Mucuna Pruriens and Prolactin
by Benjamin Bunting BA(Hons) PGCert
Written by Ben Bunting: BA, PGCert. (Sport & Exercise Nutrition) // British Army Physical Training Instructor // S&C Coach.
Mucuna pruriens, also known as the velvet bean, has long been used in herbal medicine and Ayurveda for improving depression, sleep and boosting male fertility. This tropical legume boosts dopamine levels and may help reduce symptoms of Parkinson's Disease, infertility and nerve disorders.
What's Mucuna Pruriens?
Mucuna pruriens is an ancient herb that has been used for thousands of years to improve a variety of health conditions. It has been found to reduce stress, enhance the body’s ability to heal from injury, regulate blood sugar levels and cholesterol, and increase libido and sexual performance in men and women.
It is an aphrodisiac and sexual tonic, anti-parasitic, diuretic, and anti-diabetic, as well as being a natural Parkinson's disease treatment.
It also has been shown to protect the stomach against gastric ulcers, and it improves intestinal peristalsis. It also helps people suffering from diabetes to control their high cholesterol and sugar levels.
Studies have also shown that mucuna pruriens can improve sleep quality in both men and women. One study showed that supplementing with mucuna pruriens, along with the velvet bean (Chlorophytum borivilianum) increased sleep time in healthy adults.
Another study found that mucuna pruriens reduced cortisol levels in men who were having fertility issues and improving their semen quality. The researchers took 120 infertile men and gave them 5 grams of mucuna pruriens a day for three months.
When mucuna pruriens is taken regularly, it can increase dopamine in the brain, which helps promote a positive mood and increases alertness. This is a very beneficial effect for people who are experiencing lowered dopamine due to stimulant use, mental stress, or other factors.
What is Prolactin?
Prolactin is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland that stimulates breast milk production (lactation). It also helps to support the immune system, mental health, and metabolism in both sexes.
Increased blood prolactin can disrupt the function of premenopausal women's ovaries and testicles; symptoms include irregular or absent menstruation periods, infertility, and eventually osteoporosis.
Normal prolactin levels are 4-23 ng/mL in adult nonpregnant women and 3--15 ng/mL in men. These values vary depending on a number of factors, including age, weight and activity level.
High prolactin levels may be a sign of a problem, such as a tumor in the pituitary gland called a prolactinoma. This tumor makes the pituitary gland produce too much prolactin and can lead to a range of symptoms, from breast discharge to irregular periods.
Other causes of hyperprolactinemia can include problems with the ovaries, thyroid gland, brain, kidney or adrenal glands. Treatment varies by the underlying cause, but it is often successful in lowering prolactin levels and preventing further symptoms from developing.
The most common cause of high prolactin levels is a benign (noncancerous) tumor in the pituitary gland, called a prolactinoma. Most prolactinomas are small and less than 1 centimeter (0.4 inches) in diameter, but some can grow into larger growths.
Some doctors suggest surgery for prolactinomas that are too large to be treated with medicine. This surgery, called transphenoidal adenoma resection, can reduce the size of the tumor. The resection can help reduce the amount of prolactin produced by the pituitary gland and prevent further problems from developing.
In some people, the resection is not enough to reduce the level of prolactin produced by the pituitary, and a follow-up blood test will be needed to determine whether the tumor has returned or grown. In this case, an MRI will be needed to check for any new tumors.
Prolactin blood tests can be done with a blood sample drawn directly from the bloodstream by a health professional at a lab or hospital. The blood sample is then sent to a laboratory for analysis, usually within a few days after the test.
This type of testing is not always necessary, but it can be useful if there are no other symptoms or your doctor tells you to check your prolactin levels. A blood test can also be done by a person using an at-home kit, which is usually available through a pharmacy or online.
In addition to a blood test, it is often helpful to get a biopsy of the pituitary gland, to look at the lining of the pituitary gland and check for a pituitary tumor. This is especially important for patients with a family history of pituitary tumors. A biopsy can help identify the underlying cause of prolactin-producing pituitary tumors, and determine if there are any other treatments that may be effective for treating this condition.
How is Prolactin Produced?
The pituitary gland is the primary source of prolactin, but it also synthesizes and secretes the hormone in a variety of other tissues. Some of the most important actions of prolactin include stimulating mammary gland development and milk production (lactation) and regulating the menstrual cycle in females.
Prolactin is a key hormone in pregnancy and breastfeeding, but it can have adverse effects when it gets too high or too low. Abnormally high levels are referred to as hyperprolactinemia and can cause a variety of health problems.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
During pregnancy, the hormone prolactin helps to establish and maintain your pregnancy by stimulating the 'yellow body' in your ovaries to make the hormone, progesterone. This hormone is essential for attaching an embryo to the uterus lining and boosts the formation of your placenta.
Nursing stimulates the release of prolactin and other hormones that help to maintain your milk supply. Each time you nurse, your body releases more prolactin and other hormones that encourage the production of protein, lactose, and other components of breast milk.
