Kaunch Beej or Mucuna pruriens (Latin) is the seed of the Kapikacchu herb, known for its high medicinal values. It is also known as an aphrodisiac which raises sperm count and quality, boosts sexual desire with its antidepressant properties and increases testosterone levels in the blood. Almost all parts of the Kapikacchu herb possess precious medicinal qualities, of which the beej or seeds are the most well known. Like other herbal medicinal substances Kaunchbeej too is known by numerous other names like that of Atmagupta or Kapikacchu in Sanskrit, Kivacc, Kevanch or Kaunch in Hindi as well as cow hedge, cow itch, cowage, velvet bean, lacuna bean, Lyon bean, Donkey eye, monkey tamarind and Buffalo beans in English.
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Some other names of Kaunch Beej include, Alkushi in Bengali, Khaajkuiri in Marathi, Poonaikkaali in Tamil, Kapikachhu Durada Gondi in Telugu, Naykuruna in Malayalam, Nasagunnikaayi in Kannada, Bieh in Madurese and Baidanka in Oriya. In India, the fully grown seeds of Kapikacchu have been conventionally eaten by the Kanikkars, a South Indian hilly tribe, which consumed them only after repeatedly boiling the seeds in order to eliminate its anti-nutritional parts.
However, it cannot withstand frost and survives poorly in cold and moist soils.The Kapikachhu herb is a leguminous plant which makes Kaunchbeej a legume, rich in tocopherol, or Vitamin E, a highly valued element in the larger medical discourse.
The branches of the Kaunch Beej plant are long and slender with alternate, lanceolate leaves. White flowers with a bluish-purple tinge and butterfly-shaped corolla grow on the plant. The plant or legumes are intensely dark brown in colour, thick, leathery, as well as hairy growing up to 4 inches in length. They have the looks of violin sound holes and each pod has four to six seeds.The plant grows best in warm, moist conditions with abundant rain and on an altitude of about 1500 m or less. The genus can also grow in severe climatic conditions similar to drought-like soil, less-fertile soil, and also in soil with high acidity.
Mucuna pruriens plants are characterised by profuse, long stinging hairs on their young foliage, and the seed pods which if touched, can cause severe skin irritation, burning and rashes. The non-prickling types, called ‘velvet beans’, grow silky hair which looks as if it is pressed together.
The plants are native of Africa and tropical Asia where they are widely naturalized and grown since ages. Kapikachhu herb is an energetic, leguminous species, originally from southern China and eastern India. The plant was initially cultivated only in India and China as a green vegetable crop and has been habitually eaten as a food by some particular ethnic groups in these countries. Today, Kaunchbeej is an extremely sought after green crop throughout the tropics.
This well-known medicine is widely grown in tropical and subtropical regions across the world and is a practical source of dietary proteins. It is now grown extensively in countries like Asia, Africa, America, and also in the Pacific Islands.
The pods of this plant are popularly eaten as a vegetable while the young leaves are fed to animals as fodder. Though Kaunchbeej happens to be the key constituent in an array of indigenous drug formulations because of its medicinal properties, what makes it even more interesting is it being a natural source of L-Dopa. It triggers the production of dopamine in the brain and in turn enhances mood, sexuality and brain and body coordination. Popularly known as ‘the magic velvet bean’, Kaunch beej or Cowhage is best consumed as a powder mixed with milk.
The Ayurvedic school of medicine is an age-old traditional medical science that is practised in India since the Vedic ages. It has often used the Kaunchbeej herb for treating a host of medical conditions including impotence, sexual debility, infertility, arthritis and neurological disorders. Kaunch had also been widely prescribed by ancient Indian medical practitioners as a libido enhancer in men as well as in women and as an aphrodisiac. This was done because of its dopamine inducing properties as dopamine is known for its positive influence on sexual activities.
The beans of the plant are believed to have poison absorption potentials when applied as a paste, on a scorpion sting. The plant is believed to be native to tropical southern or southeastern Asia. However, since the exact native range is undecided, it is considered a native species in a wide range of countries including a major part of Africa.
