Advance Access Publication 18 December 2007 eCAM 2010;7(1)137–144
Mucuna pruriens Reduces Stress and Improves
the Quality of Semen in Infertile Men
Kamla Kant Shukla
, Abbas Ali Mahdi
, Mohammad Kaleem Ahmad
Shyam Pyari Jaiswar
, Satya Narain Shankwar
and Sarvada Chandra Tiwari
Department of Biochemistry,
Department of Obstetric & Gynaecology,
Department of Urology and
Department of Psychiatry, King George’s Medical University, Lucknow 226003, India
The present investigation was undertaken to assess the role of Mucuna pruriens in infertile men
who were under psychological stress. Study included 60 subjects who were undergoing infertility
screening and were found to be suffering from psychological stress, assessed on the basis of a
questionnaire and elevated serum cortisol levels. Age-matched 60 healthy men having normal
semen parameters and who had previously initiated at least one pregnancy were included as
controls. Infertile subjects were administered with M. pruriens seed powder (5 g day
For carrying out morphological and biochemical analysis, semen samples were collected twice,
first before starting treatment and second after 3 months of treatment. The results
demonstrated decreased sperm count and motility in subjects who were under psychological
stress. Moreover, serum cortisol and seminal plasma lipid peroxide levels were also found
elevated along with decreased seminal plasma glutathione (GSH) and ascorbic acid contents
and reduced superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase activity. Treatment with M. pruriens
significantly ameliorated psychological stress and seminal plasma lipid peroxide levels along
with improved sperm count and motility. Treatment also restored the levels of SOD, catalase,
GSH and ascorbic acid in seminal plasma of infertile men. On the basis of results of the present
study, it may be concluded that M. pruriens not only reactivates the anti-oxidant defense system
of infertile men but it also helps in the management of stress and improves semen quality.
Keywords: antioxidants – lipid peroxides – male infertility – Mucuna pruriens – psychological
Infertility is a major public health concern and it is said to
be the manifestation of one or more pathological condi-
tions of either male or female origin. As many as 15% of
couples have difficulty in conceiving, and the male factor is
implicated as the cause in up to 50% of such cases.
Moreover, in 10–15% of infertile couples, no apparent
cause can be found and these cases are categorized under
‘unexplained infertility’ (1). The problem of infertility is
closely related to stress, as a couple, failing to achieve the
expected goal of reproduction, experiences the feelings of
frustration and disappointment. These feelings only
compound in couples experiencing infertility related
problems requiring prolonged efforts to conceive.
Previous studies have indicated that stress, especially
psychological stress, has a negative impact on various
parameters associated with semen quality, including sperm
concentration, motility and morphology. Other distur-
bances, such as impotence, sham ejaculation, retrograde
ejaculation and oligospermia, have also been reported
to be associated with psychological factors underlying
male infertility (2).
For reprints and all correspondence: Prof. Dr Abbas Ali Mahdi,
Department of Biochemistry, King George’s Medical University,
Lucknow 226003, India. Tel: +91-9839011192; Fax: +91-522-2257539;
ß2007 The Author(s).
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/
licenses/by-nc/2.0/uk/) which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original workis
Chronic exposure to psychological stress is also known
to cause a variety of patho-physiological changes in
neuroendrocrine system, resulting in altered steroidogen-
esis and spermatogenesis. Prolonged stress also leads to
increased blood cortisol level. An excess of this hormone,
in turn, markedly affects the spermatogenesis, resulting in
retention of cytoplasmic droplets and over-production of
immature spermatozoa, which are reported to be the
major source of reactive oxygen species (ROS) (3).
Moreover, there are also reports that elevated psycholog-
ical stress itself is associated with increased oxidant
production and long-term exposure to psychological
stressors may enhance the generation of ROS (4). Under
normal circumstances, the ROS scavenging potential of
the male reproductive tract and seminal fluid is maintained
by adequate levels of enzymatic and non-enzymatic
antioxidants, vitamins and minerals (5,6). On the other
hand, when the production of ROS is high, it may lead to
oxidative damage to spermatozoa. ROS is also reported to
have a negative effect on sperm functioning. The sperm
plasma membrane is very sensitive to ROS, since it
contains high levels of unsaturated fatty acids. The latter
provide fluidity, which is necessary for sperm motility and
acrosome reaction. Increased ROS level, as found during
prolonged psychological stress, may lead to an imbalance
between oxidant/anti-oxidant ratio, leading to increased
lipid peroxidation, resulting in sperm membrane damage
and its subsequent dysfunctioning (7).
