NaturHeals - Wild Weeds 8 - Kaunch Beej - Mucuna Pruriens - Velvet Bean

The term ‘weeds’ always have a negative connotation, as they can cause havoc on farm lands. But did you know that certain weeds that are harmful for crops and plants can be beneficial to human beings? Yes, some of the plants that are known as weeds have been used in traditional medicine for several centuries. Ayurveda, Unani, and Chinese medicine have used some of these weeds for treating several minor and major ailments. Kaunch Beej is one such weed. Apart from being a weed, it is also a climber as well as a legume and is a powerhouse of nutrients and phytochemicals. It is not only used as medicine but also as a part of one’s regular diet by people in several corners of the world. Here we have tried to shed light on some of the innumerable features and benefits of Kaunch Beej.

Different N
ames of Kaunch Beej
The scientific name of Kaunch Beej is Mucuna Pruriens, and it belongs to the Fabacea family. Some common names of this weed include velvet bean, monkey tamarind, cowage, cow itch, Lyon bean, lacuna bean, krame, buffalo bean, sea bean, and deer eye. It is also called Nescafe in South America, as these beans are used as a replacement for coffee beans. Kaunch Beej has a variety of names in different Indian languages too. It is called Kiwach and Baikhujani in Hindi; Duradagondi in Telegu; Bichchoti, Alkoshi, and Alkusa in Bengali; Kawachha and Kanchkuri in Marathi; Amundari, Kozhiavarai, Arugrattan, and Poonaikali in Tamil; Nasugunni in Kannada; Gunchgali in Punjabi; Naikorna in Malayalam; Atmagupta and Kapikachhu in Sanskrit; Alokushi and Morkotmado in Oriya; and Kibanch, Kavatch and Kandchan in Gujarati.

Ideal Soil and Climate

As it is a weed, Kaunch beej can grow well in all kinds of soils. However, for healthy and optimum growth, sandy loam soil with good drainage would be ideal. The preferred soil pH is 5.0 to 7.50. As for the ideal climate for this weed-climber, it does well in tropical and sub-tropical climates. Kaunch beej can thrive well in varied climate, right from coastal humid to dry arid. The temperature should be somewhere between 15oC to 380C. Kaunch beej is native to Africa and Asia, although it is also widely naturalized and cultivated across the world, including in South America and Australia. In India, you can find it in the Himalayas, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.


Kaunch beej is a perennial and vigorous climbing shrub and grows till the height of 15 meters. The plant has a taproot with innumerable lateral roots that grow 7-10 m long. It has slender stems that are slightly hairy or pubescent. The leaves are ovate in shape and pointy at the end. They are pubescent or hairy when they are young. The flowers of Kaunch beej are white or purple in color. Flowers grow in the form of axillary-arrayed panicles that grow up to 15-32 cm in length. The fruit of this plant are in the form of pods that are 4-10 cm long. The husk of the pods is hairy, and each of them carries anywhere between 2-7 seeds. The seeds are round and flattened and can be either spotted white or shiny black-brown in color.

Principal Constituents
Kaunch beej is a plant that is rich in phytochemicals, minerals, vitamins, macronutrients, antioxidants, and other essential elements. The plant is home to more than 60 major phytochemicals including L-Dopa, tetrahydroisoquinoline, 5-hydroxytryptamine (psychoactive serotonin), 6 methoxy harma, nicotine, beta sistosterol, etc. The most important amino acids in Kaunch beej are methionine, isoleucine, tryptophan, threonine, and valine. Apart from this, Kaunch Beej is made of carbohydrates, proteins, lipids, fats, potassium, magnesium, sodium, iron, calcium, fiber, phosphorous, amino acids, zinc, etc. It has vitamin C, Vitamin E, and a whole range of B-complex vitamins, including thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, and folic acid.

Medical Benefits

As Kaunch beej is packed with so many essential nutrients, it is used for treating an array of ailments, right from skin and hair issues to the matters of the brain. Here are all the medical benefits of Kaunch beej or velvet beans.

