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3 Health Benefits of Muira Puama + Side Effects

Written by Maria Janda, PharmD | Last updated:
Evguenia Alechine
Puya Yazdi
Medically reviewed by
Evguenia Alechine, PhD (Biochemistry), Puya Yazdi, MD | Written by Maria Janda, PharmD | Last updated:

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Herb

Muira puama (marapuama) is a medicinal plant found in the Amazon rainforest. Muira puama seems to help with sexual dysfunction, and preliminary research suggests it may improve cognitive function and reduce stress, anxiety, and fatigue. Read this post to see how you could benefit from muira puama.

What Is Muira Puama?

Muira puama or potency wood (Ptychopetalum olacoides) is a species of small trees native to the Amazon rainforest of Brazil, French Guiana, Guyana, and Suriname [1].

Constituents of Muira Puama

The root and bark of muira puama are rich in alkaloids, phenolic compounds, fatty acids, fatty acid esters, essential oils, plant sterols, and triterpenes. Its main components include [2]:

  • Alkaloids: menisperine, magnoflorine, moschamine
  • Flavonoids: luteolin and derivatives
  • Phenolic acids: caffeic, ferulic, vanillic, syringic

Eight diterpenoids in muira puama’s bark have been described [3]:

  • 7-oxo-kolavelool
  • 7alpha-hydroxykolavelool
  • 6alpha,7alpha-dihydroxykolavenol
  • 12-oxo-hardwickiic acid
  • ptycholide I
  • ptycholide II
  • ptycholide III
  • ptycholide IV

Diterpenoids are natural compounds with potential antibacterial, anticancer and anti-inflammatory properties [4].

Health Benefits

Muira puama is commercialized in supplements for sex drive and several other uses, many of which remain unproven. Due to the lack of solid clinical research, muira puama is not approved by the FDA for medical use. Regulations set manufacturing standards for them but don’t guarantee that they’re safe or effective. Speak with your doctor before supplementing with muira puama.

Possibly Effective as:

Aphrodisiac

In two studies, muira puama increased sexual desire in 60% of men with initial low libido and improved erectile function in 50% of men with a poor erection. Muira puama also improved sexual desire, sexual fantasies, and the ability to reach orgasm in 65% of women with sexual dysfunctions [5].

In another study, muira puama combined with ginkgo biloba (Herbal vX, 175 mg muira puama and 16 mg of gingko) increased libido in 65% of 202 women who reported low sex drive [6].

Muira puama supplements of (1,000 – 1,500 mg daily) for 2 weeks increased libido in 60% of 262 men with low libido [7].

Although limited, the evidence suggests that muira puama may work as an aphrodisiac. You may try it to improve your sex drive if your doctor considers that it may help in your case.

Insufficient Evidence for:

1) Erectile Dysfunction

In a clinical trial on 54 middle-aged men, a commercial herbal remedy with muira puama, ginger root, guarana, and citrulline (Revactin) improved erectile function and was well tolerated [8].

The same herbal mix increased blood flow into the penile muscles and prevented cell death in rats and cells [9, 10].

However, a small clinical trial, a study in rats, and a cell-based study cannot be considered sufficient evidence that muira puama helps with erectile dysfunction. Further clinical research is needed.

2) Dark Circles (Periorbital Hyperchromia)

Periorbital hyperchromia is the darkening of the upper and lower eyelids, often due to sluggish blood flow around the eyes. In a small trial on 21 people with this condition, a skincare product with muira puama, Brazilian ginseng, and Madonna lily improved the appearance of dark circles. In human skin cells, this product reduced inflammation and oxidative damage [11].

The evidence from this small trial cannot be conclusive that muira puama improves dark circles. Larger, more robust clinical trials are required.

Animal and Cell Research (Lack of Evidence)

No clinical evidence supports the use of muira puama for any of the conditions listed in this section. Below is a summary of the existing animal and cell-based research, which should guide further investigational efforts. However, the studies listed should not be interpreted as supportive of any health benefit.

Preventing Alzheimer’s and Brain Damage

Muira puama is considered a brain tonic that protects the brain in case of Alzheimer’s [12].

In mice models of Alzheimer’s, muira puama extract helped with [12, 13, 13]:

  • Preventing cognitive impairment
  • Decreasing brain amyloid plaque deposits
  • Decreasing hippocampal (brain memory center) loss caused by amyloid plaques
  • Inhibiting enzymes that break down acetylcholine in the brain (hippocampus and striatum), similar to how Alzheimer’s treatments work

In mice, antioxidants from muira puama were able to cross the blood-brain barrier and reduce damaging oxidative stress [14].