Till date, appropriate treatment of idiopathic male
infertility has not been found. However, in the ancient
Indian system of medicine, the Ayurveda and Unani, as
also the Chinese system of traditional remedies, some
plants e.g. Mucuna pruriens,Tinospora cordiofolia,
Asparagus racemosus,Withania somnifera,Orchis latifolia,
Ocimum basilium and Tribulus terrestris etc. were used for
the improvement of endurance against stress, general
resistance against infections, retardation of the aging
process and improving male sexual disorders, like
psychogenic impotence and unexplained infertility (8–10).
Mucuna pruriens Linn. (Fabaceae), commonly known
as ‘cowhage plant’ or ‘kapikacho’ or ‘kevach’ in Hindi, is
the most popular drug in the Ayurvedic and Unani
system of medicine. Its different preparations (from the
seeds) are used for the management of several free
radical-mediated diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis,
diabetes, atherosclerosis, nervous disorders and male
infertility (11). There are reports that seed powder of
M. pruriens helps in some way against stress, it increases
secretion of semen and it acts as a restorative and an
invigorating tonic or aphrodisiac in diseases characterized
by weakness or loss of sexual power (12). It is also used
in the management of Parkinsonism, as it is a good
source of L-3, 4 dihydroxyphenyl alanine (L-DOPA) (13).
Seeds of M. pruriens also possess antioxidant, hypogly-
cemic, lipid lowering and neuroprotective activities (14). Its
seeds contain the alkaloids, mucunine, mucunadine,
mucunadinine, prurienidine and nicotine, besides
b-sitosterol, glutathione, lecithin, vernolic acid and gallic
acid. They posses a number of other bioactive substances,
including tryptamine, alkylamines, steroids, flavonoids,
coumarins, cardenolides and metals like magnesium,
copper, zinc, manganese and iron (15). The present study
was planned to investigate the effect of M. pruriens on
semen quality and the seminal plasma levels of lipid
peroxides and antioxidants in infertile men, who were
under psychological stress.
Materials and Methods
Nitroblue tetrazolium Cat N-5514 (NBT), thiobarbituric
acid Cat T-5500 (TBA), phenazine methosulphate Cat
N-9625 (PMS), nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide Cat
N-6754 (NADH), 5.50-dithio bis 2- nitrobenzoic acid
Cat D-5420 (DTNB), 4,5 methyl thiazol-2-yl 2,5 diphenyl
tetra zolium bromide Cat M-2128 (MTT), nicotinamide
adenine dinucleotide phosphate Cat N-7785 (NADPH)
tricholoroacetic acid Cat T-8657 (TCA) and reduced
glutathione Cat G-4251 (GSH) were purchased from
Sigma Chemical Co., St Louis, MO, USA. Radioimmu-
noassay kit for estimation of serum cortisol was obtained
from Diagnostic Product Corporation, Los Angeles, CA,
USA. This kit with trade name Code-A-Count Cortisol,
contains cortisol antibody coated polypropylene tubes
(TC 01), a solution of iodinated cortisol
(TC 02) as well as cortisol calibrators (TC 03-8) containing
standard cortisol. All other reagents used were of high
quality and analytical grade.
The seeds of plant M. pruriens were purchased from an
authorized dealer in Lucknow, India. They were identified
and authenticated by Dr M.M.A.A Khan, Senior Lecturer,
Department of Botany, Shia P.G. College, Lucknow, India
(Herbarium No. M-113 dated October 17, 2005). The seeds
were dried under shade and made to a fine powder using
The study protocol was approved by the Ethical
Committee of the King George’s Medical University,
Lucknow, (vide communication No.126/R-Cell-04, dated:
May 14, 2004). Before enrolment in the study, written
informed consent from each subject was obtained in
response to a fully written and verbal explanation of
the nature of the study. The potential participants, each
with infertility persisting longer than a year, were
clinically examined before being included in the study.