Stress and Mood Disorders
Prolactin is often released in response to stress. It inhibits the body's production of the stress hormone, cortisol and can help to regulate your emotions. It can also strengthen your immune system and shield you from the effects of stress.
In rare cases, a tumor called a prolactinoma can develop in the pituitary gland and produce higher than normal levels of prolactin. These adenomas can be diagnosed using imaging tests such as MRI or CT scans. If you have a prolactinoma, you may need treatment with medications called dopamine agonists.
Prolactin and the Pituitary Gland
Elevated blood levels of prolactin interfere with the production of other hormones from the pituitary gland, leading to symptoms among premenopausal women and men. Pregnant women may also be affected, including insufficient milk production and an increased chance of miscarriage.
Treatment with dopamine agonists is the primary approach for treating macroprolactinomas (>1 cm). Most patients find that dopamine agonist therapy reduces tumor size and normalizes prolactin levels within several weeks after initiating therapy; an MRI performed after several months helps verifying effectiveness.
Dopamine agonists reduce serum prolactin concentration by suppressing its release from the pituitary. L-dopa's effect on serum prolactin tends to be transient; only lasting briefly after administration and not significantly altering prolactin expression in the brain.
L-dopa's effect may also be exerted indirectly through stimulation of peripheral uptake of its hormone. When administered to rats, L-DOPA reduced plasma prolactin concentrations by about 30% within just 30 minutes via both direct inhibition of pituitary PRL release and increased periphery absorption.
L-dopa is processed through two cytochrome P450 enzymes in the brain known as CYP2C9 and CYP3A4. This increases the total amount of L-DOPA in circulation, potentially leading to adverse side effects in patients suffering from severe dopamine deficiency such as disturbances of impulse control such as pathological gambling or compulsive sexual behavior, shopping or eating.
Yet despite such side effects l-DOPA remains one of the most effective antiparkinsonian agents currently available, having shown dramatic improvements in symptoms symptomatic parkinsonism.
L-DOPA and Prolactin
L-DOPA is a compound found in many plants, but it is particularly common in Mucuna and Vicia plant seeds. It is a precursor of dopamine, the brain's reward system. It also boosts levels of norepinephrine and adrenaline, neurochemicals that create feelings of euphoria and physical pleasure.
Mucuna pruriens has also been shown to lower prolactin, the hormone that can cause infertility, menopause symptoms and decreased sex drive. Studies have shown that it's safe to use and can reduce prolactin levels by 5-7%.
In one study, the researchers used a diet containing either L-DOPA or Mucuna pruriens seed powder. The results showed that the mucuna pruriens group had increased testosterone levels, as well as alkaline phosphatase activity and protein content in the testes.
In two clinical trials, mucuna pruriens decreased prolactin and FSH levels in infertile men. This is thought to be due to the way mucuna pruriens boosts dopamine levels, which can decrease the amount of prolactin your body produces.
It's also a potent anti-depressant, and is useful for those suffering from insomnia or anxiety. It has been shown to improve mood in people who have suffered from depression or chronic fatigue syndrome.
L-dopa also helps prevent prolactin release from the pituitary gland by directly inhibiting its synthesis in large part, as demonstrated in rat pituitary cells.
L-DOPA induces short-lived but temporary reductions in plasma prolactin concentrations that start around 30 min after administration and continue to slowly rise three hours posttreatment - suggesting its primary impact is due to inhibiting pituitary prolactin release.
However, this mode of action may still be pertinent in clinical situations. For instance, we have observed that l-dopa can effectively reduce prolactin-secreting tumors of the ovary in breast cancer patients with painful bone metastases and associated with lower serum prolactin and other hormone levels.
Finally, mucuna pruriens is thought to increase growth hormone, which can promote muscle mass and fat burning. This is good news for athletes and bodybuilders who want to get lean quickly.
Mucuna pruriens is an adaptogen that has long been recognized to aid sleep, reduce stress and anxiety, increase focus, boost libido and promote overall mood enhancement. Packed full of L-dopa precursor neurotransmitter L-dopa, this herb contains many other chemical components responsible for feelings of pleasure motivation sex drive and more!
Mucuna is an integral component of Ayurvedic medicine and has long been utilized as a treatment for various health ailments in traditional Indian practices, including stress, depression, parasitic infections, diabetes, cholesterol and fertility issues. Mucuna can also act as an effective natural antidepressant and aphrodisiac.
Prolactin is a hormone released by the pituitary gland to assist with pregnancy, lactation and other bodily functions. Additionally, prolactin may be released in response to stressors such as anxiety or depression.
Prolactin levels increase during gestation and lactation, which allows the body to produce milk through cells called the nipple in the mammary gland.
Research indicates that L-dopa effectively lowers hyperprolactinemia. Studies have revealed that one injection of l-dopa into female rats resulted in significantly decreased serum prolactin concentration at 30 minutes, 1 hour and 2 hours post injection compared with pretreatment levels or controls not receiving this drug. Other monoamine oxidase inhibitors including pargyline, iproniazid and Lilly-15641 injections also reduced prolactin below pretreatment levels.