Kapikacchu or velvet bean is one of the many medicinal herbs found growing wild in the Indian planes. For those of us who are more acquainted with ayurvedic medicine may already know about this medicinal marvel. But if you are still unaware of these tiny seed pods, you are definitely missing out on an important ayurvedic herb.

But what is so special about it?

Well, kapikacchu is one of the best aphrodisiacs recognised by the traditional medicine system and mentions of this herb have been found in the oldest ayurvedic texts. But what got this herb its much-awaited recognition in the international market is the presence of L-DOPA, a precursor of the hormone dopamine which is effective in the treatment of Parkinson’s. Not only this but kapikacchu also helps in building muscle mass and improving endurance which makes it an important part of sports supplements.

Want to know more?

This article would tell you all about kapikacchu along with the ways you can add it to your everyday life to get maximum benefits. So buckle up.

Some basic facts about Kapikacchu:

  • Botanical name: Mucuna pruriens
  • Family: Fabaceae
  • Common name: Kapikacchu, markati, kapi, kaunch, kevanch, Velvet bean, cowitch, cowhage
  • Parts used: Seeds
  • Native region and geographical distribution: Kapikacchu grows widely in Asia, Africa, Pacific islands and the USA. In India, it is found growing wild up to an altitude of 1000 m in the Himalayas and in the states of Assam, Bengal, Khasi hills, and the east and the west coast line It also grows wild in the Andaman and Nicobar islands.
  1. How to identify Kapikacchu plant
  2. Kapikacchu health benefits
  3. Kapikacchu uses and dosage
  4. Kapikacchu side effects

Kapikacchu is an annual or perennial plant that mainly twines around the branches of other trees or needs support to grow upright. It has a herbaceous or partly woody stem which is covered with small white hairs in the younger stages, however, older branches lose some of the hairs. Kapikacchu bears complex leaves which have greyish coloured hairs on the underside and it has purple to dark purple flowers, borne terminally on a short stalk.

Seeds are borne in S-shaped pods that are about 2-4 inches long and about a half inch wide. Just like the stems and leaves, kapikacchu pods also bear small hairs. Though these hairs are not detachable easily. These pods change from a brown-yellow to a steel grey shade on maturity and each pod bears about 4 to 6 black/brown seeds with a spotted appearance.

Kapikacchu has been linked with several medicinal properties in the traditional medicine. It is loaded with antioxidants and flavonoids which makes it the perfect herb for combating free radical damage. However, the most well-known benefit of kapikacchu is its libido enhancing property and its anti-Parkinson’s activity. Let us explore some scientifically proven properties and health benefits of Kapikacchu seeds.

Kapikacchu benefits for men

Traditionally, kapikacchu is known to be an effective tonic for men and is used for the treatment of infertility and as an aphrodisiac. Clinical studies demonstrate that taking 5g of kapikachu seed powder per day reduces antioxidant stress and improves infertility within 3 months (1). It has also been found to improve sperm count and motility in infertile men, however, it doesn’t exhibit any significant impact on asthenozoospermia, which is a condition marked by a lower level of sperm motility in spite of normal sperm count. (2)

According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, velvet seeds improve the semen quality by acting on the hypothalamus and pituitary regions of the brain. These regions are responsible for maintaining the levels of testosterone, dopamine and luteinizing hormone in men, which, in turn, manage sperm count and function of reproductive organs. (3)

(Read more: Men's sexual problems and solutions)

Kapikacchu for Parkinson's

The tonic properties of kapikacchu seeds also extend to the nervous system and it is traditionally known to be a neuroprotective herb. This has been attributed to the presence of L-DOPA in velvet beans. L-DOPA is the precursor of the neurotransmitter dopamine, also known as the pleasure hormone. Studies indicate this compound reduces brain inflammation associated with Parkinson’s, thereby inhibiting the progress of this neurodegenerative disease. (4)

A double-blind study done in London indicates that administration of 30 g of kapikacchu seeds is more effective in increasing L-DOPA levels than the commercial supplements (5) and thus holds a better promise as an anti-Parkinson’s agent.