138 Mucuna pruriens in infertile men
Complete medical history of subjects and their female
partners was also recorded. Subjects having diabetes,
hypertension, arthritis, malignancy, tuberculosis, human
immunodeficiency virus positive, infections, endocrinal
disorders and on drugs and conditions known to influence
oxidative stress and serum cortisol level were excluded.
A total of 120 men, aged 30–38 years, belonging to the
same socioeconomic and ethnic status (Indo Aryan) and
body mass index ranging from 19 to 24 kg m
selected from the couples attending the Infertility Clinic
of the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology and the
Out Patient Department of Urology, King George’s
Medical University, Lucknow. All subjects were
instructed not to take any nutritional supplement or
vitamins and not to change their dietary habits during the
course of study. This study was undertaken from January
2006 to December 2006.
Semen samples were collected from subjects with 3–4
days of sexual abstinence. Semen analysis was carried out
according to the World Health Organization guidelines
(16). Venous blood samples were also withdrawn and
serum separated for assessment of cortisol levels.
The prospective study included four parallel groups of
subjects: The control group comprised of 60 age-matched
healthy men who had previously initiated at least one
pregnancy and exhibited a normal semen profile
; >40% motility and
>40% normal morphology). Moreover, control subjects
were also not under stress, as evidenced by the study
questionnaire and normal serum cortisol level.
The study group comprised of 60 subjects who were
under psychological stress (as assessed by the study
questionnaire and on the basis of elevated serum cortisol
levels). Study subjects were further divided into three
subgroups on the basis of semen profiles and in each
subgroup a minimum of 20 patients were included. These
groups were (i) normozoospermic infertile men, defined
as control group (ii), oligozoospermic infertile men
, spermatozoa ml
, motility >40% and
>40% normal morphology) and (iii) asthenozoospermic
infertile men (>20 10
, <40% moti-
lity and >40% normal morphology).
Psychological stress was assessed as per the protocol
known as State Anxiety Inventory (17). All participants
were asked to complete the questionnaire of the State
Anxiety Inventory, as validated by Oner and Le Comple
(18). In the questionnaire, subjects were asked to describe
how they feel ‘right now’ by responding to 20 questions
with a 4-point response format from ‘not at all’ (score 1)
to ‘extremely’ (score 4). Total scores ranged from 20 to
80, with higher scores indicating greater anxiety. This
measure has been shown to have high reliability and
good contrast validity.
The infertile men were prescribed M. pruriens seed
powder (5 g day
), orally, in a single dose for 3
months with a cup of skimmed milk (19). Semen samples
were collected twice, i.e. first before administrating the
medicine and second, after 3 months of treatment. All the
semen morphological profiles were assessed within an
hour of sample collection and biochemical profiles were
evaluated within 2 days. During the course of study the
patients were also monitored, on monthly basis, for liver
Preparation of Seminal Plasma
Semen samples were collected by masturbation after 3–4
days of abstinence into sterile plastic containers for
analysis. The semen volume was recorded and an aliquot
was taken to assess sperm motility after at least 30 min
given for liquefaction. There after, the semen samples
were centrifuged at 1200 gin cold (4C) for 20 min
for the separation of seminal plasma. The supernatant
(seminal plasma) was again centrifuged at 10 000 gin
cold (4C) for 30 min to eliminate all possible contam-
inating cells and stored at 20C until analyzed.
All biochemical estimations were carried out in seminal
Estimation of Lipid Peroxide Levels
Seminal plasma (0.2 ml) was mixed with 0.5 ml glacial
acetic acid. Subsequently, 0.5 ml of 8% sodium dodecyl
sulfate was added to the above reaction mixture. After
mixing well 1.5 ml of 0.8% TBA solution was added.
The reaction mixture was kept in boiling water bath for 1 h.
