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Kapikachu or Cowhage (Mucuna pruriens)

Pankaj Oudhia
Society for Parthenium Management (SOPAM)
28-A, Geeta Nagar, Raipur - 492001 India

Copyright © 2001. All Rights Reserved. Quotation from this document should cite and acknowledge the contributor.


Mucuna pruriens Bak., Leguminosae, is one of the popular medicinals of India. and is constituent of more than 200 indigenous drug formulations It is widespread over most of the subcontinent and is found in bushes and hedges and dry-deciduous, low forests throughout the plains of India. (Sister and Kavathekar 1990; Agharkar 1991; Singh et al. 1996 ). All parts of Mucuna posses valuable medicinal properties (Pandey 1998; Pandey 1999; Caius 1989 ) and there is a heavy demand of Mucuna in Indian drug markets. After the discovery that Mucuna seeds contain L-dopa, an anti-parkinson’s disease drug, its demand in international market has increased many fold (Farooqi 1999) and demand has motivated Indian farmers to start commercial cultivation.


Mucuna is an annual twinning plant.. Leaves are trifoliate, gray-silky beneath; petioles are long and silky, 6.3–11.3 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 persistent pale-brown or grey trichomes that cause irritating blisters. Seeds are black ovoid and 12 mm long (Sastry and Kavathekar 1990; Agharkar 1991; Verma et al. 1993).


Roots, according to the Ayurveda, are bitter, thermogenic, anthelmintic, diuretic, emollient, stimulant, aphrodisiac, purgative, febrifuge, tonic. It is considered useful to relieve constipation, nephropathy, strangury, dysmenorrhoea, amenorrhoea, elephantiasis, dropsy, neuropathy, consumption, ulcers, helminthiasis, fever, and delirum (Lindley 1985; Ramnath 1992; Warrier 1995; Shalini 1997; Upadhyay 2000).

Leaves are popular potherbs and are used as a fodder crop. Leaves are useful in ulcers, inflammation, cephalagia and general debility.

The trichomes of pods contain mucunain and serotonin and as a result pod causes itching, blisters, and dermatitis. Pods are also used as vegetable. Pod hairs (trichomes) are used as anthelmintic. Hairs mixed with honey have been used as vermifuge. As ointment prepared with hairs act as a local stimulant and mild vesicant. (Shastry and Kavathekar 1990; Chandra 1993; Shastry 1995) Beside medicinal properties, Mucuna fixes nitrogen and is as a green manure and covercrop.

mucuna seedSeeds contain L-DoPA (4-3,4-dihydroxy phenylalanine), glutathione, lecithin, gallic acid, glycosides, nicotine, prurenine, prurenidine, dark brown viscous oil. It is a source of minerals (Rastogi and Mehrotra 1991a,b; Singh et al. 1995). According to Ayurveda, seeds are astringent, laxative, anthelmintic, aphrodisiac, alexipharmic and tonic.


Mucuna is a popular kharif crop in India. Seeds are sown at rate of 50 kg/ha between 15 June to 15th July with plant spacing of 60 × 60 cm. Delayed sowing may result in infestation of aphids (Aphis craccivora) (Oudhia 2001a ). Although, no named cultivar of Mucuna is available, locally available seeds possess good viability and higher germination (Oudhia 2001b). Plant support increases yield 25% and reduces pest infestation. Normally flowering begins 45–50 days after sowing. (Oudhia and Tripathi 2001). Yields of 5000 kg/ha have been recorded from well managed irrigated crop having supports. (Singh et al. 1995; Farooqi et al. 1999)


Agharkar, S.P. 1991. Medicinal plants of Bombay presidency. p. 1–2. Scientific Publ. Jodhpur. India.

Caius, J.F. 1989. The medicinal and poisonous legumes of India. p. 70–71. Scientific Publ., Jodhpur, India.

Chandra, S. 1993. Jadi-Butiyan. Sadhana Pocket Books, Delhi.

Farooqi, A.A., M.M. Khan, and M. Asundhara. 1999. Production technology of medicinal and aromatic crops. p. 26–28. Natural Remedies Pvt. Ltd., Bangalore, India

Lindley, J. 1985. Flora medica. Ajay Book Service, New Delhi.

Oudhia, P. 2001a. Record of Aphis craccivora Koch (Hemiptera: Aphididae) on medicinal crop Mucuna pruriens L. Chhattisgarh (India). Insect Environ. 7(1):24.

Oudhia, P. 2001b. My experiences with world’s top ten Indian medicinal plants : Glimpses of research at farmer’s field in Chhattisgarh (India). In: Abstract Workshop- cum-Seminar on Sustainable Agriculture for 21st Century, IGAU, Raipur, India. 20–21 Jan.

Oudhia, P. and R.S. Tripathi. 2001. The possibilities of commercial cultivation of rare medicinal plants in Chhattisgarh (India). In: Abstract. VII National Science Conference, Bhartiya Krishi Anusandhan Samittee, Directorate of Cropping System Research, Meerut (India), 12–14 April.

Pandey, G. 1998. Chamatkari Jadi-Butiyan. Bhasha Bhavan, Mathura, India.

Pandey, U. 1999. Chamatkari Paudhe. Bhagwati Pocket Books, Agra, India.

Ramnath, V. 1992. Vanoshadhi Shatak. Serve-Seva – Sangh – Prakashan, Varanasi, India.

Rastogi, R.P. and B.N. Mehrotra. 1991a. Compendium of Indian medicinal plants. Vol. I. (1960–69). Central Drug Research Institute, Lucknow and Publications and Information Directorate, New Delhi.

Rastogi, R.P. and B.N. Mehrotra. 1991b. Compendium of Indian medicinal plants. Vol. I (1970–1979).Central Drug Research, Institute, Lucknow and Publications and Information Directorate, New Delhi.

Sastry, C.S.T. and Y.Y. Kavathekar. 1990. Plants for reclamation of wastelands. Publications and Information Directorate, New Delhi. p. 317–318.

Shalini, K. 1997. Vedic leguminous plants. Classical Publ. Co., New Delhi.

Shashtry, R.K. 1995. Bhartiya Jabi-butiyon tatha vrikcho ke chamatkar. Dehati Pustak Bhandar, Delhi.

Singh, B.M., V.K. Srivastava, M.A. Kidwai, V. Gupta, and R. Gupta, 1995. Aloe, psoralea and mucuna. p. 515–525. In: K. L. Chadha and Rajendra Gupta. (eds.), Advances in horticulture Vol. 11. Medicinal and aromatic plants, 1995. Malhotra Publ, House, New Delhi.

Singh, U., A.M. Wadhwani, and B.M. Johri. 1996. Dictionary of economic plants in India. Indian Council of Agricultural Research, New Delhi. p. 45–146.

Upadhyay, R.K. 2000. Upyogi Jadi – Butiyan. Randhir Prakashan, Haridwar, India.

Verma, D.M., N.P. Balakrishnan, and R.D. Dixit. 1993. Flora of Madhya Pradesh. Botanical Survey of India. p. 190–191. Lucknow, India.

Warrier, P.K., V.P.K. Nambiar, and C. Ramankutty. 1996. Indian medicinal plants Vol. 4. p. 68–72. Orient Longman, Chennai, India.

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