An amino acid that is the metabolic precursor of dopamine, is converted in the brain to dopamine.
The most common plant source of L-DOPA marketed in this manner is a tropical legume, Mucuna pruriens, also known as "Velvet Bean" and by a number of other common names.
Mucuna pruriens (syn. Dolichos pruriens) is a tropical legume known by a multitude of common names, including velvet bean, cowitch, cowhage, kapikachu, nescafe, sea bean, kratzbohnen, konch, yerepe (Yoruba) and atmagupta. The plant is an annual, climbing shrub with long vines that can reach over 15 m.
It bears white, lavender, or purple flowers and pods that are covered in loose orange hairs which cause a severe itch if they come in contact with skin. The beans are shiny black or brown. It is found in tropical Africa, India and the Caribbean.
Mucuna can be beneficial, since it is high in levodopa, a direct precursor of the neurotransmitter dopamine. The seed powder of Mucuna pruriens has long been used in traditional Ayurvedic Indian medicine for diseases including parkinsonism, and has proven in medical tests to have equal or superior effectiveness in the treatment of parkinsons disease over conventional, synthetic levodopa medications. Another benefit of Mucuna is that it can increase the production of human growth hormone, and extracts are commonly sold as body-building supplements.
Mucuna has also been shown to have diuretic effects. It increases tissue resiliency and improves coordination. Mucuna can also support healthy testosterone levels, which in turn can lead to increased muscle mass and strength.
In history, Mucuna has been used as an aphrodisiac. It is still used to increase libido in both men and women due to its dopamine inducing properties. Dopamine has a profound influence on sexual function.