Muira puama is from the Olacaceae family, and the genus is Ptychopetalum (species olacoides). It is a small bush that grows up to 5 metres in height and produces flowers with a pungent, jasmine-like fragrance. The bark and roots of the plant are used medicinally.
The active constituents of muira puama are free long-chain fatty acids, sterols, coumarin, alkaloids and essential oils. Chemically, it contains 0.05% muirapuamine, 0.4% fat, 0.5% alkaloids, 0.6% pholbaphene, 0.6% alpha-resinic acid, 0.7% beta resinic acid, 0.5% of a mixture of esters (including behenic acid, lupeol and beta-sitosterol), as well as tannin, volatile oils and fatty acids.
Found in the Brazilian amazon, muira puama is a shrub that has been used in South American traditional medicine for a wide variety of conditions, including decreased libido and erectile dysfunction. Muira Puama is an old folk aphrodisiac and cure for sexual impotence; in one study in 1990, muira puama extract improved libido in 62% of patients with a lack of sexual desire. It may also be helpful in treating nervous system disorders, neuralgia, baldness, neuromuscular problems, gastrointestinal disorders and rheumatism.
Muira puama has been used as a herb in Europe for a considerable length of time, and is listed in the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia, a source on herbal medicine from the British Herbal Medicine Association. The action of the muira puama herb is not fully understood, but it seems to assist with both the psychological as well as the physical aspect of sexual function. It is considered a safe herb.