Snake Bites
The anti-venomous properties of Kaunch beej make it an effective way of treating snake bites. Studies have shown that velvet beans are made of sugar-bound proteins that are similar in nature to the proteins found in snake venom. This leads to the production of antibodies that act as an antidote on the snake venom that entered the body. In fact, Kaunch beej is used as a preventive measure for snake bites in Africa and Asia, as the antibodies remain in the body for a long time (for almost a year).

Parkinson’s Disease
Kaunch beej is the most popular in traditional medicine as an effective treatment for Parkinson’s Disease, a degenerative disease that affects the brain, especially the nervous system. One of the main reasons for Parkinson’s Disease is dopamine deficiency. Kaunch beej is home to one of the most potent phytonutrient, Levodopa, which is responsible for increasing the release of dopamine hormones. Adequate dopamine is necessary for optimum concentration, alertness, improving mood swings, memory, and happiness. It also helps in boosting epipherine and norepiphrine, which control nerve impulses, boost cellular metabolism, and dilate blood vessels. This is also the reason why Kaunch beej is commonly used for treating anxiety and depression along with Parkinson’s Disease.

The alkaloids present in Kaunch beej make it one of the popular ways of treating both male and female infertility. This medicinal plant has the ability of reversing male infertility by boosting the level of testosterone, thus enhancing the quality of the sperms, including its motility, count, and vitality. It can also help in lowering high follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and high prolactin, which are the main causes of female infertility. Apart from these, Kaunch beej also has aphrodisiac properties, making it a potent remedy for boosting sex drive in men and women.

Respiratory Ailments
Kaunch beej has the capability of balancing the three doshas of the body: vata, pitta, and kapha, the imbalance of which can cause respiratory ailments. The consumption of Kaunch beej can help in relieving problems that affect the nasal passage, throat, as well as the lungs. This medicinal weed is an effective remedy for cold, cough, wheezing, frequent sneezing, and allergies. The flavonoids and phenolic acid present in its seed extract helps in clearing out the nasal passage and lungs from the accumulated phlegm, thus easing out any kind of breathing difficulties and improving the function of the lungs.

The vata-balancing properties of Kaunch beej make it an effective treatment for arthritis or joint pain, as it is caused by the imbalance of vata in the joint areas. The analgesic and anti-inflammatory characteristics of velvet beans help in lowering pain and swelling of the joints caused by arthritis. Along with joint pain, Kaunch beej also helps in improving bone density, as it is filled with high amount of calcium. This not only helps in enhancing bone health but also in managing the symptoms of osteoporosis in older people.

Weight Loss
Kaunch beej is a dietary supplement that helps in weight loss by slowing down the process of digestion. It has the ability to inverse obesity if taken regularly. Although Kaunch beej is high on carbohydrates and calories, it also consists of tannins, phytates, and polyphenols, which are chemicals that slower the digestion process. This low digestibility and ample amount of fiber content in the velvet beans help in lowering the blood sugar level and managing problems like obesity or excessive weight.

Skin Health
The presence of high level of amino acids and antioxidants makes Kaunch beej one of the best cures for several skin problems. It is a great exfoliating agent, thanks to its coarse nature, which helps in removing dead cells from the face and body. Using this on the face and body gives the skin a radiant glow.
It is known to have an antiaging effect because of the presence of flavonoids and phenolic acids. These help in reducing the signs of aging like wrinkles, fine lines, etc. It also boosts the production of collagen, which makes the skin smooth and supple. Apart from this, Kaunch beej has the ability to reverse damage caused by sun exposure like hyperpigmentation, irregular skin complexion, etc. Moreover, the anti-inflammatory properties of this weed makes it a great remedy for treating acne and boils as well as the dark spots and scars caused by them.

Hair Health
The chemical constituents of Kaunch beej that boost skin health also help in boosting hair health. Kaunch beej powder used on the scalp can not only remove the dead cells but also provide your hair with a healthy glow. It is an effective way of treating dandruff prone scalp, as it is made of innumerable amino acids, carotenoids, and anti-microbial properties.
Application of velvet bean powder not only gets rid of the uncontrollable itching caused by dandruff but also soothes the follicles and repairs the scalp and dry, brittle hair as well. Apart from controlling dandruff, Kaunch beej is also helps in preventing hair fall due to the presence of certain amino acids. Premature balding and greying can also be controlled with this weed.

