Mucuna pruriens, also known as cowhage, is traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat Parkinson's disease, according to WebMD. Cowhage is also used to treat anxiety, arthritis and hyperprolactinemia, a condition of elevated levels of serum prolactin.
Mucuna pruriens can also be used for snakebites and scorpion stings, reports WebMD. When applied to the skin, cowhage stimulates blood flow despite paralysis.
The benefits of mucuna pruriens are traced back to levodopa, which is changed into dopamine when it reaches the brain, states WebMD. Levodopa, also referred to as L-dopa, can treat symptoms of Parkinson's disease that occur because of low dopamine levels. However, because the body breaks L-dopa down before it can reach the brain, cowhage must be supplemented with additional chemicals.
In addition to L-dopa, mucuna pruriens also contains high levels of antioxidants that are linked to neural activity and stress reduction, according to Global Healing Center. Cowhage may activate or support the body's natural antioxidant defense system that is crucial for maintaining homeostasis.
Powdered cowhage seed is most likely safe to take orally, but possible side effects include nausea and bloating, according to WebMD. Patients have also reported vomiting and insomnia. Other preparations of cowhage may induce headaches, increase heartbeat and mimic symptoms of psychosis, including confusion and delusion.