After cooling to room temperature, 3.0 ml of n-butanol
was mixed, the reaction mixture was then centrifuged
at 10 000 gfor 15 min. The absorbance of clear butanol
fraction obtained after centrifugation was read at
532 nm by UV-VIS double beam spectrophotometer
(model No. 2203, serial No. 053, Systronics Instrumental
Co. Hyderabad, India, year of purchase 2006). An
appropriate standard made up of 2.5 nmol malondialde-
hyde was run simultaneously (20).
Assay of Catalase Activity
Diluted hydrogen peroxide (0.2 ml of 20-fold dilution, 30%
w/v) and 2.5 ml of 50 mM phosphate buffer (pH 8.2) was
eCAM 2010;7(1) 139
added in a cuvatte. To the resultant, 0.02 ml of seminal
plasma, as enzyme source was added and mixed thor-
oughly. The decrease in the absorbance of reaction mixture
due to catabolism of hydrogen peroxide was recorded at
240 nm after every 30 s by spectrophotometer (21).
Assay of Superoxide Dismutase Activity
Two reaction setups were run in parallel for superoxide
dismutase (SOD) estimation. The tubes in the first setup
(experimental) received 0.2 ml (320 mM) NBT, 0.2 ml
(10 mM) phenazine methosulfate, 2.0 ml (0.16 mM) pyro-
phosphate buffer pH 9.2, 0.02 of seminal plasma as enzyme
source. The tubes in the second setup (reference) received
the entire above reagents except the enzyme source. The
reaction was started simultaneously in both sets by the
addition of 0.2 ml (160 mM) of NADH. After an interval of
90 s, 1 ml of glacial acidic acid was added to each reaction
tube. The reference tubes were then added with the same
amount of enzyme source, and absorbance was read at
560 nm against a blank on spectrophotometer (22).
Estimation of Reduced Glutathione
Seminal plasma 0.2 ml was mixed with 3.0 ml of 5% (w/v)
TCA reagent and allowed to stand for 5 min, proteins
were precipitated and filtered out. Later, 2.0 ml of filtrate
was added to 4.0 ml of 0.3 M phosphate buffer pH 7.4
and 1 ml of DTNB (1% w/v aqueous sodium citrate).
A blank was prepared in a similar manner using distilled
water in place of the filtrate. An appropriate standard
solution of 0.1 ml GSH (10 mmol) was also run simulta-
neous. The pale yellow color developed was read
immediately at 412 nm by spectrophotometer (23).
Estimation of Ascorbic Acid
Phosphate citrate buffer 1.5 ml (pH 8.2), 0.2 ml PMS,
0.2 ml MTT and 0.1 ml of seminal plasma were added in
a test tube and incubated at 37C for 15 min. The
reaction was stopped by adding 0.5 ml acetic acid. An
appropriate standard solution of ascorbic acid (0.1 ml)
was also run simultaneously. Brown color was developed
and measured by spectrophotometer at 578 nm (24).
Estimation of Serum Cortisol Levels
Serum cortisol levels were assessed by radioimmunoassay
method (PC-RIA-MAS, Gamma Counter, Stratec-
Germany, serial No. 2486000031 year of purchase-
Normal healthy fertile men and infertile groups were
compared using one-way ANOVA analysis of variance
followed by Dunnett test. Infertile groups, before and
after treatment, were compared with paired t-test. A
probability P-value of <0.05 (P< 0.05) was considered
statistically significant. The statistical analysis was
performed on commercial software INSTAT 3.0, a
demo version (Graph Pad Software, San Diego, CA).
Effect of M. pruriens on Semen Parameters
in Infertile Men
General semen characteristics of different groups of
subject, before and after treatment with M. pruriens, are
depicted in Fig. 1. In normal healthy fertile men (non-
stress, control group), the mean sperm concentration was
57.0 8.4 10
, motility was 57.0 5.4% and lique-
faction time was 21.5 2.5 min. The sperm concentration
and motility in all under stress infertile groups as compared
with controls were found decreased. The maximum
decrease in sperm concentration was observed in oligo-
zoospermic group (87%; P< 0.001) and motility of
spermatozoa in asthenozoospermic patients (78%;
P< 0.001). Treatment of these infertile males with
M. pruriens seed powder (5 g/day) for 3 months showed
significant reversal of the above findings. Our results show
that sperm concentration was most significantly increased
in oligozoospermic patients (+688%; P< 0.001) and
sperm motility was significantly increased in asthenozoos-
permic patients (+32%; P< 0.05).
