What is Velvet Bean?

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  • Written By: Alex Tree
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 28 September 2019
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Mucuna pruriens, also known as velvet bean, is an annual shrub that grows long vines. This climbing shrub is found in tropical areas, such as the Caribbean, India, and Africa. It has many common names, including cowhage, picapica, and cowitch. The name "velvet bean" is derived from the fact that the plant is covered in soft hairs when young. As the velvet bean matures, however, it loses these hairs.

The leaves of the velvet bean are ovate or rhombus-shaped, with sharp points and grooved sides. When the plant is young, both sides of the leaves are almost completely covered in fuzzy hairs. The leaves are around 0.1 inch (0.2 cm) long. Multiple leaves can grow on one stem, with each stem growing up to 0.2 inches (0.5 cm) long.

Velvet beans are flowering plants. Each flower head can blossom into just a few or an abundance of flowers. These flowers can be white, dark purple, or light purple. Loose hairs cover the seed pods of these flowers, often causing severe irritation of the skin when contact is made. After the flowers have bloomed, the velvet bean plant begins to form a fruit.


The major use of the velvet bean is manure for small farms. It is resistant to many pests and diseases, including ones that normally attack legumes. In several African and Asian countries, the velvet bean is used as a minor food, as it is a rich source of protein. It can be made into a garnish, condiment, or picked when immature to use as a vegetable. The overall nutritional value of the velvet bean is comparable to that of more commonly eaten legumes, such as soybeans, cowpeas, and groundnuts.

Mucuna pruriens are also used as animal feed in some countries. The plant, however, can be toxic to humans and other nonruminant mammals if eaten uncooked. The cooking process rids the plant of chemicals such as levodopa, which makes it otherwise unsuitable for consumption in large quantities.

The bean has been used as treatment for Parkinson's Disease, though, as of 2010, no data supports its ability to work or the long-term tolerability. The bean contains levodopa and can been used to increase dopamine production in order to treat varying disorders, including depression and sexual dysfunction. Side effects are many and include hair loss, extreme emotional states, and hallucinations. As the bean also contains serotonin and nicotine, it could possibly be a mind altering substance.


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Post 4

@boathugger: Velvet bean seeds are taken internally in some areas, such as Brazil, to treat impotence, edema, and intestinal gas.

Indians have used velvet beans for a very long time to treat diarrhea, cough, snake bites, tuberculosis, rheumatic disorders, diabetes, and many other ailments. They are also found in many different weight loss formulas.

Post 3

@boathugger: It is said that velvet beans serve as diuretic, nerve tonic, and aphrodisiac. They are high in proteins, lipids, fiber, and carbohydrates. They also help in maintaining healthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

Velvet beans have been studied for their possible use in patients with Parkinson’s disease. In Central America, they are roasted and ground to make a coffee substitute. They are used as a vegetable in Guatemala.

Post 2

The shoots and beans can be eaten. As the article stated, the beans can be toxic to humans so they must be cooked properly. To do this, you need to soak them for up to 48 hours before cooking them. You should change the water out several times while cooking.

Post 1

What are some other uses of the velvet bean?

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