Muira puama, also called "potency wood," is a small tree that grows to 5 m high and is native to the Brazilian Amazon and other parts of the Amazon rainforest. The small, white flowers have a pungent fragrance similar to jasmine's. The Ptychopetalum genus is a small one - only two species of small trees grow in tropical South America and five in tropical Africa. The two South American varieties, P. olacoides (found in Brazil, French Guiana, Guyana, and Suriname) and P. uncinatum (found only in Brazil), are used interchangeably in South American herbal medicine systems. The olacoides variety is usually preferred, as it has a higher content of lupeol (one of the plant's active phytochemicals). A completely different species of Brazilian tree, Liriosma ovata, also goes by the common name of muira puama (and is often sold in commerce as such); however, it is a completely different tree with a different phytochemical makeup.
TRIBAL AND HERBAL MEDICINE USES
Historically, all parts of muira puama have been used medicinally, but the bark and roots are the most-utilized parts of the plant. It has long been used in the Amazon by indigenous peoples for a number of purposes. Native peoples along the Brazilian Amazon's Rio Negro river use the stems and roots from young plants as a tonic to treat neuromuscular problems; a root decoction is used in baths and massages for treating paralysis and beri-beri; and a root-and-bark tea is taken to treat sexual debility, rheumatism, grippe, and cardiac and gastrointestinal weakness. It's also valued there as a preventive for baldness. In Brazilian herbal medicine, muira puama still is a highly-regarded sexual stimulant with a reputation as a powerful aphrodisiac. It has been in the Brazilian Pharmacopoeia since the 1950s. It is used as a neuromuscular tonic for weakness and paralysis, dyspepsia, menstrual disturbances, chronic rheumatism (applied topically), sexual impotency, grippe, and central nervous system disorders.
Muira puama is employed around the world today in herbal medicine. Early European explorers noted the indigenous uses and the aphrodisiac qualities of muira puama and brought it back to Europe, where it has become part of herbal medicine in England. It is still listed in the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia (a noted herbal medicine source from the British Herbal Medicine Association); it is recommended there for the treatment of dysentery and impotence. It is also used in Europe to treat impotence, infertility, nerve pain, menstrual disturbances, and dysentery. In Germany, muira puama is employed as a central nervous system tonic, for hookworms, menstrual disturbances, and rheumatism. Muira puama has been gaining in popularity in the United States, where herbalists and health care practitioners are using it for impotence, depression, menstrual cramps and PMS, nerve pain, and central nervous system disorders.
Scientists began searching for the source of muira puama's efficacy in the 1920s. Early researchers discovered that the root and bark were rich in fatty acids and fatty acid esters (the main one being behenic acid), essential oils (including beta-caryophyllene and alpha-humulene), plant sterols, triterpenes (including lupeol), and a new alkaloid-which they named muirapuamine. Scientists resumed researching the plant's constituents and pharmacological properties in the late 1960s and continued into the late 1980s. These studies indicated that the active constituents also included free long-chain fatty acids, sesquiterpenes, monoterpenes, and novel alkaloids.
The main plant chemicals found in muira puama include: alpha-copaene, alpha-elemene, alpha-guaiene, alpha-humulene, alpha-muurolene, alpha-pinene, alpha-resinic acid, alpha-terpinene, arachidic acid, allo-aromadendren, behenic acid, beta-bisabolene, beta-caryophyllene, beta-pinene, beta-resinic acid, beta-sitosterol, beta-transfarnesene, borneol, campesterols, camphene, camphor, car-3-ene, caryophyllene, cerotic acid, chromium, coumarin, cubebene, delta-cadinene, dotriacontanoic acid, elixene, ergosterols, eugenol, essential oils, gamma-muurolene, hentriacontanoic acid, heptacosanoic acid, lignoceric acid, limonene, linalool, lupeol, melissic acid, montanic acid, muirapuamine, myrcene, nonacosanoic acid, para-cymene, pentacosanoic acid, phlobaphene, stigmasterols, trichosanic acid, and uncosanic acid.
BIOLOGICAL ACTIVITIES AND CLINICAL RESEARCH
In one of the early studies, researchers indicated that muira puama was effective in treating disorders of the nervous system and sexual impotence, and that "permanent effect is produced in locomotor ataxia, neuralgias of long standing, chronic rheumatism, and partial paralysis." In 1930, Meiro Penna wrote about muira puama in his book Notas Sobre Plantas Brasilerias. He cited physiological and therapeutic experiments conducted in France by Dr. Rebourgeon that confirmed the efficacy of the plant for "gastrointestinal and circulatory asthenia and impotency of the genital organs."
