Muira Puama - Ptychopetalum olacoides
This is a small tree with fragrant white flowers. The bark and roots are used to make a tea for countering sexual debility, easing joint and muscle pain, relieving digestive complaints, and for baldness. It has been used by Amazonia's indigenous people as far back as they know, and in South American cities, and in France and England, since the 1920's. The British Herbal Pharmacopoeia still lists it for dysentery. Somewhere along the way, Muira Puama was discovered to be effective against hookworms - possibly an effect of its essential oils, or possibly an effect of its unique phytonutrients, or perhaps in combination. In recent studies by the French, Muira Puama was found to be 51% to 62% effective in cases of erectile dysfunction. Other French studies focused on its positive psychological benefits as related to sexual functioning in men who had lost interest in sex. It is a valued libido enhancer.
In Europe and South America, Muira Puama is used to alleviate frigidity, infertility, menstrual disturbances, menstrual cramps and PMS. In South America it is used to fortify the stomach, intestines and nerves, and to ease exhaustion, stress and traumas. It is also regarded as a preventative of baldness.Proper processing along with adequate heat and vegetable alcohol extraction is essential for this herb to achieve optimum bioactivity in the body. There appears to be a pronounced synergy when Muira Puama is used with Catuaba. These two in combination are favorites of South American athletes.
Quoted from Raintree Nutrition
Muira puama, also called "potency wood," is a small tree that grows to 5 m high and is native to the Brazilian Amazon and other parts of the Amazon rainforest. The small, white flowers have a pungent fragrance similar to jasmine's. The Ptychopetalum genus is a small one - only two species of small trees grow in tropical South America and five in tropical Africa. The two South American varieties, P. olacoides (found in Brazil, French Guiana, Guyana, and Suriname) and P. uncinatum (found only in Brazil), are used interchangeably in South American herbal medicine systems. The olacoides variety is usually preferred, as it has a higher content of lupeol (one of the plant's active phytochemicals). A completely different species of Brazilian tree, Liriosma ovata, also goes by the common name of muira puama (and is often sold in commerce as such); however, it is a completely different tree with a different phytochemical makeup.
Historically, all parts of muira puama have been used medicinally, but the bark and roots are the most-utilized parts of the plant. It has long been used in the Amazon by indigenous peoples for a number of purposes. Native peoples along the Brazilian Amazon's Rio Negro river use the stems and roots from young plants as a tonic to treat neuromuscular problems; a root decoction is used in baths and massages for treating paralysis and beri-beri; and a root-and-bark tea is taken to treat sexual debility, rheumatism, grippe, and cardiac and gastrointestinal weakness. It's also valued there as a preventive for baldness. In Brazilian herbal medicine, muira puama still is a highly-regarded sexual stimulant with a reputation as a powerful aphrodisiac. It has been in the Brazilian Pharmacopoeia since the 1950s. It is used as a neuromuscular tonic for weakness and paralysis, dyspepsia, menstrual disturbances, chronic rheumatism (applied topically), sexual impotency, grippe, and central nervous system disorders.
Muira puama is employed around the world today in herbal medicine. Early European explorers noted the indigenous uses and the aphrodisiac qualities of muira puama and brought it back to Europe, where it has become part of herbal medicine in England. It is still listed in the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia (a noted herbal medicine source from the British Herbal Medicine Association); it is recommended there for the treatment of dysentery and impotence. It is also used in Europe to treat impotence, infertility, nerve pain, menstrual disturbances, and dysentery. In Germany, muira puama is employed as a central nervous system tonic, for hookworms, menstrual disturbances, and rheumatism. Muira puama has been gaining in popularity in the United States, where herbalists and health care practitioners are using it for impotence, depression, menstrual cramps and PMS, nerve pain, and central nervous system disorders.
Scientists began searching for the source of muira puama's efficacy in the 1920s. Early researchers discovered that the root and bark were rich in fatty acids and fatty acid esters (the main one being behenic acid), essential oils (including beta-caryophyllene and alpha-humulene), plant sterols, triterpenes (including lupeol), and a new alkaloid-which they named muirapuamine. Scientists resumed researching the plant's constituents and pharmacological properties in the late 1960s and continued into the late 1980s. These studies indicated that the active constituents also included free long-chain fatty acids, sesquiterpenes, monoterpenes, and novel alkaloids.
The main plant chemicals found in muira puama include: alpha-copaene, alpha-elemene, alpha-guaiene, alpha-humulene, alpha-muurolene, alpha-pinene, alpha-resinic acid, alpha-terpinene, arachidic acid, allo-aromadendren, behenic acid, beta-bisabolene, beta-caryophyllene, beta-pinene, beta-resinic acid, beta-sitosterol, beta-transfarnesene, borneol, campesterols, camphene, camphor, car-3-ene, caryophyllene, cerotic acid, chromium, coumarin, cubebene, delta-cadinene, dotriacontanoic acid, elixene, ergosterols, eugenol, essential oils, gamma-muurolene, hentriacontanoic acid, heptacosanoic acid, lignoceric acid, limonene, linalool, lupeol, melissic acid, montanic acid, muirapuamine, myrcene, nonacosanoic acid, para-cymene, pentacosanoic acid, phlobaphene, stigmasterols, trichosanic acid, and uncosanic acid.
The benefits of treating impotence with muira puama have been studied in two human trials in France, which reported that muira puama was effective in improving libido and treating erectile dysfunction. In one French study among 262 male patients who experienced lack of sexual desire and the inability to attain or maintain an erection, 62% of the patients with loss of libido reported that the extract of muira puama "had a dynamic effect," and 51% of patients with erectile dysfunction felt that muira puama was beneficial. The second study evaluated positive psychological benefits of muira puama in 100 men with male sexual weakness. The therapeutic dosage was 1.5 g of a muira puama extract daily. In their final report, researchers indicated muira puama could "enhance libido [in 85% of test group], increase the frequency of intercourse [in 100%] and improve the ability to maintain an erection [in 90%]."
In other recent clinical research, muira puama extracts have been reported to have adaptogenic, antifatigue, antistress, and beneficial effects on the central nervous system. A specially-prepared extract from the root of muira puama has been patented for its ability to "relieve physical and mental fatigue" and for "ameliorating a weakened constitution." Researchers in Brazil documented a definite central nervous system effect of the bark in studies with mice. The bark of muira puama also has demonstrated a mild, short-lived, hypotensive effect. The root was found to inhibit stress-induced ulcers, while the leaf demonstrated an analgesic effect. Another U.S. patent has been filed on muira puama, citing that it can "reduce body fat percentage, increase lean muscle mass and lower cholesterol" in humans and animals with long-term use (and with no toxicity noted). The newest research confirms muira puama's traditional use for memory and nervous disorders. Brazilian researchers reported in 2003 that an alcohol extract of muira puama facilitated memory retrieval in both young and aged mice and noted it may be beneficial for Alzheimer's patients. Their next study published in 2004 reported that an alcohol extract of muira puama protected and increased the viability of brain cells in mice (partly through an antioxidant effect) which may be beneficial for stroke victims. Toxicity studies with mice published in 1983 indicates no toxic effects.
The above text has been quoted from the book, Herbal Secrets of the Rainforest