In a recent clinical study, Mucuna extracts were found to be as effective as levodopa, a drug used for the treatment of Parkinson’s. It was further suggested that kapikacchu extracts don’t show any side effects when used in the same dosage as levodopa and were better tolerated by all the subjects. (6)

Kapikacchu for snake bites

Kapikacchu is one of the many herbs that are known to be effective in neutralising the toxic effects of snake venom. Tribal people in Nigeria believe that swallowing the intact seeds of kapikacchu plant makes one safe against any snake bite for a whole year. In Indian traditional medicine, aqueous extracts of velvet beans seeds are given orally two times a day to counter the effects of snakebite (7). Several studies have been done to find evidence for this use and it has been demonstrated that the antibodies formed against the extract of velvet beans seeds exhibit cross-reactivity with the venom of many snakes, especially cobra can thus be used in antiserum therapies for snake bites (8). The effects of mucuna injections have been found to be effective against snake venom from 24 hours to 1 month of administration.

It is further reported that these antibodies are formed against a specific protein, MP-4 protein, present in Mucuna seeds (9). It also competes with snake venom to bind with various cellular sites and neutralises the proteolytic effects of snake venom, which, in turn, prevents haemorrhage and muscle damage.

Kapikacchu as an antimicrobial

Natural anti-microbial substances have quickly risen to trend in recent years, no thanks to the development of drug-resistant strains of pathogenic microorganisms. And true to their fame, plant-based drugs have proven to be very useful against a number of microbes. Laboratory-based studies have found that the methanolic extract of kapikacchu seeds possesses strong antibacterial activity against a range of gram positive and gram negative bacteria including Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Xanthomonas campestris. It is also effective against fungal pathogens like Fusarium and Ustilago. (10)

In another study, the ethanolic extracts of mucuna plant were shown to inhibit the growth of Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella typhi (causes typhoid) and Vibrio cholerae (causes cholera). (11)

Kapikacchu for diabetes

Diabetes is yet another condition that is traditionally known to be treated using the seeds of kapikacchu plant. In vivo (animal-based) studies confirm this traditional claim by demonstrating the hypoglycemic (reducing blood sugar) effects of velvet bean extracts (12). It has been suggested that the dietary fibre present in velvet beans may be responsible for this anti-diabetic action.

Furthermore, kapikacchu seeds also contain ample amounts of squalene, a compound that helps reduce cholesterol levels, which is one of the major risk factors of diabetes (13).

However, due to the absence of human-based studies, it is advisable to talk to an ayurvedic doctor to know more about the safety and usage of kapikacchu for diabetic people.

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Kapikacchu for skin

Kapikacchu seeds have been found to possess potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity which is effective in protecting your skin from conditions like eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis. Preliminary studies demonstrate that the methanolic extract of kapikacchu leaves reduces the levels of 4 HNE, a compound that is present as a marker in ageing skin cells. (14)

Antioxidants present in velvet beans seeds may reduce UV damage and prevent early signs of ageing including fine lines and wrinkles.

However, more studies are needed to find the exact mode of action, use and safety profile of kapikacchu seeds for human skin.

Other benefits of Kapikacchu

  • Kapikacchu seeds improve anabolism and muscle mass development. However, there is no evidence to prove that they are effective as a sports supplement. (15)
  • Being an anti-inflammatory agent, velvet beans might be useful in reducing arthritic inflammation and pain. (Read more: Arthritis treatment)
  • The antioxidants present in kapikacchu seeds protect the body from free radical damage, thereby, improving organ function and delaying ageing process.

Kapikacchu is used widely as food in various recipes, this includes velvet beans flour, coffee, tortillas and fried velvet beans. As a supplement, they are available in the form of powder and whole beans. It is also available in the form of easy to use capsules and tablets.

The exact dosage of velvet beans depends on your age, gender, physical and physiological condition. If you are looking forward to taking this herb as a health supplement, it is recommended that you refer a doctor to know the ideal kapikacchu dosage as per your symptoms.

  • Kapikacchu seeds have been shown to possess hypoglycemic activity. If you are a diabetic person on medication or suffer from low blood glucose levels, it is advisble that you avoid taking velvet beans.
  • There is not enough evidence about the safety profile of velvet beans during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Pregnant and nursing mothers are advised to talk to their gynaecologists before taking this herb as a supplement.
  • Kapikacchu is known to cause itching and irritation when applied directly on skin.
  • Velvet seeds may cause nausea, vomiting and bloating. It has also been found to cause headache, hallucinations, and delusions in some people. This may be due to the presence of L-DOPA. (16)(17)
  • Kapikacchu can interfere with certain medications. If you are on any kind of prescribed medicine, it is preferable that you talk to your doctor before taking this herb. 

