M. whitei consists of the dried roots of Mondia whitei. M. whiteiis aperennial woody climber reaching 3–6 m high with twining stems which exudes white latex when cut. It has characteristic large, oppositely positioned heart-shaped leaves.
It is especially valued for its medicinal virtues, particularly as an aphrodisiac, but is also as a food, drink, source of fibre and tooth cleaner. The roots are used to flavour food and tea. Both the roots and the root bark have a pronounced vanilla-like odour and taste like a mixture of liquorice and ginger. They are anodyne, aphrodisiac, appetizer, carminative, diuretic, expectorant, purgative, restorative, stomachic, tonic and uterine stimulant.
The root is especially highly valued throughout Africa as an aphrodisiac – the fresh or dried roots are chewed to treat sexual weakness, prevent premature ejaculation and to increase sperm production.
A decoction or infusion is widely taken to treat digestive troubles including gastro-intestinal problems, stomach-ache, indigestion, constipation, anorexia, and as a restorative and appetite stimulant.
The decoction is also used to treat a wide range of other conditions, including urinary infections, gonorrhoea, jaundice, coughs, bronchitis, chest complaints, headache, paralysis and epileptic attacks, depression, to relieve body pains
Mucuna pruriens (Velvet bean) is an established herbal drug used for the management of male infertility, nervous disorders, and also as an aphrodisiac. It has been shown that its seeds are potentially of substantial medicinal importance. The ancient Indian medical system, Ayurveda, traditionally used Velvet bean, even to treat such things as Parkinson’s disease. Velvet bean has been shown to have anti-parkinson and neuroprotective effects, which may be related to its anti-oxidant activity. It is a good source of L-DOPA as well as anti-diabetic.