herb benefit as aphrodisiac, use with
catuaba, and side effects - Brazilian Jungle Passion
March 6, 2014 by Ray Sahelian, M.D.
Muira puama, also called "potency wood," is a small tree up to 15 feet in height native to the Brazilian Amazon. The bark and root are the primary parts that are utilized. Indigenous peoples use muira puama for the therapy of sexual debility, fatigue, neuromuscular problems, and rheumatism. It's botanical name is Ptychopetalum olacoides. Don't be surprised if you see it spelled in many different ways, including mara puama, marapuama, and marapama.
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Puama root and bark studies
A review of articles published in PubMed in January 2014 did not reveal any new human studies.
In 1990, at the Institute of Sexology in Paris, France, a clinical study with 262 patients complaining of lack of sexual desire demonstrated muira puama extract to be effective. Within two weeks, at a daily dose of 1 to 1.5 grams of 4:1 extract, 62% of patients with loss of libido claimed that the treatment was helpful. I found this study mentioned all over the internet, but could not find an official Medline mention.
In 2000, researchers at the Institute of Sexology published another study. The effectiveness of a herbal formulation of muira puama and ginkgo biloba was assessed in 202 healthy women complaining of low sex drive. Various aspects of their sex life were rated before and after 1 month of treatment. Statistically significant improvements occurred in frequency of sexual desires, sexual intercourse, and sexual fantasies, as well as in satisfaction with sex life, intensity of sexual desires, excitement of fantasies, ability to reach orgasm, and intensity of orgasm. Reported tolerability of the muira puama and ginkgo combination was good.
Recently, muira puama has been gaining in popularity in the US where herbalists are using it for sexual enhancement, menstrual cramps and PMS, and central nervous system disorders. It has been traditionally known as a nerve tonic. Amazonian natives use traditional remedies prepared with it for treating various central nervous system conditions, including those associated with aging.
Mechamism of action
The root and bark of muira puama are rich in free long-chain fatty acids, essential oils, plant sterols, coumarin, lupeol, and an alkaloid named muirapuamine. Because of its various constituents, it is difficult to pinpoint the exact chemicals responsible for its sex boosting effects. One study in rabbits indicates that muira puama has the ability to relax the corpus cavernosa of the penis, thus allowing for engorgement. Another study indicates that muira puama may block an enzyme known as acetylcholinesterase. By blocking the activity of this enzyme, more acetylcholine is available in the central nervous system, which may be helpful in Alzheimer's disease and conditions of poor memory. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter involved in memory, and it also helps dilate blood vessels in the genital region.
Homemade remedies with muira puama roots are used by Amazonian peoples for treating various age-related conditions. In my clinical experience, I find that muira puama increases energy and also has mild mood-enhancing properties. However little research is available to confirm these findings. I base my findings on my personal experience taking it myself, and also feedback from patients I have recommended to take the herb. Research shows muira puama has antioxidant properties, protecting the brain from damage. Animal studies indicate it may have memory improving potential.
Depression and mood lift
Is muira puama a mood lifter?
In my experience, I find that after several days of taking muira puama there is a general sense of wellbeing that comes. However, if I take a high dose, the resulting shallow sleep from the overstimulation has lowered my mood. Therefore, it can be a mood lifter when used in the proper dosage.
Availability over the counter, in health food stores and
Muira puama is available in various dosages and extracts. It's difficult to give exact dosage recommendations since each herbal supplier or vitamin company may have a different way of presenting the final product. Also, it is available in various extract potencies, including a 4 to 1 extract. Thus, recommending exact dosages becomes complicated.
Muira puama side effects, risk
One of the most common side effects of muira puama when used in high doses is insomnia. This is because of the alertness it produces, and, logically, if you are too alert when you go to bed, you are likely to toss and turn in bed. Limit your daily intake of muira puama to one capsule and take a day off every 2 or 3 days.
Reports from patients
At least two thirds of my patients find muira puama to be helpful. James, 48, says, “Muira puama definitely helps my libido, and I notice the effects within a few days. I also find it to be a mood enhancer, helping me deal with life’s emotional events easier. I take 500 mg two days on, one day off.”
Tony, a 44 year-old dentist reports, “I took muira puama for one week and noticed that in the mornings my erections were lasting longer. I use an alcoholic tincture. The bottle is a 2 oz container and I use about 25 drops in a glass of water. I’m also starting to feel more sensual with a stronger desire.”
