A few days ago I was literally shocked when introduced to the bean of the Mucuna pruriens plant, a legume, that fixes nitrogen and fertilizes soil – commonly called “Cow’s Eye”.
Seen from the top (above)
side view with black band
When the black band part is rubbed against a hard surface such as concrete and immedicately touched to the skin, it gives a SHOCK. I am not sure what causes this sensation bc there is no burn mark or other indication of abrasion left on the skin.
Following is some information I obtained on the Web:
M. pruriens is a widespread fodder plant in the tropics. To that end, the whole plant is fed to animals as silage, dried hay or dried seeds. M. pruriens silage contains 11-23% crude protein, 35-40% crude fiber, and the dried beans 20-35% crude protein.
M. pruriens is sometimes used as a coffee substitute called “Nescafe” (not to be confused with the commercial brand Nescafé). Cooked fresh shoots or beans can also be eaten. This requires that they be soaked from at least 30 minutes to 48 hours in advance of cooking, or the water changed up to several times during cooking, since otherwise the plant can be toxic to humans. The above described process leaches out phytochemical compounds such as levodopa, making the product more suitable for consumption. If consumed in large quantities as food, unprocessed M. pruriens is toxic to non-ruminant mammals, including humans.
Traditionally, the seeds of Mucuna Pruriens have been used for treating male sexual dysfunction. It is also used in Ayurvedic medicine. M. pruriens has been shown to improve sexual function in rats.
The plant and its extracts have been long used in tribal communities as a toxin antagonist for various snakebites – it has potential use in the prophylactic treatment of snakebites.
M. pruriens seeds have also been found to have antidepressant properties in cases of depressive neurosis when consumed. and formulations of the seed powder have shown promise in the management and treatment of Parkinson’s disease.
Dried leaves of M. pruriens are sometimes smoked. The herb contains L-DOPA, a precursor to the neurotransmitter dopamine. The L-DOPA content increases when extracts are prepared. L-DOPA converts into dopamine, an important brain chemical involved in mood, sexuality, and movement.
In other words, this magic bean can be used as Viagra, an anti-depressant, (same mode of action?), to manage snake bites and to deliver a shock to the skin.
Plus it is found gratis on the sandy shores of Playas del Coco.
I’m on my way to the beach – see you later.
Dianne reproting from Playas del Coco, CR.