- Muira Puama
- Potency Wood
Muira puama (also known as ‘potency wood’) is a small tree or bush that grows up to a height of 15 meters and produces petite white flowers having a pungent aroma akin to that of jasmine. The trunk of this shrub-like tree is grey, the leaves deep brown and it bears fruits that have an orange-yellow hue. Muira puama is indigenous to the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, where people have been employing the plant in the form of a stimulant for neuromuscular disorders, for baths and massage as well as an herbal tea to cure rheumatism, impotence and gastrointestinal problems. It may be noted that this species was listed in the Brazilian Pharmacopeia of 1956 and continues to be a component of the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia. It has been found that muira puama has been used in Europe for therapeutic purposes since the 1920s.
It is interesting to note that the botanists are said to have encountered as much problem in identifying the origin of muira puama as the zoologists possibly had to experience in finding the Loch Ness monster. Different from the instance of the monster, there is no dispute regarding the subsistence of this plant. There was a time when people believed that this plant was derived from Liriosma ovata Miers or possibly, Acanthea virilis (nomen nudum, denoting ‘naked name‘). Eventually, scientists made out muira puama to be the stem-wood and root of two shrubs found in Brazil – Ptychopetalum uncinatum Anselmino and Ptychopetalum olacoides Benth. These two shrubs belong to the plant family Olacaceae. As mentioned earlier, muira puama is also referred to as ‘potency wood’ and this shrub-like plant has a long account of being used in the form of a potent aphrodisiac (any medicine or substance that enhances sex drive) and a tonic for the nerve in Brazil. Muira puama is an element in several patented medications as well as in traditional remedies for sexual impotence.
Promoters of muira puama tout the use of this plant for curing dyspepsia (indigestion), rheumatism, menstrual problems and paralysis attributable to poliomyelitis (a severe viral infection attributed to any of three polioviruses). In addition, muira puama is also used in the form of a common tonic as well as a stimulant to augment appetite. Herbal formulations prepared using muira puama are generally taken orally in the form of an alcoholic extract, a powder or a decoction (prepared by boiling the herb in water). Some people also use an alternative method to benefit from the aphrodisiac effects of the herb by washing their genitals with a strong decoction. The decoction is also applied topically to cure muscle paralysis and rheumatism.
As aforementioned, muira puama has long been used as an herbal medicine in the form of an aphrodisiac, anti-rheumatic and digestive tonic and a stimulant for the nerves. This plant is a member of the Olacaceae family and its bark and roots possess therapeutic properties. Commercially, muira puama is available in the form of a tincture. In addition, it forms an active ingredient in several herbal formulations prepared with South American herbs and sold for treating erectile dysfunction (ED), in combination of several rainforest herbs like iporuru and catuaba, and also to cure male pattern baldness.
Since the ancient times, muira puama has been held in high esteem as an aphrodisiac as well as a tonic or stimulant for the nervous system. This herb is comforting and provides relief from stress, nervous exhaustion, and trauma as well as facilitates in alleviating the symptoms of depression. In addition, muira puama is also employed in formulations intended to cure male pattern baldness.
Muira puama is said to be an effective remedy for impotence as well as reduced sexual drive. In fact, this herb is an excellent addition to or substitute for treating these conditions with yohimbe. A number of clinical trials undertaken with muira puama in France have discovered that employing the herb as the solitary treatment helps to reinstate sex drive and erectile function in as high as 51 per cent to 62 per cent cases. Whatever preliminary information regarding the herb’s use in this case is available, it seems that muira puama functions by augmenting the psychological as well as the physical features of sexual activities.
From the historic point of view, though all the parts of muira puama have been employed for therapeutic purposes, the bark and roots of the plant are the most extensively used parts of the herb. Since long this herb has been used by the natives of the Amazon region to treat several medical conditions. The indigenous people inhabiting along the Rio Negro River in Brazil’s Amazon employ the stems and roots of the young muira puama plants in the form of a tonic to cure neuromuscular disorders. They also prepare a decoction with the root of the herb and use it in baths and for massages to treat beriberi and paralysis, while an herbal tea prepared by boiling the herb’s roots in water is drunk to cure sexual weakness, grippe, rheumatism as well as gastrointestinal weaknesses. People in this region also hold the herb in high esteem for its aptitude to prevent baldness, especially the male pattern baldness. Muira puama is highly regarded as a remedy for sexual problems or sexual tonic and to this day people consider the herb to be a potent aphrodisiac. Indigenous people in the Amazon region use this herb to treat an assortment of different medical conditions, including menstrual disorders, dyspepsia, sexual impotency, disorders of the central nervous system and influenza.