Cindy, a 34 year-old writer says, “I have had difficulty feeling aroused since my psychiatrist put me on Prozac. I started muira puama liquid extract and within 2 weeks my libido is coming back, although not as much as before Prozac.”
David, a 39 year-old therapist, says, “I took one gram of muira puama for two days. I didn’t notice anything the first two days, however, when I awoke the third day, my libido was definitely higher. I was still in bed, and unfortunately my wife had already left for work.”
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Muira puama research
Nat Prod Commun. 2011. Eight new clerodane diterpenoids from the bark of Ptychopetalum olacoides. Eight new clerodane type diterpenoids, named 7-oxo-kolavelool, 7alpha-hydroxykolavelool, 6alpha,7alpha-dihydroxykolavenol, 12-oxo-hardwickiic acid, ptycholide I, ptycholide II, ptycholide III, and ptycholide IV were isolated from the MeOH extract of the bark of a Brazilian medicinal plant, Ptychopetalum olacoides.
Clinical toxicology study of an herbal medicinal extract of Paullinia cupana,
Trichilia catigua, Ptychopetalum olacoides and Zingiber
officinale ( Catuama ) in healthy volunteers.
Phytother Res. 2005.
In Brazil, a herbal medicinal extract named Catuama containing a mixture of Paullinia cupana (guarana), Trichilia catigua (catuaba; Meliaceae), Ptychopetalum olacoides (muirapuama; Olacaceae) and Zingiber officinale (ginger; Zingiberaceae) is used as a body stimulant, energetic, tonic and aphrodisiac. The present study investigated the chronic administration of 25 mL Catuama twice a day during 28 days for any toxic effect on healthy human volunteers of both sexes. No severe adverse reactions or haematological and biochemical changes were reported.
Memory retrieval improvement by Ptychopetalum olacoides in young and aging mice.
J Ethnopharmacol. 2004.
This study shows that a single intraperitoneally administration of muira puama ethanol extract improved memory retrieval in step-down inhibitory avoidance,, without interfering with acquisition or consolidation in adult mice. Consistently with its traditional use, the data suggest that muira puama facilitates memory retrieval. Although the antioxidant and acetylcholinesterase inhibitory properties previously described for this extract may be of relevance, the molecular mechanism(s) underlying the improvement in memory retrieval here reported merit further scrutiny.
Neuroprotective effects of Ptychopetalum olacoides
oxygen and glucose deprivation induced damage in rat hippocampal slices.
BLife Sci. 2004.
Alcoholic infusions of muira puama are used in traditional medicine by patients presenting age associated symptoms and those recovering from stroke. The aim of this study is to evaluate the neuroprotective properties of muira puama ethanol extract using hippocampal slices from Wistar rats exposed to oxygen and glucose deprivation followed by reoxygenation. This study suggests that the plant contains useful neuroprotective compounds and, therefore, deserves further scrutiny.
Ptychopetalum olacoides, a traditional Amazonian "nerve tonic", possesses anticholinesterase activity.
Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2003.
Amazonian communities use traditional remedies prepared with muira puama roots for treating various central nervous system conditions, including those associated with aging. The fact that muira puama ethanol extract has been found to facilitate memory retrieval in the step down procedure in young and aged mice prompt us to evaluate its effects on anticholinesterase activity in memory relevant brain areas. Muira puama significantly inhibited anticholinesterase activity in vitro in a dose- and time-dependent manner in rat frontal cortex, hippocampus and striatum; a significant inhibition was also found in these same brain areas of aged (14 months) mice after acute administration of muira puama. We propose that such anticholinesterase inhibitory activity is a neurochemical correlate of a number of therapeutic properties traditionally claimed for muira puama, particularly those associated with cognition.
Anxiogenic properties of Ptychopetalum olacoides Benth.
Phytother Res. 2002.
Alcohol infusions of roots of Ptychopetalum olacoides Benth, known as Marapuama or Muira puama, are used in the Brazilian Amazon as a 'nerve tonic'. Over the years the herb has been found increasingly in phytoformulations and regarded as a stimulant, claimed to enhance physical and mental performances. This study determined that a muira puama ethanol extract decreased exploratory behavior in the hole-board test, without interfering with locomotion or motor coordination. The data are comparable to that obtained with pentylenetetrazol, suggesting an anxiogenic effect of muira puama.
The relaxation of isolated rabbit corpus cavernosum by the herbal medicine Catuama (ginger, muira puama, and others) and its constituents.
