In case you missed my previous introduction to the use of mucuna pruriens for libido, I did not really touch upon its applications as a mood booster.
When used judiciously and in moderation, it has a fantastic, gentle uplifting effect that may be rivaled only by scheduled substances, but also with fewer side effects.
How does mucuna pruriens help to improve your mood?
Mucuna pruriens is a source of L-DOPA, which is a precursor to dopamine (which can become norepinephrine and then epinephrine).1
- Dopamine is the primary “motivation” neurotransmitter, and increases mental alertness
- Norepinephrine is responsible for vigilant concentration and the fight-or-flight response
- Epinephrine has similar effects on cognition and the fight-or-flight response
Based on this mechanism of action, it’s easy to see why mucuna can help to improve your mood. In fact, it’s shown that lower levels of the above neurotransmitters are implicated in major depressive disorder.2 This doesn’t mean that mucuna will cure MDD, but I think this shows it may have potential to uplift your mood if you’re feeling anhedonic and lethargic.
How I use mucuna pruriens to keep my mood up
I will take mucuna pruriens after I experience the neurochemical crash of orgasm3, if I’m taking a tolerance break from caffeine, if I’ve had disrupted sleep, or I otherwise don’t have my head in the game and I can’t seem to function at my best. In these instances I’m not totally impaired, but I have a sense that something is missing compared to days where I have that extra “zest.”
When this happens, I take about 100 mg of 98% L-DOPA mucuna pruriens extract powder, and within the hour I start to feel uplifted. I don’t think it will help you pull any all-nighters, but with mucuna, any light lethargy or sluggishness just seems to dissipate.
Caffeine has a similar effect, but is also a strong diuretic, is more heavy-handed in its adrenergic effects and seems to have a shorter duration (at least for me). Compared to caffeine I don’t seem to experience as much “nerves” on mucuna. Nonetheless, mucuna can safely be taken with caffeine in my experience.
Mucuna is also included in the Pre-Workout Energy Stack, and I think it’s a fitting addition and goes well with the other supplements included in the stack. It seems to combine well with other things.
Where to get mucuna pruriens / L-DOPA
My go-to bulk supplement supplier that I affiliate with offers the following:
- Mucuna pruriens extract, 98% L-DOPA – Starting at 10 grams for $3.23; capsules available
- Mucuna pruriens as part of the Pre-Workout Energy Stack (my review) and Flash Powder Pre-Workout
iHerb also has some mucuna pruriens, albeit as whole herb and potentially at a lower L-DOPA content than the extract form. I have used the Himalaya Herbal Healthcare Mucuna Pruriens tablets and while they took a little longer to kick in than the bulk powder, they did their job well.
Potential side effects and contraindications
As mucuna pruriens is an L-DOPA source and increases dopamine, you obviously do not want to rely on this one day in, day out as a mood booster. I believe it can lead to chronic receptor downregulation which may leave you in a worse off mood and take you longer to rebalance if you come to rely on it too much. However, there seem to be little negative long-term effects at this point in time.
I’d only use it as a complementary uplifter in addition to making better lifestyle choices, such as getting better sleep and not overdoing it on the caffeine for example.
As L-DOPA also tends to increase norepinephrine and epinephrine, mucuna can (theoretically) induce any underlying anxiety. I have not encountered this in my personal, moderate use and like caffeine with theanine, I believe that L-theanine can be added to help dull the edge.
I have taken L-DOPA an hour or so before sleep as have a few other anecdotal cases I’ve seen without issue, however I can’t guarantee that it won’t disrupt sleep either.
As mucuna pruriens can reportedly be used in treatment of Parkinson’s syndrome4, if you have this condition you may want to consult your doctor before taking it, especially if you are already taking some kind of prescription medications for your condition.
Catecholamines biosynthesis – Norepinephrine – Wikipedia ↩
Relevance of Norepinephrine–Dopamine Interactions in the Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder – PubMed entry ↩
“Parallels are drawn between ejaculation and heroin rush” – Brain Activation during Human Male Ejaculation – The Journal of Neuroscience ↩
Mucuna pruriens in Parkinson’s disease: a double blind clinical and pharmacological study — BMJ: Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry ↩