In brain slices isolated from rats, muira puama extract protected brain cells from oxidative stress induced by lack of glucose and oxygen [15].

Memory Boost

Muira puama improved memory retrieval without interfering with acquisition or consolidation in mice. Old mice given muira puama exhibited more memory improvement than young mice without muira puama [16, 17].

Muira puama also restored memory in mice with brain damage caused by drugs (scopolamine and MK801) [18].

Moreover, muira puama + a 5-HT2A blocker is as effective as two blockers, which is the treatment used to enhance memory consolidation [19].

In cell-based studies, some constituents of muira puama (ptychonal hemiacetal and ptychonal) promoted the growth of neurons by increasing NGF [20, 21].

Stress, Anxiety, and Depression

Chronic stress can lead to HPA-axis dysfunction, which is often found in depression. In mice, muira puama extract treated stress-induced depression as effectively as an antidepressant (imipramine) [22, 21].

Stress increases cortisol and blood sugar. Muira puama prevented a stress-induced increase in cortisol and blood glucose in mice [23].

Muira puama reduced anxiety behaviors that mice exhibit after exposure to stress [23, 24].

Lowering Cholesterol and Body Fat

In rats, muira puama reduced fat deposits, total cholesterol, and increases lean body mass [25].

A case report of a 45-year-old man taking 50 – 100mg of muira puama resin twice a day for three months reported that the man [26]:

  • Gained 15 pounds of muscle mass
  • Decreased body fat percentage from 18 to 13%
  • Lowered his bad cholesterol (LDL)
  • Increased his good cholesterol (HDL)

Bone Fractures

In rats with bone fractures, an herbal supplement with muira puama, guarana, ginger, and citrulline promoted fracture healing by stimulating the cells that repair bone tissue (osteoblasts) [27].

In menopausal rats, the same herbal mix helped prevent bone fractures by reducing bone loss [28].

Using Muira Puama

Dosage

Because muira puama is not approved by the FDA for any conditions, there is no official dose. Users and supplement manufacturers have established unofficial doses based on trial and error.

In studies, doses range from 100 – 1,500 mg daily. Some websites selling the supplement recommend a maximum dose of 2,850 mg.

Due to the lack of research on its safety, muira puama is not recommended for children or women who are pregnant or are breastfeeding.

The standard forms are tablets, tinctures, and decoctions.

Side Effects

Keep in mind that the safety profile of muira puama is relatively unknown given the lack of well-designed clinical studies. The list of side effects below is not a definite one, and you should consult your doctor about other potential side effects based on your health condition and possible drug or supplement interactions.

Muira puama has very few reported side effects. The most common ones are mild and include sour stomach and headaches [29].

Similarly, an herbal mix with muira puama, guarana, ginger, and other herbal extracts caused no adverse effects in healthy volunteers when given 2x/day for 28 days [30].

Muira puama may cause short-lived hypotension since it may direct blood flow away from the heart [31, 5]

You should ask your doctor before taking muira puama. While there are no clinical studies testing this potential adverse effect yet, the herb might interact with nitrates (in a similar way as Viagra) causing a severe drop in blood pressure based on its mechanism of action.

Drug Interactions

Given its mechanism of action, muira puama could interact with the following drugs; however, no scientific studies have confirmed this.

  • Nitrates (ex. nitroglycerin)
  • Blood pressure medications
  • Heart medications
  • Erectile dysfunction medications
  • Hormone medications
  • Steroids
  • Alzheimer’s medications

Reviews

The opinions expressed in this section are solely those of muira puama users, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. Their reviews do not represent the opinions of SelfHacked. SelfHacked does not endorse any specific product, service, or treatment.

Do not consider user experiences as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare providers because of something you have read on SelfHacked. We understand that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified healthcare provider.

Most users took muira puama to enhance their sex drive. A male user reported clearly feeling increased libido and arousal after taking it for 2 weeks, although the effects were somewhat subtle and took several hours to kick in. The user also reported feeling no side effects from the supplement.

A couple taking muira puama for the relief of sore joints reported satisfactory results.

Some users noticed unexpected benefits. A man reported that, although he and his wife didn’t begin taking muira puama for this purpose, they both lost weight. The supplement also improved his wife’s constipation.

However, not all the users were satisfied with the results. A man who bought a muira puama to raise his testosterone levels experienced the opposite effect. In another case, the user didn’t notice any beneficial effects and developed rashes under the arms.

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