The benefits of treating impotence with muira puama have been studied in two human trials in France, which reported that muira puama was effective in improving libido and treating erectile dysfunction. In one French study among 262 male patients who experienced lack of sexual desire and the inability to attain or maintain an erection, 62% of the patients with loss of libido reported that the extract of muira puama "had a dynamic effect," and 51% of patients with erectile dysfunction felt that muira puama was beneficial. The second study evaluated positive psychological benefits of muira puama in 100 men with male sexual weakness. The therapeutic dosage was 1.5 g of a muira puama extract daily. In their final report, researchers indicated muira puama could "enhance libido [in 85% of test group], increase the frequency of intercourse [in 100%] and improve the ability to maintain an erection [in 90%]."
In other recent clinical research, muira puama extracts have been reported to have adaptogenic, antifatigue, antistress, and beneficial effects on the central nervous system. A specially-prepared extract from the root of muira puama has been patented for its ability to "relieve physical and mental fatigue" and for "ameliorating a weakened constitution." Researchers in Brazil documented a definite central nervous system effect of the bark in studies with mice. The bark of muira puama also has demonstrated a mild, short-lived, hypotensive effect. The root was found to inhibit stress-induced ulcers, while the leaf demonstrated an analgesic effect. Another U.S. patent has been filed on muira puama, citing that it can "reduce body fat percentage, increase lean muscle mass and lower cholesterol" in humans and animals with long-term use (and with no toxicity noted). The newest research confirms muira puama's traditional use for memory and nervous disorders. Brazilian researchers reported in 2003 that an alcohol extract of muira puama facilitated memory retrieval in both young and aged mice and noted it may be beneficial for Alzheimer's patients. Their next study published in 2004 reported that an alcohol extract of muira puama protected and increased the viability of brain cells in mice (partly through an antioxidant effect) which may be beneficial for stroke victims. Toxicity studies with mice published in 1983 indicates no toxic effects.
CURRENT PRACTICAL USES
While so-called aphrodisiacs have come and gone in history, muira puama has retained its stature and may well provide one of the more effective natural therapeutic approaches for erectile function and libido enhancement. Before trying to self-treat, however, men should always seek the advice of a health practitioner if suffering from erectile dysfunction or impotency; this often can be an early warning sign of vascular insufficiency and/or underlying heart problems.
To achieve the libido and potency effects of this particular plant, proper preparation methods must be employed. The active constituents thought to be responsible for muira puama's potency and libido effect are not soluble in water - taking bark or root powder in capsules or tablets will not be effective because these chemical cannot be digested or absorbed. High heat for at least 20 minutes with alcohol is necessary to free the volatile and essential oils, terpenes, gums, and resins found in the bark and root which have been linked to muira puama's beneficial effects.
for erectile dysfunction and impotency
Contraindications: None reported.
Drug Interactions: None reported.
WORLDWIDE ETHNOMEDICAL USES
A complete Technical Data Report is available for this plant.
† The statements contained herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The information contained in this plant database file is intended for education, entertainment and information purposes only. This information is not intended to be used to diagnose, prescribe or replace proper medical care. The plant described herein is not intended to treat, cure, diagnose, mitigate or prevent any disease. Please refer to our Conditions of Use for using this plant database file and web site.
Referenced Quotes on Muira Puama
8. "Brazilian uses and Folklore: Marapuama has long been valued
as an aphrodisiac and tonic for the nervous system. M. Penna, in his
book "Notas Sobre Plantas Brasileiras" (Araujo Penna &,
Cia., Rio de Janeiro, 1930) states that Marapuama is a "Neurosthenetic,
aphrodisiac... and anti-rheumatic. It is recommended on a basis of confirmed
experience, in the treatment of disorders of the nervous system ....
Through the latest physiological and therapeutic experiments done in
Paris by Dr. Rebourgeon, the efficiency of this plant has been confirmed...
giving good results in gastrointestinal and circulatory asthenia and
in impotency of the genital organs." (p. 258). G. L. Cruz concurs,
indicating the use of Marapuama for problems of the nervous system and
sexual impotency.* When treating the symptoms of sexual impotence or
lack of desire, Brazilian men usually mix teas made from Marapuama and
Catuaba. Uses: Used in disturbances of the genital organs, in cases of
impotency; also an aphrodisiac. Influential in treating symptoms of nervous
problems and disorders (neurasthenia, neuralgia). Anti-rheumatic, fortifies
the stomach and intestines.