Effect of M. pruriens on Stress Parameters
in Infertile Men
Stress scores, elaborated on the basis of the questionnaire,
were found significantly high in infertile subjects (Table 1).
Similarly, the morning serum cortisol levels were found
elevated in normozoospermic (+38%; P< 0.01), oligo-
zoospermic (+110%; P< 0.01) and asthenozoospermic
(+171%; P< 0.01) infertile men as compared with control
subjects (10.2 0.2 mgdl
). After treatment with
M. pruriens, serum cortisol levels were decreased in
normozoospermic (25%; P< 0.001), oligozoospermic
(81%; P< 0.001) and asthenozoospermic (55%;
P< 0.001) patients. Moreover, the mean serum cortisol
levels observed at 1600 h, in control group were
5.5 0.6 g dl
. But these levels in normozoospermic
(99%; P< 0.01), oligozoospermic (162%; P< 0.01) and
asthenozoospermic (231%; P< 0.01) were found to be
increased. After treatment with M. pruriens, significant
reversal of serum cortisol levels in normozoospermic
(40%; P< 0.001), oligozoospermic (46%; P< 0.001) and
asthenozoospermic (49%; P< 0.001) was observed.
The intra and inter assay variances of serum cortisol were
<6% and <10%, respectively, which was found to be
140 Mucuna pruriens in infertile men
Effect of M. pruriens on Lipid Peroxide Levels and
Antioxidant Parameters in Infertile Men
The lipid peroxide level in seminal plasma of control
healthy men was 2.2 0.3 nmol MDA ml
. On the other
hand, it was found increased in ‘under stress’ normozoos-
permic (+55%; P< 0.01), oligozoospermic (+48%;
P< 0.01) and asthenozoospermic (+49%; P< 0.01)
subjects (Table 2). After treatment with M. pruriens, the
levels of lipid peroxides were reversed significantly in
normozoospermic (34%: P< 0.001), oligozoospermic
(27%; P< 0.001) and asthenozoospermic men (28%;
P< 0.001). We also observed that SOD activity in seminal
plasma of control group was 8.1 0.5 unitmg
However, this enzyme was found significantly suppressed
CON Pre Post Pre Post Pre Post
Normo Oligo Astheno
NS NS NS
75 Semen lique faction time
NS NS NS
CON Pre Post Pre Post Pre Post
Normo Oligo Astheno
CON Pre Post Pre Post Pre Post
Normo Oligo Astheno
CON Pre Post Pre Post Pre Post
Normo Oligo Astheno
Figure 1. Semen profiles of ‘under stress’ infertile men treated with M. pruriens. CON = Control; Pre = Pre-treatment; Post = Post-treatment;
Normo = Normozoospermic; Oligo = Oligozoospermic; Astheno = Asthenozoospermic. Each bar represents mean SD. Significance:
a = P < 0.001, b = P < 0.01, c = P < 0.05; compared with controls, *** = P < 0.001; compared with pre treatment subjects, NS = Not significant.
Table 1. State anxiety score and serum cortisol levels in infertile men before and after treatment with M. pruriens
Stress parameter Non stress (Control) Psychological stress
Normozoospermic Oligozoospermic Asthenozoospermic
State anxiety score 41.0 8.0 50.1 11.8
Serum cortisol (mg/dl) (0800 h) 10.2 0.2 Pre 14.1 3.0
Pre 21.5 0.7
Pre 28.0 1.0
Post 11.6 0.4*** Post 10.4 0.5*** Post 12.6 2.0***
Serum cortisol (mg/dl) (1600 h) 5.0 0.6 Pre 10.1 1.6
Pre 13.3 4.6
Pre 16.8 1.3
Post 6.0 0.3*** Post 7.3 2.1*** Post 8.5 0.8***
Values are expressed as mean SD.
Significance: State anxiety score:
P< 0.01, as compared with the control group.
