The Health Benefits of Mulungu

A natural remedy with sedative properties

Mulungu tincture, capsules, and powder

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Mulungu (Erythrina mulungu) is a natural remedy said to offer a variety of health benefits related to relaxation, including better sleep and improved anxiety. It is also thought to help alleviate pain, support weight loss, and protect against epileptic seizures.

Extracted from the ornamental mulungu tree, native to South America, mulungu is available in dietary supplement form. Though popular throughout Brazil and Peru, mulungu's safety and effectiveness are unclear due to very limited research.

Health Benefits

Support for the use of mulungu is mainly anecdotal. Preliminary animal studies have focused on a few key areas of potential use.

Results, however, are only somewhat informative because they cannot automatically be considered applicable to humans. As such, it's too soon to recommend mulungu as a treatment for any condition.

Here's a look at what is known about this herb.

Anxiety

Mulungu is thought to possess sedative properties, and studies performed on rodents show that the remedy may hold promise for the treatment of anxiety.

For example, a study published in the Journal of Pharmacy & Pharmacology found that extracts of mulungu bark helped lower anxiety in mice by depressing the central nervous system.

A 2003 study from Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin found that rats treated with mulungu extract experienced a decrease in anxiety. Given this finding, the study's authors suggest that mulungu may help manage such conditions as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and panic disorder.

Human research investigating these benefits in humans is lacking.

One small study published in 2014 examined the role of mulungu bark extract on anxiety experienced by patients waiting to undergo molar extraction. Study authors found that mulungu provided a tranquilizing effect without significant negative side effects. They concluded that it could be considered an alternative to medication for the management of anxiety in adult patients undergoing dental surgery.

Still, more research is needed before mulungu can be recommended for the treatment of anxiety-related conditions in humans.

Pain

Mulungu may help lessen pain, according to a 2003 study from Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin.

Researchers tested the pain-blocking effects of a combination of Erythrina mulungu and Erythrina velutina on mice with abdominal contractions and found the extracts effectively reduced contractions better than the control group. 

In addition, investigators administered the opioid-blocker naltrexone and determined the herbs’ pain-relieving effects are independent of the opioid system. 

While the study shows promise for the herbal duo, it is unclear if mulungu is an effective pain reliever on its own. More research, including human trials, is needed before recommending mulungu for pain relief.

Epilepsy

Mulungu may have anticonvulsant effects, according to an animal-based study published in Epilepsy & Behavior in 2012. Researchers found that erysothrine, a compound extracted from the flowers of the mulungu plant, helped inhibit seizures and produced mild anti-anxiety effects.

Investigators induced seizures in the study subjects using GABA antagonists and glutamate agonists and found erysothrine effectively inhibited seizure activity. In addition, the herbal preparation was well tolerated and did not alter behavior in the animals. 

While the research shows promise for stopping seizures, human trials are needed before mulungu can be recommended as a treatment for epilepsy and other seizure disorders. 

Possible Side Effects

Due to a lack of research, little is known about the safety of long-term use of mulungu. However, there's some concern that it may cause drowsiness. Additionally, mulungu may be harmful to people with low blood pressure.

The safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions has not been established.

As you consider the potential side effects of using mulungu, also remember that self-treating a chronic condition may have serious consequences because it means you are avoiding/delaying standard care.

If you're considering using mulungu, make sure to talk to your healthcare provider first.

Mulungu powder

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Selection, Preparation, and Storage

Mulungu is sold as a tincture and as a powder. The tincture is applied under the tongue or the powder is dissolved in warm water.

Some sources suggest taking mulungu about 20 minutes before bed for relaxation and better sleep. But there is not enough scientific evidence to determine an appropriate or safe dose, and those recommended by brands vary.

You may be able to find mulungu in some natural-foods stores and shops specializing in dietary supplements. However, it is not as popular in North America and Europe as it is in South America, so online vendors may be your only option.

When shopping for mulungu or any supplement, remember that these products are largely unregulated and haven't been tested for safety. In some cases, a product may deliver doses that differ from what is specified on the label. In others, ta product may be contaminated with other substances, such as metals.

Look for products that have been certified by ConsumerLabs, U.S. Pharmacopeia, or NSF International. These independent organizations don't guarantee that a product they certify is safe or effective, but they do provide a certain level of testing for quality.

Finally, keep in mind that according to guidelines established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it is illegal to market a dietary supplement product as a treatment or cure for a disease or to reduce symptoms of a disease.

Common Questions

I've heard mulungu can help me quit smoking. Is that true?
Investigators are starting to look into whether mulungu may be useful for coping with nicotine withdrawal during the smoking cessation process. However, it is too soon to tell if these supplements may provide any such benefit in humans.

What are some alternatives to mulungu for anxiety relief?
A number of other natural remedies appear to aid in anxiety management. For example, research suggests that herbs like passionflower, kava, and valerian may each help. There's also some evidence that yoga, meditation, guided imagery, massage, acupuncture, and hypnosis may help manage anxiety. When used in aromatherapy, essential oils like lavender and rose can have anxiety-relieving effects as well.

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