11. "The primary Amazon herbs used for their synergistic effects
during athletic training and recovery include the following: Catuaba
and Marapuama as strong tonics and nervous system fortifiers; Marapuama
also for its anti-rheumatic properties;
Discovery Channel Health Article by Chris Kilham
After our time in Manaus, Bernie and I boated down the Amazon river where we stayed with Ipixuna and Crinicoru indians in floating shacks on the water. While there we ventured into the rain forest with native guides who showed us catuaba and muirapuama trees growing in different places. We also witnessed the harvesting of catuaba bark and its subsequent sale to a local buyer. We learned that most natives use these plants by placing a small handful of their combined barks in a glass of room-temperature water, let the herbs sit overnight, and drink the resulting amber infusion in the morning.
Throughout history, people have sought to increase libido and improve sexual function through the use of reputed aphrodisiac plants. Catuaba and muirapuama, two common trees growing widely across the Amazon river basin, enjoy centuries of safe, effective use as bona fide aphrodisiacs. "
Third-Party Published Research on Muira Puama
Available third-party documentation and research on muira puama be found at PubMed. A partial listing of the third-party published research on muira pauma is shown below:
Actions on Erectile Function and Libido:
Anti-fatigue, Tonic, & Adaptogenic Actions:
Anti-Anxiety & Nervine Actions:
Memory Enhancement & Neuroprotective Actions:
|Printed in The American Journal of Natural Medicine, November 1994, Vol.
1, No. 3, Page 8
Yohimbine vs. Muira puama in the treatment of erectile dysfunction
The term "impotence" has traditionally been used to signify the inability of the male to attain and maintain erection of the penis sufficient to permit satisfactory sexual intercourse. Impotence, in most circumstances, is more precisely referred to as e rectile dysfunction as this term differentiates itself from loss of libido, premature ejaculation, or inability to achieve orgasm.
An estimated 10 to 20 million men suffer from erectile dysfunction. This number is expected to increase dramatically as the median age of the population increases. Currently, erectile dysfunction is thought to affect over 25% of men over the age of 50.
Although the frequency of erectile dysfunction increases with age, it must be stressed that ageing itself is not a cause of impotence. Although the amount and force of the ejaculate as well as the need to ejaculate decrease with age, the capacity for er ection is retained. Men are capable of retaining their sexual virility well into their 80's. Erectile dysfunction may be due to organic or psychogenic factors. In the overwhelming majority of cases the cause is organic, i.e., it is due to some physiological reason. In fact, in men over the age of 50, organic causes are responsible fro erectile dysfunction in of 90%. In the past, a man with impotence who was able to have nighttime or early morning erections was thought to have psychogenic impotence. However, it is mow recognized that this is not a reliable indicator.
To illustrate the benefits to be expected in clinical practice, let's examine the results from one of the more recent double-blind studies. In the study, 82 men with erectile dysfunction selected from a Veterans Administration population with a high inc idence of diabetes and vascular disease underwent a multifactorial evaluation, including a determination of penile brachial blood pressure index, caver nosography, sacral evoked response, testosterone and prolactin determination, sexual dysfunction and a rousal test.
After one month of treatment with the maximum of 42.0 mg oral yohimbine hydrocholride daily 14% of the patients experienced restoration of full and sustained erections. 20% reported a partial response to the therapy and 65% reported no improvement. In comparison, only three patients reported a positive effect in the placebo group. Maximum effect with yohimbine takes two to three weeks to manifest itself. Yohimbine was active in some patients with arterial insufficiency and a unilateral sacral reflex arc lesion, and in one with low serum testosterone levels. The 34% response is somewhat encouraging given the study population.
Side effects often make yohimbine very difficult to utilize. Yohimbine can induce anxiety, panic attacks, and hallucinations in some individuals. Other side effects include elevations in blood pressure, and heart rate, dizziness, headache, and skin flus hing. Yohimbine should not be used in individuals with psychological disturbances.
Although crude yohimbe bark preparations are available commercially, use of pure yohimbine hydrochloride is preferred. There are no commercial sources of yohimbe bark that are available to physicians or in health food stores which actually state the le vel of yohimbine per dosage. Without knowing the content of yohimbine, it is virtually impossible to prescribe an effective and consistent dosage. Because of the yohimbine content of yohimbe bark, the FDA classifies yohimbe as an unsafe herb.
Presently, the mechanism of action of Muira puama is unknown, From the preliminary information, it appears that it works on enhancing both psychological and physical aspects of sexual function. Future research will undoubtably shed additional light on t his extremely promising herb for erectile dysfunction.
Printed in the 1993 GAIA SYMPOSIUM PROCEEDINGS, NATUROPATHIC HERBAL
MEDICINE, "Herbal Healing Wisdom for the Future" May 29-31,
Presently, the mechanism of action of Muira puama is unknown. Future research will undoubtedly shed additional light on this extremely promising herb for impotence.