P< 0.01, as compared with the control group; ***P< 0.001, as compared with the pre treatment group.
Pre = Pre-treatment; Post = Post-treatment.
eCAM 2010;7(1) 141
in different groups of infertile men, who were under stress;
such as normozoospermic (19%; P< 0.001), oligozoos-
permic (33%; P< 0.001) and asthenozoospermic
(29%; P< 0.001). Treatment with M. pruriens increased
the activity of SOD in normozoospermic (+3%; P< 0.01),
oligozoospermic (+33%; P< 0.01) and asthenozoosper-
mic (+18%; P< 0.01) men. Similarly, catalase activity
in seminal plasma of ‘under stress’ asthenozoospermic
men was found significantly reduced (30%; P< 0.05),
as compared with healthy fertile men. Treatment with
M. pruriens enhanced the activity of the aforementioned
enzyme in all the infertile men.
Ascorbic acid levels in seminal plasma of control group
were 2.3 0.2 mg dl
. On the other hand, these levels were
found decreased in different groups of infertile men who
were under stress, i.e-normozoospermic (9%; P< 0.01),
oligozoospermic (23%; P< 0.01) and asthenozoosper-
mic (36%; P< 0.01). After treatment with M. pruriens
the levels of ascorbic acid were found increased in
normozoospermic (+11%; P< 0.5), oligozoospermic
(+33%; P< 0.01) and asthenozoospermic (+36%;
P< 0.01) men (Table 2). Similarly, GSH content in
seminal plasma of under stress normozoospermic (13%;
P> 0.05), oligozoospermic (20%; P> 0.05) and asthe-
nozoospermic (47%; P< 0.05) infertile men was found
decreased as compared with control group. Treatment with
the drug restored the levels of GSH in normozoospermic
(+19%; P< 0.05), oligozoospermic (+18%; P< 0.05)
and asthenozoospermic (+22%; P< 0.05) men.
We observed that oral administration of M. pruriens to
infertile men for 3 months not only resulted in general
improvement in sperm count and motility but it also led to
significant reduction in the level of psychological stress, as
assessed by a questionnaire and serum cortisol levels.
Male fertility and reproduction are known to be affected
by various kinds of stressful conditions, including
psychological stress (26). The autonomic nervous system
and adrenal hormones participate in stress response, which
also affects steroidogenesis and spermatogenesis (27). We
report elevated serum cortisol levels in infertile men, who
were under psychological stress. The latter causes stimula-
tion of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) leading
to the release of the corticotropin releasing hormone
(CRF), adrenocorticotropin hormone (ACTH) and corti-
sol. Chronically increased cortisol level, as seen during
prolonged stress, may reduce the functional activity of
leuteinizing hormone—release hormone (LHRH) pulse
generator, which may lead to decrease in gonadotropin
and testosterone levels (26,28). Moreover, long-term
psychological stress may also decrease the concentration
of catchecholamines, like dopamine, noradrenalin,
5,6,dihydroxy phenyl acetic acid (DOPAC) and homo-
vanillic acid (HVA) in brain. Decrease in the activity of
dopaminergic neurons is also known to affect the fertility,
sperm count and motility. There are reports that
M. pruriens is also rich in L-DOPA, besides having several
other alkaloids and flavonoids. Therefore, our results
demonstrating reduction in psychological stress following
administration of M. pruriens may be linked to high
L-DOPA content of this herb (29).
