FoI
Velvet Bean   
Foto info
Velvet Bean
ative Photo: Pema Bhutia
Common name: Velvet bean, Cowitch, Cowhage, Kapikachu, Nescafe, Sea bean • Hindi: Kiwach • Marathi: खाज कुइरी Khaj-kuiri • Malayalam: Naicorna • Nepali: काउसो Kauso • Telugu: Pilliadugu • Kannada: Nayisonanguballi • Bengali: Akolchi • Tamil: Punaippidukkan
Botanical name: Mucuna pruriens    Family: Fabaceae (bean family)

Velvet bean is an annual, climbing shrub with long vines that can reach over 15 m. Leaves are trifoliate, gray-silky beneath; petioles are long and silky, 6-11 cm. Leaflets are membranous, terminal leaflets are smaller, lateral very unequal sided. Dark purple flowers (6 to 30) occur in drooping racemes. Fruits are curved, 4-6 seeded. The longitudinally ribbed pod, is densely covered with loose orange hairs which cause a severe itch if they come in contact with skin. The beans are shiny black or brown. It is found in tropical Africa, India and the Caribbean. In India, it is found in the Himalayas, at altitudes of 150-1200 m, and Western Ghats.
Medicinal uses: Velvet bean can be beneficial, since it is high in levodopa which helps maintain healthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels. The seed powder of Mucuna pruriens has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine for diseases including parkinsonism, and has proven in medical tests to have equal or superior effectiveness in the treatment of parkinsons disease over conventional, synthetic levodopa medications. Another benefit of Mucuna is that it can increase the production of human growth hormone, and extracts are commonly sold as body-building supplements.

Identification credit: Pravin Kawale Photographed in Sikkim & Maharashtra.

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