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Muira Puama

Scientific Name(s): Liriosma ovata Miers., Ptychopetalum olacoides Benth., Ptychopetalum uncinatum Anselm.
Common Name(s): Composita, Marapuama, Mirantã, Muira puama, Muirapuama, Pilula Potentin, Potency wood, Potenzholz, Raiz del macho

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Sep 21, 2021.

Clinical Overview


Clinical evidence is lacking to support the effects of P. olacoides on sexual dysfunction. Focus has turned to an examination of potential use in Alzheimer or similar conditions of cognitive decline. Studies in rodents demonstrated improved memory and reversal of cognitive impairment; however, clinical trials are lacking.


Research reveals no quality clinical trials to provide guidance on suitable dosages.


Contraindications have not yet been identified.


Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Research regarding adverse reactions to muira puama is lacking.


Studies are lacking. In a toxicity study of the combination preparation Catuama in healthy volunteers taking a 25 mL dose (containing 0.875 mL P. olacoides) twice daily for 28 days, no severe adverse reactions of hematological or biochemical changes were reported.

Scientific Family

  • Olacaceae (olax)


P. olacoides is a small tree, growing to about 14 feet tall, that is native to the Brazilian Amazon rainforest. Its leaves are light green with dark brown lower surfaces and broadly ovate, with an obtuse base, an attenuated apex, and short petioles. Flowers are arranged in short axillary racemes consisting of 4 to 6 flowers. The light-brown to grayish-brown roots are approximately 1.5 feet long and 1/8 to 1.5 inches in diameter, with short, sharp projections occasionally uniting 2 or more roots. They are conical and nearly straight, tapering into a small point. The roots have a slightly saline and acrid taste.1


The promotion of muira puama as a male aphrodisiac or as a treatment for impotence can be traced back to the 1930s in Europe, but its popularity has increased with the success of sildenafil and the concurrent promotion of herbal sildenafil preparations. It is also a constituent of the popular Brazilian herbal tonic Catuama, consisting of guarana, ginger, Trichilia catigua, and P. olacoides. Muira puama was included in the Brazilian Pharmacopeia of 1956. The stems and roots of P. olacoides have been used as a tonic for neuromuscular problems. A root decoction is used externally in massages and baths for paralysis and beriberi. Tea made from the roots has been used ingested for sexual impotence, rheumatism, and GI problems.1, 2


P. olacoides root bark produces a volatile oil containing alph-pinene, alph-humulene, beta-pinene, beta-caryophyllene, camphene, and camphor as major constituents.3, 4 Alpha- and beta-resinic acid have been identified in whole-plant extracts.4, 5 Methods for identification of diterpenoids and flavonoids have been described.6, 7 Thin-layer chromatography of an alkaloid fraction demonstrated the absence of yohimbine, but coumarin was detected.8 Fatty acid esters of sterols, free fatty acids (C21-C25), and free sterols such as lupeol have been isolated and identified.8, 9, 10 Similar compounds were isolated from L. ovata.11

Uses and Pharmacology


Animal data

Animal studies for aphrodisiac effects are lacking.12 Effects on estrogen receptors have been demonstrated.13 In a study in which the other constituents of Catuama (guarana, catuaba, and ginger) were active, P. olacoides had no vasorelaxant effects.14 In another study, P. olacoides demonstrated less smooth muscle relaxant properties than the other constituents of catuama.15, 16

Clinical data

Clinical evidence is lacking to support the effects of P. olacoides on sexual dysfunction.16, 17 An open-label, uncontrolled clinical study suggested improvement upon administration of muira pauma in men with a lack of sexual desire and the inability to attain or maintain an erection.18 A study conducted by the same researchers among women with sexual dysfunction using a combination of muira puama and ginkgo, also using an open-label design with no comparator, reported improved libido.19

CNS effects

Animal data

Studies in rodents have demonstrated improved memory and reversal of cognitive impairment.20, 21, 22, 23 Mechanisms of action are unclear; however, repair of damaged neural cells and regeneration have been suggested,24 and anticholinesterase activity has been demonstrated.25, 26

The antidepressant activity of P. olacoides, including activity on serotonin receptors, has been demonstrated in mice.27, 28, 29, 30 Conversely, anxiogenic properties have been noted based on ethnopharmacological and rodent studies.31, 32 Antioxidant effects in the CNS have been demonstrated in mice.33, 34

Clinical data

Research reveals no clinical data for the use of P. olacoides in CNS disorders.