Our results also demonstrate that lipid peroxide levels
were significantly high in the seminal plasma of subjects
who were under stress, which may be due to increased
oxidative stress. Psychological stress is known to be
associated with increased oxidant production and long-
term exposure to stress may lead to peroxidation of
polyunsaturated fatty acids of sperm membrane, resulting
in unfavorable alterations in sperm structure and func-
tion (6,7). Moreover, we also observed that in infertile
men who were under psychological stress, there were low
seminal plasma SOD and catalase activities and reduced
levels of glutathione and ascorbic acid. But there was
improvement in these enzymes and molecule levels
following treatment with M. pruriens. The improvement
in anti-oxidant content following treatment may be due
Table 2. Biochemical parameters of under stress infertile men before and after treatment with M. pruriens
Biochemical Parameter Non-stress
Normozoospermic Oligozoospermic Asthenozoospermic
Pre-treatment Post-treatment Pre-treatment Post-treatment Pre-treatment Post-treatment
Lipid Peroxide (nmole MDA ml
) 2.2 0.2 3.4 0.3
2.3 0.3*** 3.3 0.3
2.4 0.4*** 3.3 0.3
8.1 0.7 6.5 0.5
7.2 0.7*** 5.7 0.5
protein) 9.2 0.8 8.60.7
9.3 0.8** 8.8 0.6
9.2 0.3* 6.5 0.9
Ascorbic acid (mgdl
) 2.3 0.2 2.0 0.2
2.3 0.2*** 1.7 0.3
2.3 0.4*** 1.5 0.3
Glutathione (mg dl
) 1.6 0.5 1.3 0.2
1.6 0.3** 1.3 0.2
1.6 0.5** 1.3 0.3
Fructose (mg ml
) 2.6 0.4 2.2 0.2
2.4 0.3** 1.1 0.3
Values are expressed as mean SD.
P< 0.05 as compared with the control group.
***P< 0.001, **P< 0.01, *P< 0.05 as compared with the pre treatment group,
142 Mucuna pruriens in infertile men
to the reduction of oxidative stress. As stated earlier,
M. pruriens is reported to contain many bioactive
constituents, including alkaloids, coumarins, flavonoids
and alkylamines etc. which play an important role in
increasing the antioxidant capacity of treated men (15).
Furthermore, reduced stress and reactivation of antiox-
idants might have in turn lead to reduction in seminal
plasma lipid peroxide content. Our results are also in
concurrence with earlier reports that M. pruriens is a
known adaptogen and its alcoholic extract reduces lipid
peroxidation and maintains the levels of glutathione and
SOD activity (30,31).
M. pruriens seeds are rich source of L-DOPA and its
metabolites, which include epinephrine and norepineph-
rine. Therefore, an increase in dopamine level in the brain
following M. pruriens treatment may not only induce the
activation of sexual behavior but it may also increase
plasma testosterone level. It has been reported recently
that L-DOPA and its metabolite dopamine stimulate the
hypothalamus and forebrain to secrete gonadotropin-
releasing hormone (GnRH) (32). This, in turn, upregu-
lates the anterior pituitary gland to secrete follicle
stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone
(LH) causing increased synthesis of testosterone by
Leydig cells of the testis (33,34). Furthermore, sperma-
togenesis is controlled by the hypothalamus and anterior
pituitary working together. On the basis of the afore-
stated facts, it may be proposed that increased dopamine
level in the brain may not only optimize the release of
hormones, including testosterone, leading to increased
sexual drive and improved performance, but it may also
accomplish reduction of psychological stress. Moreover,
treatment with M. pruriens may also contribute to proper
functioning of male genital system and facilitate sperm
transport, contraction of seminal vesicles and inhibition
of lipid peroxidation of spermatozoa (35).
On the basis of results of the present study and as
gleaned by earlier reports, it may be concluded that
M. pruriens not only helps in reducing psychological
stress, but also improves semen quality as it restores
antioxidant levels and reduces lipid peroxide content.
Authors acknowledge with thanks the financial support
from Indian Council of Medical Research, New Delhi in
the form of Ad-hoc research scheme No. 5/10/8/2004-
RHN. Authors acknowledge with thanks the help and
assistance of Prof. Mahdi Hasan (Department of
Anatomy), Prof. R.K. Singh (HOD, Biochemistry) and
Dr Ramesh Chander (Department of Biochemistry).
Moreover, thanks are also due to Dr Farzana Mahdi,
Director Academics, Era’s Lucknow Medical College and
Hospital, Lucknow, for providing facilities for some of
the laboratory work. We would also like to thank
Mr M.P.S. Negi, Biometry and Statistics Division,
CDRI, Lucknow for providing assistance in statistical
analysis of data and preparation of graphs.
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Received April 3, 2007; accepted October 28, 2007
144 Mucuna pruriens in infertile men