Medicines / Products that contain Mucuna pruriens


  1. Shukla KK, Mahdi AA, Ahmad MK, Jaiswar SP, Shankwar SN, Tiwari SC.Mucuna pruriens Reduces Stress and Improves the Quality of Semen in Infertile Men. 2010 Mar;7(1):137-44. PubMed PMID: 18955292
  2. Ahmad MK, Mahdi AA, Shukla KK, Islam N, Jaiswar SP, Ahmad S. Effect of Mucuna pruriens on semen profile and biochemical parameters in seminal plasma of infertile men. 2008 Sep;90(3):627-35. PMID: 18001713
  3. Kamla Kant Shukla, Abbas Ali Mahdi, Abbas Ali, Abbas Ali Mahdi, Mohammad Kaleem Ahmad, Satya Narain Shankhwar, Singh Rajender, Shyam Pyari Jaiswar. Mucuna pruriens improves male fertility by its action on the hypothalamus–pituitary–gonadal axis. December 2009Volume 92, Issue 6, Pages 1934–1940
  4. Rai SN, Birla H, Singh SS, Zahra W, Patil RR, Jadhav JP, Gedda MR, Singh SP. Mucuna pruriens Protects against MPTP Intoxicated Neuroinflammation in Parkinson’s Disease through NF-κB/pAKT Signaling Pathways. 2017 Dec 19;9:421. PMID: 29311905
  5. R Katzenschlager, A Evans, A Manson, P Patsalos, N Ratnaraj, H Watt, L Timmermann, R Van der Giessen, and A Lees. Mucuna pruriens in Parkinson's disease: a double blind clinical and pharmacological study. 2004 Dec; 75(12): 1672–1677.PMID: 15548480
  6. Cilia R, Laguna J, Cassani E, Cereda E, Pozzi NG, Isaias IU, Contin M, Barichella M, Pezzoli G.Mucuna pruriens in Parkinson disease. 2017 Aug 1;89(5):432-438. PMID: 28679598
  7. Tan NH, Fung SY, Sim SM, Marinello E, Guerranti R, Aguiyi JC. The protective effect of Mucuna pruriens seeds against snake venom poisoning. 2009 Jun 22;123(2):356-8. PMID: 19429384
  8. Kumar A, Gupta C, Nair DT, Salunke DM. MP-4 Contributes to Snake Venom Neutralization by Mucuna pruriens Seeds through an Indirect Antibody-mediated Mechanism. 2016 May 20;291(21):11373-84. PMID: 26987900
  9. Hope-Onyekwere NS, Ogueli GI, Cortelazzo A, Cerutti H, Cito A, Aguiyi JC, Guerranti R. Effects of Mucuna pruriens protease inhibitors on Echis carinatus venom. 2012 Dec;26(12):1913-9. PMID: 22447581
  10. Majekodunmi SO, Oyagbemi AA, Umukoro S, Odeku OA. Evaluation of the anti-diabetic properties of Mucuna pruriens seed extract. 2011 Aug;4(8):632-6. PMID: 21914541
  11. Dr. Jadhav Suresh Ramdhan, Dr Dadhich O. P, Dr. Kothari Pankaj. KApikacchu (Mucuna pruriens) - A Ayurvedic drug review. 11-06-2015 / Revised: 21-08-2015 / Accepted: 24-09-2015
  12. Lampariello LR, Cortelazzo A, Guerranti R, Sticozzi C, Valacchi G. The Magic Velvet Bean of Mucuna pruriens. 2012 Oct-Dec;2(4):331-9. PubMed PMID: 24716148
  13. Harold D Fostera, AbramHoffer .The two faces of L-DOPA: benefits and adverse side effects in the treatment of Encephalitis lethargica, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Volume 62, Issue 2, February 2004, Pages 177-181
  14. Andre Barbeau. Neurological and psychiatric side effects of L-DOPA. Pharmac. Ther. C. Vol. 1. pp. 475-4~. 1976. Pergamon Press. Printed in Great Britain
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