Compilation by Armando Gonzalez Stuart, PhD.
Other Common Name:
Potency wood, marapuama, miruatan
Where is it found?
This small tree is native to the Amazonian region of South America (Quattrocchi, 2012; Mabberley, 2008).
Parts of the plant used:
The bark of the tree, roots, and leaves.
How is it used?
The root and bark of the tree are decocted in water and taken as a tea or applied externally as a poultice or wash. Capsules containing the pulverized root or bark are available commercially.
What is it used for?
This tree has a plethora of uses among the indigenous peoples of the Amazon, including the following: adaptogen, alopecia (applied topically for hair loss), anorexia, antinociceptive, antioxidant, aphrodisiac, ataxia, beri beri (vitamin deficiency disease), debility, digestive problems, dysentery, fatigue, impotence, neurasthenia, nerve tonic, rheumatism, stimulant, tonic (adding bark decoction to a bath), paralysis, and tremors (Quattrocchi, 2012; Piato et al., 2010; Berdonces, 2009; Duke et al., 2009; Taylor, 2005; Rutter, 1990).
Muira puama is an important ingredient of “catuama”, a medicinal poly-herbal combination used in South America, also composed of guaraná (Paullinia cupana), ginger (Zingiber officinale), and Trichilia catigua (Quattrocchi, 2012).
One of the main active ingredients in muira puama is an alkaloid known as muirapuamine (Lorenzi and Matos, 2008).
Ferrini et al. (2015) assessed whether the daily oral administration, for a period of eight weeks, of a combination of ginger, guaraná, muira puama, and L-citrulline could effectively delay the ongoing corporal fibrosis, smooth muscle cell apoptosis (programmed cell death) and cavernosal veno-occlusive dysfunction present in middle aged rats similar to that seen with the prescription medication tadalafil. The results of the study showed that the orally delivered herbal combination plus L-citrulline appeared to be as effective as daily therapy with the medication in either slowing down or reversing the onset of the histological and functional characteristics of erectile dysfunction related to aging in laboratory rats.
A study assessed the in vitro antioxidant activities of plants from the Brazilian Amazon (Byrsonima japurensis, Calycophyllum spruceanum, Maytenus guyanensis, Passiflora nitida and muira puama Ptychopetalum olacoides. The results supported the traditional use for these plants against inflammation, due to their significant antioxidant (free radical scavenging) action (de Vargas et al., 2016).
Oliveira et al. (2013) conducted an in vitro study using the aqueous extracts of various traditional medicinal plants from Amazonia, searching for antimicrobial activity against both human as well as animal pathogenic microbes. The extracts obtained from muira puama and Pentaclethra macroloba inhibited the growth of the bacteria Klebsiella ozaenae and Acinetobacter baumannii.
Figueiró, et al. (2010, 2011) evaluated the effects of an ethanol extract obtained from muira puama and identified promnesic (improving memory), anti-amnesic, and acetyl-cholinesterase inhibition properties in laboratory animals (mice) treated orally with the extract. The results of the studies showed that this plant induces acetyl-cholinesterase inhibition in brain areas relevant to cognition. For this reason, the authors concluded that muira puama extracts could be a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease in humans.
A study undertaken with mice showed that an extract from muira puama had a stimulating (tonic) effect. This plant possesses antioxidant and neuroprotective properties as well as health benefits associated with stressful situations. For this reason, this plant could possess adaptogen-like characteristics and could be useful for the treatment of stress (Piato et al., 2010).
Safety / Precautions
- The safety of using muira puama during pregnancy and lactation has not been established (Gardner and McGuffin, 2013).
- If you experience erectile dysfunction, consult first with a health care professional before taking any dietary or nutraceutical supplements.
Berdonces JL. Gran Diccionario de las Plantas Medicinales.
Barcelona, Spain: Editorial Oceano; 2009; pp. 789-790.
de Vargas FS, Almeida PD, de Boleti AP, Pereira MM, de Souza TP, de Vasconcellos MC, Nunez CV, Pohlit AM, Lima ES. Antioxidant activity and peroxidase inhibition of Amazonian plants extracts traditionally used as anti-inflammatory. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2016; 16(1):83. doi: 10.1186/s12906-016-1061-9.
Duke J, Bogenschutz-Godwin M, Ottensen R. Duke’s Handbook of Medicinal Plants of Latin America. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2009; pp.587-588.
Ferrini MG, Hlaing SM, Chan A, Artaza JN. Treatment with a combination of ginger, L-citrulline, muira puama and Paullinia cupana can reverse the progression of corporal smooth muscle loss, fibrosis and veno-occlusive dysfunction in the aging rat. Andrology (Los Angel). 2015 Jun;4(1).
Figueiró M, Ilha J, Pochmann D, Porciúncula LO, Xavier LL, Achaval M, Nunes DS, Elisabetsky E. Acetylcholinesterase inhibition in cognition-relevant brain areas of mice treated with a nootropic Amazonian herbal (Marapuama). Phytomedicine. 2010;17(12):956-62. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2010.03.009.
Figueiró M, Ilha J, Linck VM, Herrmann AP, Nardin P, Menezes CB, Achaval M, Gonçalves CA, Porciúncula LO, Nunes DS, Elisabetsky E. The Amazonian herbal Marapuama attenuates cognitive impairment and neuroglial degeneration in a mouse Alzheimer model.
Phytomedicine. 2011;18(4):327-33. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2010.07.013.
Gardner Z, McGuffin M (Editors). Botanical Safety Handbook 2nd ed.
Boca Raton, FL; CRC Press; 2013; p. 711.
Lorenzi H, Matos F J. Plantas Medicinais No Brasil 2a ed.
Nova Odessa, Brasil: Instituto Plantarum; 2008; p. 398.
Mabberley D. Mabberley’s Plant Book 3rd ed.
London: Cambridge University Press; 2008; p.717.
Oliveira AA, Segovia JF, Sousa VY, Mata EC, Gonçalves MC, Bezerra RM, Junior PO, Kanzaki LI. Antimicrobial activity of amazonian medicinal plants. Springerplus. 2013 Aug 5;2:371. doi: 10.1186/2193-1801-2-371.
Piato AL1, Detanico BC, Linck VM, Herrmann AP, Nunes DS, Elisabetsky E. Anti-stress effects of the "tonic" Ptychopetalum olacoides (Marapuama) in mice. Phytomedicine. 2010;17(3-4):248-53. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2009.07.001.
Quattrocchi, U. World Dictionary of Medicinal and Poisonous Plants, Vol. 4.
Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2012; pp. 777-778.
Rutter R. Catálogo de Plantas Útiles de la Amazonía Peruana 2a ed.
Lima, Perú: Instituto Lingüístico de Verano; 1990; p. 197.
Schultes R, Raffauf R. The Healing Forest.
Portland OR: Dioscorides Press; 1990; p 343.
Taylor L. The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs.
New York: Square One Publishers; 2005; pp. 353-356.