The species has been naturalized in tropical and subtropical areas across the world in countries like West Indies, Mexico and South America. According to botanists in 1920s the United Fruit Company introduced the species into Mesoamerica, as a forage crop for its mules living on banana plantations. Mesoamerica is actually Middle America or the geographical area extending from central Mexico to Central America. It includes countries like Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador.
According to authors Nathaniel Lord Britton and Charles Frederick Millspaugh, by 1920, the plant was present in the Bahamas as well as in Cuba, St. Thomas, Tobago, and Jamaica. According to other documented sources, the plant was found in Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Lesser Antilles, the US, Mexico, and South America by 1924, where experts say the plant was not native but was ‘exotic and naturalized’.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, Kaunchbeej herb was largely grown as a green vegetable in the piedmont plateaus of the eastern Himalayas and also in Mauritius. People of both these areas used to boil the unripe pods as well the mature beans before eating them. For the last many decades, the locals of Guatemala and Mexico, roast and ground Kaunchbeej in order to make a coffee-like substitute. This has given Kaunch Beej its local name of Nescafe, the popular coffee brand.
Historically, this drug has been used in different countries for curing different sets of disorders. For example, in Brazil, India and Pakistan, it is known to possess aphrodisiacal and and diuretic properties. It is known to keep rheumatism, muscle pain and cholesterol in check, in Germany. In India and Pakistan, it helps with abortion, dropsy, debility, delirium, cancer, cholera, cough and diarrhea.
Other than this the drug was extensively used by different nations for curing conditions like the presence of intestinal parasites, nervine, paralysis, mumps, pleuritis, insanity, snakebites, sores, ringworms, STD’s, tumors and wind burns.
The key constituent of Kaunch Beej is L-dopa which is present in 4-7 percentages, and this has made the herb a commercial substance. L-dopa is a precursor of the neurotransmitter, dopamine and hence has anti-diabetic, anti- inflammatory, neuroprotective and antioxidant properties. Other vital constituents include hallucinogenic tryptamines, methylated and non-methylated tetrahydroisoquinolines.
The plant also contains substances which can kill plant-parasitic nematodes. Four alkaloids including - mucunine, mucunadine, prurienine, and prurieninine are also found in the plant extracts. The seeds are rich as they have about 27 percent protein content and are also known for their high mineral contents. The seeds are also believed to contain some compounds which can inhibit the spread of snake poison. As a great source of protein and dietary fibre, the seeds are used as supplements for body and muscle building. Sportsmen are known to take kaunch beej supplements for building their muscles as well as stamina.
Medicinal values are present in each and every part of the Kaunch Beej plant and it can be used as an anti-diabetic, aphrodisiac, anti-neoplastic, anti-epileptic, neuroprotective, analgesic, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial agent.
Additionally, the alcoholic characteristics of the extracts of the seeds have potential antioxidant qualities. The leaf extracts are known to be antimicrobial, antioxidant and supposedly have potential as a topical drug curing redox-driven skin ailments.
Every part of Kaunch Beej is extremely useful as they have medicinal values. This is known as a wonder drug, as it can successfully treat a host of medical conditions.
Useful nervine tonic: The potential of this herb as a valuable nervine tonic is now well established through numerous studies and experiments. According to scientists, the active alkaloids like mucaine, pruridine, tannic acid, resin, lecithin and L-dopa, present in Kaunch Beej help the central nervous system in human beings to work at its best possible capacity and also assist in the normal functioning of the nerve cells.
Boosts human growth hormone: Kaunch Beej stimulates the production of the human growth hormone (HCG) and its extracts are widely known as bodybuilding agents, increasing tissue strength and thus augmenting coordination in an inactive individual. Kaunch Beej is consumed as a dietary supplement as it helps in increasing muscle strength and is known to help the body produce slender muscle.
It also works in separating undesirable fat from the body and therefore is very useful for those looking for a weight loss regimen. Bodybuilders use this herbal extract extensively.
An aphrodisiac: Kaunch Beej is a potential aphrodisiac widely popular across the world as the powder has a tremendous capacity to improve libido or sexual desire as well as strength and abilities.
Another very effective contribution of the drug is improving the sexual experience by delaying the time of ejaculation and thereby making sex more pleasurable. In effect, the constituent levodopa, combines with dopamine and limits the secretion of the Prolactin hormone and thus helps in treating erectile dysfunction.
