What is Muira Puama?
Muira puama, also known more aptly as “potency wood,” is a small Brazilian tree that offers big benefits. In fact, the roots and bark of muira puama have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries in the Amazon region.
Extract of muira puama is a powerful tonic used mainly to enhance sexual function in men and women. It can also improve cognitive function and help the body adapt to stress.
The bark and roots of the muira puama tree contain the active compounds. Muira puama extract supplements are available in powder and liquids and can be added to foods, drinks or used to fill capsules. Once only available in the tropical regions of South America, it is now distributed worldwide.
Muira Puama Benefits
Like many medicinal plants discovered in the Amazon, muira puama is rich in biologically active compounds including plant sterols, essential oils, triterpenes, fatty acids and alkaloids. Plant sterols can gently influence hormonal balance, which may contribute to some of the effects of muira puama (x).
Improves Sexual Function in Men
In men, sexual issues commonly occur as erectile dysfunction (ED). In fact, ED affects 52 percent of men between the ages of 40 and 70. There are many causes of ED including depression, anxiety, stress and low testosterone (x).
Muira puama is unique because it can address both the hormonal and emotional issues related to ED. There aren’t many modern studies with humans to back up these claims, but there is at least some scientific evidence that supports its traditional use.
For example, the most widely referenced study on muira puama involves 262 men suffering from ED or lack of sexual desire. In this study, 62 percent of participants experienced an increase in libido and 51 percent saw an improvement in erectile function (x, x).
A more recent double-blind, placebo-controlled study combined muira puama, Asian ginseng and ginkgo with horny goat weed and five additional herbs. In this case, the men given the herbal combination had a statistically significant increase in erectile function compared to the placebo group. Despite the effectiveness of this herbal combination, however, it’s hard to determine how much of this is due to the muira puama (x).
Increases Libido in Women
Of course, women also deal with sexual issues, often citing lack of desire or inability to experience true satisfaction.
The good news is that muira puama may help here too. Research on an herbal product that combined muira puama and gingko biloba demonstrated that it heightened desire, allowed women to find sexual fantasies more interesting and allowed them to reach climax more easily. It’s interesting to note that there was little difference in outcome between a high dose and a low dose, so more wasn’t necessarily better in this case (x).
Despite the emerging evidence, researchers aren’t sure why muira puama works to improve sexual function in men and women. One theory is that it has nerve-stimulating properties. Another explanation is that it contains compounds called sterols, which support healthy hormones. And yet, others point to its ability to reduce stress and anxiety. This could encourage a robust libido (x, x, x).
May Improve Cognition
Being able to live a full and healthy life begins with the health of your brain, and muira puama can help you think more clearly. This extract contains antioxidant compounds that are uniquely beneficial to neurological tissue. In animal studies, it decreased free radicals in several regions of the brain, including the hypothalamus, cerebellum and striatum. It was also able to reduce the effects of certain toxins and improved memory retention in tests (x, x).
This neuroprotective quality of muira puama may have applications for Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Animal studies have shown that it can reduce the cognitive impairment associated with AD. There is also evidence to suggest that this extract can help decrease the plaques themselves, which can allow the brain to heal and function better in those who have this type of cognitive impairment (x).
Adaptogens can help keep the body healthy during times of mental and physical strain. Chronic stress is a challenge for most people. If not managed, it can lead to many health problems including anxiety and depression (x).
Muira puama has traditionally been used as an adaptogen. Studies are now showing that it may be particularly useful in helping to support stress-related mental health. In one study, muira puama extract prevented the rise in anxiety-linked hormones that usually accompanies exposure to stress. It also helped improve stress-related glucose tolerance (x).
Another study suggested that muira puama extract can help alleviate symptoms of stress-related depression. According to the researchers, it may achieve this by preventing the HPA-axis (hypothalamic, pituitary and adrenal glands) from becoming overstimulated (x, x).
Other Benefits and Uses
Traditional cultures use muira puama for a variety of other conditions including:
- Soothe stomach pains
- Relieve joint pain
- Weight loss
- Improve cholesterol
- Stimulate hair growth to avoid baldness
- Temporarily reduce blood pressure
- Used in the bath to treat paralysis
- Made into a tea to treat slow digestion
These effects have not been studied in the lab, though future experiments of this extract may validate these claims.
Dosage and Side Effects
Muira puama is safe for most people, and side effects are both rare and mild. It has not been sufficiently studied in women who are pregnant or are breastfeeding, however.
Studies involving erectile function used 1-1.5 grams/day of muira puama extract.
This fine powder can be mixed into hot or cold drinks, though the flavor is bitter, so it is best to choose a strongly flavored beverage. It’s ideal for blending into smoothies or adding to flavorful broths, soups or stews. This extract can also be used to fill capsules to avoid any flavor interactions.
The Bottom Line
Sexual dysfunction is very common and, understandably, goes underreported. The good news is that there are natural remedies like muira puama extract that are readily available, effective and safe for most people.
Besides giving men and women a libido boost, muira puama is great for the brain and helps the body cope with stress. Considered to be a nerve tonic by the traditional cultures that still use it regularly, it may offer many other benefits that just haven’t been “proven” by modern science yet.