The slow digestive property of Kaunch beej makes it a great remedy for bringing down high blood sugar level in the body. Along with this, the presence of levodopa makes it one of the best ways of managing diabetes. In fact, the presence of inositol (d-chiro-inositol) works as an insulin, thus bringing down the blood sugar level in the body.

Cancer is caused by free radical attack on the cells. Regular consumption of velvet beans can not only prevent cancer but also slow down the growth of cancer cells in the body. Kaunch beej helps in fighting cancer by lowering the lipid peroxidation levels and enhancing superoxide dismutase, glutathione, and catalase, which create an antioxidant system, which prevents as well as diminishes cancer cell growth. Kaunch beej may be effective in treating all kinds of cancers, including tumors.

Apart from the above mentioned health problems, Kaunch beej is used as a remedy for several others too:

  • As it is rich in iron, Kaunch beej is one of the best ways to increase hemoglobin count and treat anemia.
  • The antioxidants present in this weed help in getting rid of the free radicals that affect the liver, ensuring the optimum health of the liver.
  • It can be used as a cure for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) due to its high dietary fiber content.
  • Along with blood sugar, Kaunch beej is also effective in lowering high cholesterol, making it effective in maintaining heart health.

Uses of Kaunch Beej

The seeds of Kaunch beej are the most important, as they are packed with nutrients. However, other parts of the plant are also used for curing certain ailments. Kaunch beej are most popularly used in 3 ways, which are as follows:

Legumes: The best way of ensuring good health is consuming it in the form of legumes. These legumes need to soaked and boiled before making them into curries or adding them into soups and salads. Ensure that you do not consume more than 15-20 grams of Kaunch beej, once or twice a week.

Powder: If you are not interested in including Kaunch beej in your regular diet, you can consume it in the powder orm. This powder can be taken with water or warm milk and honey or even by adding it to soups and roti or bread dough.

Capsules: Kaunch beej is available in the capsule form for treating specific medical conditions as well as for maintaining overall good health. However, it is important to consult your doctor before you start taking it as a supplement.

Side Effects
Although most people tolerate Kaunch beej well, some have reported to have faced certain side effects. The most common side effects of velvet beans are nausea, vomiting, and abdominal bloating. Some other serious, but rare side effects of this weed are rapid heartbeat, hallucination, insomnia, and abnormal body movement. To avoid these side effects, it is best to consume it only after consulting your doctor. Some other precautions that need to be taken while handling or consuming Kaunch beej are as follows:

  • It is important not to touch the plant directly with your hands. This is because the tiny hairs on the plant can cause severe itching and inflammation.
  • Pregnant women and lactating mothers should avoid using Kaunch beej as a herb, as there is no evidence about its effects on these groups of people.
  • Be cautious of taking Kaunch beej in the form of medications if you are already taking medicines for depression, hypertension, and diabetes.
  • People with kidney issues should avoid consuming Kaunch beej due to its high calcium content.

Planting and Harvesting

The propagation of Kaunch beej is done through seeds. The seeds can be directly planted in the soil and does not require any repotting. The ideal soil for this plant should be sandy to clay loam. The field should be ploughed thoroughly to make it porous for enabling germination and sprouting. The best time to sow these seeds is during the last week of June, just before the beginning of monsoon. Once the seeds are sown, they germinate within 8-10 days, and it takes 140 days for the crops to mature. The mature pods are harvested and dried in direct sunlight for 4-7 days, which is followed by drying them in shade for a few days, so that the seeds acquire adequate moisture. The seeds are then stored in jute gunny bags.

As there are some many health benefits of Kaunch beej, they are quite in demand amongst agricultural firms. Jaivik Farm is also on the lookout for farmers who are ready to plant, cultivate, and harvest Kaunch beej or velvet beans in the organic way, i.e. without using any fertilizers. Our aim is to make organic medicinal weeds and other agricultural products accessible to the whole population. We believe that consuming organic products is crucial for the well-being of the current and the future generations.

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