Mucuna pruriens bears white, lavender, or purple flowers. Its seed pods are about 10 cm long and are covered in loose orange hairs that cause a severe itch if they come in contact with skin. The chemical compounds responsible for the itch are a protein, mucunain, and serotonin. The seeds are shiny black or brown drift seeds. It is found in tropical Africa, India and the Caribbean.
Mucuna pruriens is sometimes used as a coffee substitute called "Nescafe" (not to be confused with the commercial brand). Cooked fresh shoots or beans can also be eaten. This requires that they be soaked from at least 30 minutes to 48 hours in advance of cooking, or the water changed up to several times during cooking, since otherwise the plant can be toxic to humans. The above described process leaches out chemical compounds such as levodopa, making the product suitable for consumption. If consumed in large quantities as food, unprocessed Mucuna pruriens is toxic to nonruminant mammals including humans.