice, first before starting treatment and second after 3 months of treatment.

The results show that treatment with mucuna pruriens significantly improved psychological stress and seminal plasma lipid peroxide levels along with improved sperm count and motility. Treatment also restored the levels of SOD, catalase, GSH and ascorbic acid in seminal plasma of infertile men.

On the basis of results of the present study, the researchers say, it may be concluded that mucuna pruriens not only reactivates the anti-oxidant defense system of infertile men but it also helps in the management of stress and improves semen quality.

[eCAM, doi:10.1093/ecam/nem171]