Other uses

A multi-ingredient topical preparation that included P. olacoides was studied in periorbital hyperchromia (dark circles). The observed improvements were attributed to antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.35

A screening study reported antimicrobial effects of P. olacoides extracts.36


Research reveals no quality clinical trials on which to provide guidance on suitable dosages. A toxicity study of the combination preparation Catuama in healthy volunteers used a 25 mL dose (containing 0.875 mL P. olacoides) twice daily for 28 days.37

Pregnancy / Lactation

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. Effects on estrogen receptors have been demonstrated.13


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Research regarding adverse reactions to muira puama is lacking. A study of the combination preparation Catuama in healthy volunteers found no serious adverse reactions and no hematological or biochemical changes at 25 mL dose (containing 0.875 mL of P. olacoides) twice daily for 28 days.37


Studies are lacking. In a toxicity study of the combination preparation Catuama in healthy volunteers taking a 25 mL dose (containing 0.875 mL P. olacoides) twice daily for 28 days, no severe adverse reactions of hematological or biochemical changes were reported.37


1. Youngken HW. Observations of Muira-Puama. J Am Pharm Assoc. 1921;10(9):690-692.
2. Schultes RE, Raffauf RF. Schultes RE, Raffauf RF. The Healing Forest: Medicinal and Toxic Plants of the Northwest Amazonia. Portland, OR: Dioscorides Press;1990: 343.
3. Bucek E, Fournier G, Dadoun H. Volatile constituents of Ptychopetalum olacoides root oil. Planta Med. 1987;53(2):231.17269009
4. Duke JA. Handbook of Biologically Active Phytochemicals and Their Activities. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, Inc; 1992.
5. Rolim A, Maciel CP, Kaneko TM, Consiglieri VO, Salgado-Santos IM, Velasco MV. Validation assay for total flavonoids, as rutin equivalents, from Trichilia catigua Adr. Juss (Meliaceae) and Ptychopetalum olacoides Bentham (Olacaceae) commercial extract. J AOAC Int. 2005;88(4):1015-1019.16152916
6. Tang W, Kubo M, Harada K, Hioki H, Fukuyama Y. Novel NGF-potentiating diterpenoids from a Brazilian medicinal plant, Ptychopetalum olacoides. Bioorg Med Chem Lett. 2009;19(3):882-886.19095451
7. Rolim A, Oishi T, Maciel CP, et al. Total flavonoids quantification from O/W emulsion with extract of Brazilian plants. Int J Pharm. 2006;308(1-2):107-114.16324808
8. Toyota A, Ninomiya R, Kobayashi H, et al. Studies of Brazilian crude drugs. 1. Muira-puama [in Japanese]. Shoyakugaku Zasshi. 1979;33(2):57-64.
9. Ito Y, Hirayama F, Aikawa Y, Kondo H, Sagara K, Shoji J. Constituents from Muira-puama (the roots of Ptychopetalum olacoides). Nat Med. 1995;49:487.
10. Auterhoff H, Pankow E. Contents of muira puama [in German]. Arch Pharm Ber Dtsch Pharm Ges. 1968;301(7):481-489.5249989
11. Iwasa J, Kimura Y. Studies on the constituents of muira puama [in Japanese]. Yakugaku Zasshi. 1969;89(8):1172-1174.5388623
12. Bella AJ, Shamloul R. Traditional plant aphrodisiacs and male sexual dysfunction. Phytother Res. 2014;28(6):831-835.25032254
13. Powers CN, Setzer WN. A molecular docking study of phytochemical estrogen mimics from dietary herbal supplements [published online March 22, 2015]. In Silico Pharmacol. 2015;3:4.2587894810.1186/s40203-015-0008-z
14. Calixto JB, Cabrini DA. Herbal medicine Catuama induces endothelium-dependent and -independent vasorelaxant action on isolated vessels from rats, guinea-pigs and rabbits. Phytother Res. 1997;11(1):32-38.
15. Antunes E, Gordo WM, de Oliveira JF, Teixeira CE, Hyslop S, De Nucci G. The relaxation of isolated rabbit corpus cavernosum by the herbal medicine Catuama and its constituents. Phytother Res. 2001;15(5):416-421.11507734
16. Melnyk JP, Marcone MF. Aphrodisiacs from plant and animal sources—a review of current scientific literature. Food Res Int. 2011;44(4):840-850.