Cure for sexual disorders: This herbal extract also plays a role in increasing sperm count and also the production and quality of semen, thus improving male fertility. The sperm count increases because of the herb’s prophylactic action against oligospermia. This, according to Ayurveda, is because of the fact that Kaunchbeej is a ‘Guru’ or heavy substance and has ‘Vrushya’ or aphrodisiacal traits.
Some studies also state that Kaunchbeej improves the movement of sperms or their motility. Additionally, this natural substance is instrumental in reducing mental stress thus helping an individual to relax which helps in experiencing better sex. The testosterone hormone is released by Kaunchbeej which also strengthens and builds sexual glands and enhances blood flow to the sex organs. In women, Kaunch Beej is known to normalise ovulation.
Increase testosterone level: Kaunch Beej can also play a significant role in increasing testosterone levels. This is because of its constituent L-dopa which triggers the production of a gonadotropic hormone (GnRH). This hormone, in turn, stimulates the pituitary gland and boosts the secretion of the FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) and LH (luteinizing hormone). As a result of this increased level of FSH and LH, the synthesis of testosterone is promoted by the Leydig cells present in the testis.
Restorative uses of Kaunch Beej: This hormone also helps in revitalising the increase of anabolic/antispasmodic hormones, reduces glucose or blood sugar and high-pressure levels, decreases cholesterol levels in the blood, helps improve digestion, stimulates the menstrual cycle, treats swellings and inflammation, is a CNS stimulant and addresses diabetes. The d-chiro-inositol present in Kaunch Beej plays an important role in the treatment of diabetes. Kaunch Beej (seeds) do this because the D-chiro-inositol imitates the properties of insulin, thus assisting glucose metabolism.
The herb also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities and this makes it capable of decreasing the risks of diabetes-related issues. Besides, Kaunchbeej is also effective in treating diabetes in another way. High blood sugar reduces physical strength in those affected with the condition and because of the ‘Balya’ or strength-enhancing quality of this herb, it has the potential to increase body strength.
Work against snake venom poisoning: Kaunj Beej is also known for its prophylaxis or preventive action against poisoning from snake venom, which contains a large number of toxins. Kaunch Beej acts by enhancing immune response and promotes antibody production, which binds itself to the proteins in the snake venom, thus, inhibiting them.
Grows beard: Interestingly, Kaunch Beej powder is believed to help the growth of the beard in men. It does so by converting testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) by means of an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase. DHT being the chief hormone behind facial hair, Kaunchbeej hence, helps in facilitating the growth of the beard. Additionally, since Kaunchbeej boosts testosterone levels, it triggers the conversion of DHT. Finally, the herb activates androgen receptors and makes sure that DHT is used more productively.
Reduces stress: Stress triggers the production of an adrenocorticotropic hormone in the body which increases the levels of cortisol in the body. The antioxidant characteristics of Kaunch Beej are helpful in reducing levels of cortisol that are also the hormones responsible for increasing stress. Additionally, Kaunchbeej also energises the body and increases stamina due to its constituent, L-dopa, which by turning into dopamine helps raise energy levels.
In wound healing: The powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial traits of Kaunch Beej make it a potential therapy in healing wounds. The phytoconstituents present in the herb assist in contraction and closure of wounds and cuts and facilitate the formation of collagen and new skin cells. Moreover, it checks the risks of infection.
Kaunch Beej for Arthritis: The inflammatory and analgesic properties of this herb help in controlling arthritis by decreasing pain and swelling in the joints. Ayurveda says that the bones and joints are a location of Vata in the human body and pain results when there is a Vata imbalance. Kaunch Beej has the potential to stabilise Vata, and thus address bone and joint pain.
Kaunch Beej for High prolactin levels: The constituent L-dopa in Kaunch Beej checks the overproduction of the hormone prolactin, which is necessary to sustain lactation in breastfeeding mothers. Excess of the prolactin hormone is believed to increase the risks of breast cancer. By controlling the overproduction of prolactin, Kaunch Beej prevents the growth of cancer cells. Besides, it also facilitates DNA damage and cell death in the cancer cells.
