Medicinal superstar, world-renown artist, Daoist – there have been few plants as career-driven as Mucuna Pruriens. Yet, the leggy legume drives through it all so effortlessly in a chic convertible, thick curly petals blowing in whichever direction the tropical wind takes them, never forgetting where they came from. “You can take the pod out of the legume,” they say, “but you can’t take the legume out of the pod.”
A proud plant with many names, the English call them Cowage and Cowitch. In Sanskrit, they are known as Kapikacchu, or, “One Starts Itching like Monkey.” Mexico and Guatemala just call them “Nescafé. Those who know them best, however, just call them Velvet Bean.
In Ayurvedic, Chinese, and Unani medicine, Velvet Bean has been revered for its versatility. As one of the only naturally occurring and most concentrated sources of L-Dopa, Velvet Bean has helped millions feel focused, creative, and sexy for thousands of years. With so many names and talents, you’d think that Mucuna Pruriens has grown tired of being so dazzling, but nay, Velvet Bean shows no sign of stopping.
As one of the most private plants in the kingdom, I had to pass through multiple security checkpoints before reaching Velvet Bean at the entrance of her artist studio.
“I’m a little guarded,” they laughed.
“A little” translates from plant to human language as “a lot.” The tough, hairy exterior has long been the subject of itchiness, pain, and intrigue for public consumption, so I was obviously nervous to meet the world-renown healer/abstract artist.
“The first school play I was in was Taming of the Shrew,” Velvet Bean admitted. “Except I dropped out because the director wasn’t open to my reinterpretation of the ending.”
Turns out the tough exterior routine is indeed a facade. Inside, Velvet Bean immediately put me at ease. Leading me into their true home, where they feel free to do what truly inspires them – their art studio – I felt uplifted, motivated, and inspirited.
The spacious studio was drenched in sunlight, the air hot and humid. “I create optical illusions with my petals,” they said, motioning to a large canvas on the floor. “Birds, girls with pigtails, samurai, I just let it come through me.” At its heart, Velvet Bean has always been a theatrical plant, a true surrealist in the intuitive sense.
“My spirit animal is a caterpillar,” they said. “The magic is inside. That’s why I’m able to go so far out with my petals. I get into it and spread joy because of it. That’s my artist manifesto.”
We took a walk around the enduring masterpiece that is their life, kicking around paintbrushes and tales of the good ol’ times they spent climbing famous and free over the hills of the Himalayas. “During the 18th and 19th centuries,” they said, shaking their head. “The hills were alive with the sound of our music.”
Hailing from the elusive, close-knit Legume Family, Mucuna comes from a controversially nutritious bunch that prefers to keep a low profile. However, their tastes are anything but. “We’re kinda like the mafia of the Plant Kingdom, it’s true.” They laugh.
Originally from Eastern China and Eastern India, Velvet Bean was always a fast climber, so it didn’t take them long to outgrow regional fame. As one of the only naturally-occurring and most concentrated sources of L-DOPA, a precursor to dopamine, it’s considered a natural, safe antidepressant or mood enhancer. Making you feel good is Velvet Bean’s M.O.
“But,” they clarify, “if your depression is serotonin-based, it might not work out between us. Even I can’t please everyone.”
Studies have suggested that there is a correlation between Alzheimer’s and low testosterone levels.
“I’ve been proven to raise those T, too. That is a common motif across my work - raising everything to a whole new level.”
Even one’s consciousness.
In trace amounts, Mucuna Pruriens contains DMT, 5-MeO-DMT, nicotine, and bufotenine - which makes it the original microdose. It’s no wonder that they consider themselves deeply spiritual. “But the real spiritual kind that grows from the ground, not this synthetic, Hollywood stuff.”
Velvet Bean’s reviews have been outstanding. “The dopamine bean works,” hailed The Zoe Report. Medicine went so far as to call it “magic” and “neuroprotective.” Even Kristin Bell loves it.
Since Velvet Bean can reduce prolactin, they’ve also become an ally to women in need. One reviewer wrote, “My horrifically bad PMS disintegrated, so much so that I recommended the bean to another friend who similarly suffers.”
“There isn’t a part of me that isn’t medicinal,” Velvet Bean said with a smile.
Nonetheless, the legume family has had its share of setbacks, critics, and controversy. As a food, legumes have battled to be accepted as healthy food. Then, there was the Jack and the Beanstalk fiasco, which may have left Jack with a goose that lays golden eggs, but it turned the reputation of beans into, well, “a hill of beans.”
“Listen, after a few life cycles, you stop caring. The Legumes have been the model for healthy, intimate relationships – two peas in a pod? Our value is unbreakable.”
Through the pleasure and pain, Velvet Bean is still brimming with untapped medicinal potential as an antimicrobial, anti-some-types-of-cancers, anti-skin issues, anti-problems-in-the-bedroom, and more. In fact, they’ve never felt more focused or motivated to climb to new creative heights.
“Sky’s the limit right?”
Grabbing a mop, they dipped it into a bucket of paint, smacked the canvas.
“Looks like a flock of geese…”