Though native to the Brazilian Amazon region, currently herbalists across the globe use muira puama to cure a number of medical conditions. It may be noted that when the early explorers to the region from Europe noticed that the herb possessed aphrodisiac qualities, they carried the herb to Europe and gradually muira puama became a part of the European herbal medicine. Even to this day, muira puama is contained in the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia – the British Herbal Medicine Association’s noted source of herbal medications. While the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia especially recommends the use of muira puama for treating impotence and dysentery, in other regions of Europe this herb is used for the treatment of medical conditions, such as infertility, impotence, menstrual problems, nerve pain and dysentery. People in Germany use muira puama in the form of a tonic or stimulant for the central nervous system, for treating hookworms, rheumatism and menstrual disorders. Over the years, the popularity of muira puama has been increasing in the United States and healthcare professionals and herbalists in this country are using the herb more and more to treat depression, impotence, menstrual cramps, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), nerve pain as well as the disorders of the central nervous system.
Habitat and cultivation
Also known as ‘potency wood’, muira puama is a low growing tree, akin to a bush, and is indigenous to the Amazon region in Brazil as well as other areas of the Amazon rainforest.
Researchers who undertook one of the earliest studies with muira puama suggested that the herb was helpful in curing nervous system disorders and sexual impotence. They further indicated that the herb produced a lasting impact in locomotor ataxia, chronic rheumatism, neuralgias and even in the case of partial paralysis.
Researchers in France have studied the advantages of treating sexual impotence using muira puama in two human trials, which said that the herb is effectual in enhancing libido (sexual drive) and treating erectile dysfunction (ED). One of the studies undertaken by French researches involved 262 male patients who endured absence of sexual desire and the ability to get or sustain penile erection. Among them 62 per cent patients enduring loss of sexual urge said that the extract of muira puama had a forceful consequence, while 51 per cent of patients suffering from erectile dysfunction were of the view that muira puama was helpful in improving their condition. In the second study, French researchers assessed the positive psychological advantages of muira puama in 100 male patients who experienced sexual weakness. The medicinal dose of the herb administered to these male patients was 1.5 g of muira puama extract given every day. In their concluding report, the researchers of the second study hinted that muira puama had the potential to augment libido (in 85 per cent of the patients in the test group), enhance the occurrence of intercourse (in 100 per cent of the patients in the test group) and, at the same time, augment the ability to sustain a penile erection (in 90 per cent of the patients in the test group).
Other clinical researches undertaken more recently showed that the extract from muira puama possessed adaptogenic (herbs that work to normalize the functioning of the systems of the body), anti-stress, and anti-fatigue properties as well as had positive and helpful effects on the central nervous system. A specifically prepared extract from the muira puama root has been patented owing to the ability of the substance to provide relief from physical as well as mental exhaustion as well as for its competence in improving a damaged constitution. In addition, in Brazil, researchers have documented a specific effect of the muira puama bark on the central nervous system during a study conducted with mice. In effect, the bark of this herb has also shown a gentle, temporary, hyposensitive consequence.
The root of muira puama has been found to slow down ulcers caused by stress, while the leaf of the herb has exhibited a pain relieving effect. One other patent has been filed in the United States stating that muira puama has the aptitude to lessen the proportion of body fat, augment mass of lean muscles and bring down the blood cholesterol levels in humans as well as animals when it is used for a prolonged period. Interestingly, despite the long-term use of the herb’s root, no toxicity was observed. The latest research with muira puama has affirmed that the traditional use of muira puama for treating memory as well as nervous problems is effective.
In 2003, Brazilian researchers have reported that an alcohol extract obtained from muira puama helped in retrieving memory in young as well as aged mice and documented that the extract may prove to be useful for patients enduring Alzheimer’s disease. The findings of these researchers’ subsequent study that was published in 2004 noted that an alcohol extract obtained from muira puama looked after as well as enhanced the capability of the brain cells in mice (partially by means of an antioxidant result), which might prove to be helpful for people who have endured stroke. In addition, it needs to be noted that findings of studies undertaken to determine the toxicity of muira puama published in 1983 showed that the herb did not have any toxic effect.
Chemical analysis of muira puama has revealed that a mixture of esters, 66 per cent of which is lupeol, behenic acid and beta-sitosterol as its major constituent, which makes up 0.4 per cent to 0.5 per cent of the plant’s chemical composition. In addition, muira puama contains fatty acids that substitute the behenic acid. It also encloses other common elements contained by other plants, for instance resin, tannin, volatile oil, fat, a variety of fatty acids and the ones that have been separated from muira puama.
Side effects and cautions
Muira puama is considered as a safe herb to use.