Definition: "An ergogenic aid is any substance or phenomenon that enhances performance "

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Mucuna pruriens: more testosterone, more LH, less prolactin

Extracts of the Mucuna pruriens bean a naturally occurring source of the amino acid L-Dopa increase men's testosterone concentration. Mucuna pruriens stimulates hormone production via the pituitary gland. The bean increases the manufacture of the messenger hormones LH and FSH.

Researchers at the University of Lucknow in India have come to this conclusion after doing tests with 75 healthy men and 75 men who were unable to have children. The men were all aged between 25 and 40, and were given 5 g a day of dried and ground Mucuna powder every day for three months.

The supplement improved the quantity and quality of the men's semen. Among the healthy men there was little room for improvement, so the effect was also small. But among the men with a low sperm count (oligozoospermia is the scientific term) the effect was more noticeable.

Mucuna pruriens: more testosterone, more LH, less prolactin

Analysis of the men's blood showed that the improvement in the semen was associated with an increased manufacture of the male sex hormone testosterone. Oligozoospermia often arises if the testes, which make testosterone as well as sperm, do not get the stimuli they need from the pituitary gland in the brain. The pituitary gland produces the messenger hormones FSH and LH, which prompt the testes to manufacture sperm and testosterone.

The table below shows the effect of the extract on hormone secretion in the men with oligozoospermia. Note also the prolactin level. Prolactin is another hormone made in the pituitary, but production of this increases if the body starts to produce less testosterone.

Mucuna pruriens: more testosterone, more LH, less prolactin

The Mucuna pruriens extract also increased testosterone levels in the healthy men, as the table below shows.

Mucuna pruriens: more testosterone, more LH, less prolactin

We already know how the endocrine mechanism in Mucuna pruriens works: the body converts L-Dopa into the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine increases the activity in the brain centres that regulate sexuality and the production of sex hormones.

The researchers also looked at the concentration of adrenalin and noradrenalin in the men's blood. Both increased, which is to be expected. L-Dopa is not only a precursor of dopamine, but also for adrenalin.

L-Dopa is not a particularly good ergogenic substance, however, as athletes have discovered. It disappears too quickly from the blood. But for reasons which are not yet understood, taking Mucuna pruriens leads to a steady increase in L-Dopa levels.

Not a bad idea for after a course of anabolic steroids and maybe an interesting product to try as a training booster. More adrenalin in your blood during training means better performance, and also an increase in testosterone production.

Fertil Steril. 2008 Oct 28. [Epub ahead of print].