The Health Benefits of Massularia Acuminata

Can West African plant boost sex drive and prevent cavities?

Female dentist talking to her patient at dentist's office

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Massularia acuminata is the name of a species of plant native to tropical regions of western Africa. Long used in Yoruba medicine of Nigeria as a chewing stick and aphrodisiac, M. acuminata is believed to aid in dental health, increase testosterone levels, and alleviate muscle pain.

M. acuminata grows as a shrub or small tree beneath the main canopy of a tropical forest. The root, stem, fruit, and leaves are believed to have medicinal properties, some of which are evidenced in clinical research. In Yoruba medicine, M. acuminata is known by the names pako ijebu or orin ijebu.

Health Benefits

The stems of M. acuminata are traditionally used as chewing sticks to improve oral health. The plant leaves are also used to make a topical extract to treat myalgia (muscle pain). The plant is also believed to have pro-androgenic effects, stimulating the production of testosterone in a way that improves mood, libido, athletic performance, and lean muscle growth.

As with many folk remedies, there is little clinical evidence to support the claims. With that said, preliminary research has shed light on possible applications for this little-known but fascinating herbal remedy.

Testosterone

A 2011 study published in the German journal Andrologia suggests that extracts of M. acuminata root may enhance libido. The study's authors reported that male Wicker mice fed a water-based M. acuminata extract had an increased frequency and duration of sexual intercourse compared to untreated mice. This effect was equal to that of the erectile dysfunction drug Viagra (sildenafil citrate) used in a reference group of mice.

In addition to sexual activity, testosterone levels were seen to increase in tandem with higher doses. The scientists believe that pro-androgenic compounds found in the plant (including alkaloids, saponins, and flavonoids) were responsible for the effect.

It is too soon to say whether M. acuminata can work as a "natural Viagra" in humans or if the transient boost in testosterone offers any genuine benefits. Certainly, the dose used in the study—500 to 1,000 milligrams per kilograms (mg/kg) per day—would be extremely difficult to achieve with an herbal supplement. Further research is needed.

Oral Health

Using M. acuminata stems or extracts may improve gum health, suggests a 2016 study in the Journal of Restorative Dentistry.

According to the report, scientists from Delta State University in Nigeria compared bacteria in the mouth of study participants after being given either an extract of M. acuminata or one of several different commercial types of mouthwash (including Listerine).

Using a sterile mouth swab, the researchers found the M. acuminata given at a dose of 50 milligrams per milliliter (mg/mL) was more effective in neutralizing Streptococcus oralis, Neisseria sicca, and Lactobacillus species than the commercial mouthwashes. Only Listerine (prescribed at doses greater than 50 mg/mL) was effective in killing Neisseria sicca.

The suppression of these and other bacteria are known to reduce the incidence of cavities, gingivitis, and periodontitis. Further research is needed to confirm the safety and effectiveness of M. acuminata in treating oral diseases.

Chewing sticks for dental health is never a good idea as it can wear enamel, damage and discolor teeth, and affect the proper alignment of your bite.

Possible Side Effects

Little is known about the safety of M. acuminata, in part because so little is seen or used in the United States. Even so, there are some concerns.

Animal-based studies have shown that M. acuminata can alter liver function, increasing bilirubin and albumin levels at 200-mg/kg doses. Kidney function may also be affected, triggering increases in creatinine and urea. Potassium and calcium levels were also seen to rise with ongoing use.

As these increases are all warning signs of potential harm, M. acuminata should be avoided in people with liver or kidney disease as well as heavy drinkers.

Due to the lack of research, M. acuminata should not be used in children, pregnant women, or nursing mothers. The same may apply to women wanting to get pregnant.

Because M. acuminata can increase luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) levels, it may affect ovulation and your chances of pregnancy. (Elevated LH and FSH are both associated with ovarian failure.)

It is unknown whether M. acuminata can interact with other drugs.

Selection, Preparation, and Storage

M. acuminata is not commonly found in the United States. There are some M. acuminata elixirs and supplements sold in capsule form, but they are usually hard to find outside of certain online retailers. Fresh M. acuminata in any form is virtually unheard of in North America.

There are some products sold as "natural testosterone boosters" that may include M. acuminata as an ingredient. With that said, most claims of "testosterone boosting" are exaggerated and based on pseudoscience.

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Article Sources

  1. Yakuba MT, Akanji MA. Effect of Aqueous Extract of Massularia acuminata Stem on Sexual Behaviour of Male Wistar Rats. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011;2011:738103. doi:10.1155/2011/738103.

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