Home remedies: The roots are useful in treating neuromuscular disorders and are especially effective in addressing facial paralysis and Hemiplegic.
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Kaunch Beej is a great source of protein and its qualities as an aphrodisiac, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial herb, makes it an indispensable component in household healthcare. However, if not used the right way and in the right doses, Kaunch Beej can cause serious side effects. One must start using this herbal extract by consulting a doctor. The doses may vary according to age, health condition, gender, individual body type, food habits and lifestyle choices.
Those afflicted with nerve disorders or diabetes must take it after consulting a doctor or a licensed Ayurvedic expert.
The general recommended dose for consuming Kaunch Beej is to use one fourth to half a teaspoon of Kaunch Beej powder along with one teaspoon honey or one cup lukewarm milk and consume it once or twice every day. When consumed with milk, one fourth to half a teaspoon of Kaunch Beej powder is mixed with one cup of milk and boiled for 3-5 minutes.
Those having diabetes should use lukewarm water instead of honey. The prescribed timing of the drug is post lunch and dinner, particularly in case of treating bone and joint pain.
For the management of neuromuscular disorders use a decoction of 50 ml of Kaunch Beej mixed with 250 ml mustard oil and use it for massage purposes. For leucorrhoea, use the powdered Kaunchbeej and mix it with honey. One can also use Kaunch Beej powder mixed with honey and ginger juice for the treatment of allergic bronchitis.
For bodybuilding, one can use one fourth to half a teaspoon of Kaunch Beej powder along with milk and take once or twice every day. For one’s affected with Parkinson’s disease, the recommended dose is to take one fourth to half a teaspoon of Kaunch Beej powder along with one teaspoon of honey or one cup of lukewarm milk and consume it post lunch and dinner.
For treating wounds, one can use Kaunch Beej powder mixed with coconut oil or milk and apply it as a paste. To use Kaunch Beej powder effectively, one can take half to one teaspoon of the powder and mix it with milk and apply it evenly on the affected area as a paste. Let it stay for five to seven minutes and then wash it well with water. This helps in the fast healing of wounds, reduces swellings and restores the skin back to its normal state.
One fourth to a half teaspoon of Kaunchbeej Churna twice a day, or as advised by the doctor.
One Kaunchbeej capsule twice a day or as suggested by a doctor or an Ayurvedic practitioner.
One Kaunchbeej tablet twice a day or as recommended by the doctor, or other experts.
Kaunchbeej has ‘Ushna’ (hot) potency and can enhance acid production. Hence, for those who have peptic ulcers, hyperacidity or gastritis, it is better to take the advice of a doctor before commencing Kaunch Beej therapy.
The intake of hair that grows on the Kaunchbeej pod and seed can cause mucosal irritation and must be avoided.
Also, because of the Ushna (hot) potency, it is good to consult a doctor before applying Kaunch Beej extracts directly on the skin as it can cause itching or a burning sensation.
Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers must undergo medical consultation before consuming or using Kaunch Beej extracts or supplements. Kaunch beej is believed to interact with CNS drugs. Hence, it is always recommended to consult a doctor before taking Kaunch Beej along with a CNS drug.
Patients with diabetes must avoid Kaunchbeej, which has the potential to reduce blood sugar levels. It is also advised to check blood sugar levels regularly while using Kaunch Beej. Kaunch beej can also reduce blood pressure levels; therefore, it is advised to watch blood pressure levels while consuming Kaunch Beej.This is particularly true for people with heart disorders.
Some other common side effects are headaches, hallucinations, perplexity and irritation.
The time taken for Kaunchbeej to start showing results is relative and like all other herbal supplements, depends on age, body type, body mass and weight, dietary preferences, and lifestyle choices of the user. It also depends on the type of ailments it is used for. The time taken can also vary according to the ability of the user to consume it. Many cannot consume higher doses and hence they will require more time to see results.
That said a minimum time period of one month to 12 weeks is necessary to see tangible results of the drug. For certain conditions, like that of bodybuilding, the effect will be perceived after several months’ use.
As an inhibitor of poison, though, it works within 24 hours.
For improving sperm count, the dose must be taken for at least three months. Also, Kaunch Beej supplements work best when chosen from a reputed seller and the same dose is taken over the period of therapy.