17. Shamloul R. Natural aphrodisiacs. J Sex Med. 2010;7(1 pt 1):39-49.19796015
18. Murray MT. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Atria Books; 2012: 577.
19. Waynberg J, Brewer S. Effects of Herbal vX on libido and sexual activity in premenopausal and postmenopausal women. Adv Ther. 2000;17(5):255-262.11186145
20. Figueiró M, Ilha J, Linck VM, et al. The Amazonian herbal marapuama attenuates cognitive impairment and neuroglial degeneration in a mouse Alzheimer model. Phytomedicine. 2011;18(4):327-333.20739160
21. da Silva AL, Piato AL, Ferreira JG, Martins BS, Nunes DS, Elisabetsky E. Promnesic effects of Ptychopetalum olacoides in aversive and non-aversive learning paradigms. J Ethnopharmacol. 2007;109(3):449-45717023132
22. da Silva AL, Piato AL, Bardini S, Netto CA, Nunes DS, Elisabetsky E. Memory retrieval improvement by Ptychopetalum olacoides in young and aging mice. J Ethnopharmacol. 2004;95(2-3):199-203.15507336
23. da Silva AL, Silva Martins Bd, Linck Vde M, et al. MK801- and scopolamine-induced amnesias are reversed by an Amazonian herbal locally used as a "brain tonic". Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2009;202(1-3):165-172.18695930
24. Howes MJ, Houghton PJ. Ethnobotanical treatment strategies against Alzheimer's disease. Curr Alzheimer Res. 2012;9(1):67-85.22329652
25. Siqueira IR, Fochesatto C, da Silva AL, et al. Ptychopetalum olacoides, a traditional Amazonian "nerve tonic", possesses anticholinesterase activity. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2003;75(3):645-650.12895682
26. Figueiró M, Ilha J, Pochmann D, et al. Acetylcholinesterase inhibition in cognition-relevant brain areas of mice treated with a nootropic Amazonian herbal (marapuama). Phytomedicine. 2010;17(12):956-962.20833520
27. Piato AL, Rizon LP, Martins BS, Nunes DS, Elisabetsky E. Antidepressant profile of Ptychopetalum olacoides Bentham (Marapuama) in mice. Phytother Res. 2009;23(4):519-524.19067380
28. Piato AL, Detanico BC, Jesus JF, Lhullier FL, Nunes DS, Elisabetsky E. Effects of marapuama in the chronic mild stress model: further indication of antidepressant properties. J Ethnopharmacol. 2008;118(2):300-304.18513902
29. Piato AL, 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):248-253.19682881
30. da Silva AL, Ferreira JG, da Silva Martins B, et al. Serotonin receptors contribute to the promnesic effects of P. olacoides (Marapuama). Physiol Behav. 2008;95(1-2):88-92.18561960
31. Paiva LA, Rao VS, Silveira ER. Effects of Ptychopetalum olacoides extract on mouse behaviour in forced swimming and open field tests. Phytother Res. 1998;12(4):294-296.
32. da Silva AL, Bardini S, Nunes DS, Elisabetsky E. Anxiogenic properties of Ptychopetalum olacoides Benth. (Marapuama). Phytother Res. 2002;16(3):223-226.12164265
33. Siqueira IR, Fochesatto C, Torres IL, et al. Antioxidant activities of Ptychopetalum olacoides ("muirapuama") in mice brain. Phytomedicine. 2007;14(11):763-769.17433649
34. Siqueira IR, Cimarosti H, Fochesatto C, et al. Neuroprotective effects of Ptychopetalum olacoides Bentham (Olacaceae) on oxygen and glucose deprivation induced damage in rat hippocampal slices. Life Sci. 2004;75(15):1897-1906.15302233
35. Eberlin S, Del Carmen Velazquez Pereda M, de Campos Dieamant G, Nogueira C, Werka RM, de Souza Queiroz ML. Effects of a Brazilian herbal compound as a cosmetic eyecare for periorbital hyperchromia ("dark circles"). J Cosmet Dermatol. 2009;8(2):127-135.19527337
36. Oliveira AA, Segovia JF, Sousa VY, et al. Antimicrobial activity of amazonian medicinal plants [published online August 5, 2013]. Springerplus. 2013;2:371.2396143110.1186/2193-1801-2-371
37. Oliveira CH, Moraes ME, Moraes MO, Bezerra FA, Abib E, De Nucci G. Clinical toxicology study of an herbal medicinal extract of Paullinia cupana, Trichilia catigua, Ptychopetalum olacoides and Zingiber officinale (Catuama) in healthy volunteers. Phytother Res. 2005;19(1):54-57.15798997


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