Phytother Res. 2001.
The effects of the Brazilian herbal medicine Catuama and each of its plant constituents (Paullinia cupana, Trichilia catigua, Zingiber officinalis and Ptychopetalum olacoides- muira puama) were investigated on rabbit corpus cavernosum. Catuama caused short-lived and dose-dependent relaxations. Our results show that of the four extracts assayed, P. cupana was the most effective, indicating that it is the main extract responsible for the relaxing effect of Catuama on rabbit cavernosal tissue.
Q. Do you have a preference between capsules or muira puama liquid?
A. I think they are both effective forms, I personally prefer taking capsules, others like herbs in liquid extract form.
Q. I see you mention that catuaba can be taken with muira puama. Can it be combined with other herbs such as yohimbe or tribulus?
A. I can only speak from my personal and professional experience. Thus far I have combined muira puama with several herbs and have not found any major problems with the combinations except that when high doses of muira puama are taken with other herbs that have stimulating properties, there is the potential for insomnia or rapid heart rate.
Q. Can I take muira puama regularly for many months?
A. As with most herbs, I recommend taking breaks from use. You could take one week on, one week off.
Q. How many different types of muira puama extracts are available?
A. The common ones I have seen are the following: Muira puama powder and 4:1 extract. There are many others.
Q. What's the most common side effect from muira puama root?
A. In my clinical experience, the most common muira puama side effect is insomnia on high doses. It's possible that high doses of muira puama may also make one feel restless and over-energetic.
Q. I read that the muira
puama bark powder is not absorbed by the body and has to be in a tincture to be
absorbed. Is this true?
A. Muira puama is easily absorbed as a capsule. Our research staff has tested it in many people who notice the muira puama benefit within 2 or 3 days.
Q. I have seen muira puama spelled as marapuama.
A. Some people use the term marapuama rather than muira puama. I think they are both acceptable.
Q. I have been looking into taking muira puama
herb. I am also
taking birth control pills and am wondering if I need to worry about the muira
puama affecting the effectiveness of my birth control. Any information you can
share with me would be helpful.
A. We have not seen any studies combining muira puama and birth control pills, hence it is not possible for us to say with any certainty.
Q. Do muira pauma and catuaba need to be dissolved in
an alcohol tincture in order to work? Won't the powdered form just pass through
the body unused? is it better to make a tincture than the muira puama capsules?
A. Actually both muira puama and catuaba are potent as a powder in capsules. All one has to do is to take muira puama and cautaba in capsule form and they will realize how potent they are after a few days.
Q. Based on your personal experience with
have you noticed increased erection duration?
A. Male members of our research staff who have used muira puama have noticed improved erectile function.
Can muira puama be taken the same day as
5-HTP or the herb saw
5-HTP increases serotonin and may counteract the sexual benefit from muira puama. Saw palmetto can be used in reasonable doses the same day as a reasonable dose of muira puama.
Is it safe for someone who has had
angioplasty and takes a blood thinner Plavix and a beta blocker to use Muira
Many herbs for sexual enhancement, including MP, can increase heart rate and need to be used cautiously in those who have heart disease.
I am a 59 years old mature body builder.
My doctor told me that my hormone level is below the low range but he couldn't
find out the problem, although I didn't feel any difference energy wise and my
sex drive is strong. Just a little boost of my energy level, I take mura puama
500 mg regularly with Acetyl L-Carnitine 500 mg. Are they in contrast with each
other? I felt the two boosted my sex drive a little, and I had to work out
longer to sleep better. The only other supplement I take is magnisium and zinc
and the medicine - 10 mg of lisinopril (insured my blood pressure is low).
Some people may get shallow sleep if they take too many supplements or high dosages of certain natural pills.
I have idiopathic hypersomina. From my
research I have learned the it is related to an up regulation of the
neurotransmitter GABA. I am essentially being treated like a narcoleptic.
Nuvigal during the day and Clonazepam at night. As well I take valerian root and
niacin, vitamin D. I started taking muira puama. My question is the difference
between taking bark and root? And if not taking it for libido, is there a need
to take a break every couple days? Is there a dose limitation. I have taken 1-2
caps of your formulation, while taking the root suggest 2 caps three times a
day. I would imagine there is a potency difference. Could you provide me some
Each brand of this herbal product will have a different effect so it is best to get used to one brand and self-experiment. We do prefer taking breaks from use. Starting it with one capsule a day is a good idea and then one can judge whether they need more or less.