The chronic progressive neurodegenerative Parkinson’s disease occurs due to the damage to the dopaminergic neurones in the nigro-striatal region of the brain. Dopaminergic neurons are responsible for the production of neurotransmitter Dopamine, which is predominantly involved in the muscular control and coordination of the body, deficiency of which results in the manifestation of various movement disorder symptoms like tremors, rigidity, stiffness, slowing of movements, frequent falls and freezing of gait.
Various therapeutic medications, surgical treatments, homeopathy, stem cell culture, gene therapy, mind energy and body energy techniques have been employed in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. However, there is no specific line of management of the disease, the best possible outcome arises from the synergistic effect of various combinations of the above mentioned techniques, which are advised on the case individual basis.
One such technique is the use of certain natural remedies and foods for the prevention and cure of PD. Natural remedies for Parkinson’s disease may vary from herbs to homeopathic remedies, nutritional substances and floral extracts. Many modern drugs have been sourced from plants and once the active ingredient was identified, it was synthetically manufactured in easy to acquire and convenient dosage forms like tablets and capsules. In the more traditional approach to health care, the naturally occurring ingredients are either used for its pharmacological action or based on alternative approaches to treating disease. Nutrition is a cornerstone of most complementary therapies for Parkinson’s disease but individual beliefs have varied according to regional and cultural differences.
Biologically Based Therapies
Naturally available substances are used in this type of therapy either in the food or as separate supplements.
- Altering the type of diet taken or including certain substances in the diet have often been claimed to provide relief from various symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Of these, vitamin E (found in whole grains, seeds, and green leafy vegetables), vitamin C, and Coenzyme Q10 may have certain benefits, although this has not been definitively proven.
- Research has shown that broad beans (fava beans) are a natural source of levodopa. Varying doses and metabolism of fava beans may however impact on the therapeutic benefit.
- Action of proteins on Levodopa: Proteins may interfere with the action of levodopa hence it is best to restrict protein intake two hours before and one hour after taking levodopa. Proteins are best taken with the evening meal. So the patient must avoid very proteinic diet which includes meat, fish, and cheese and must eat more carbohydrates and vegetables during the day. The medication must be taken on an empty stomach 30 minutes before or 60 minutes after a meal which allows the drug to travel to the small intestine and get absorbed faster.
- Action of Iron on Levodopa: Iron supplements are also known to decrease the absorption of levodopa. Hence, they should be separated from the medication by minimum 2 hours.
- Caffeine may lower the risk of PD.
- Diet to ease constipation: Since constipation is a common symptom in early Parkinson’s disease, increased fluid and fibre consumption can help to maintain the bowel regularity. Also the patient must aim to drink 6 to 8 ounce glasses of water daily. the dietary sources of fiber includes fruits, vegetables, legume, whole grains and cereals.
Herbal medicine (phytotherapy) makes use of plants and their extracts to treat diseases. These may be prescribed according to the whole systems of medicine described below or based on the action of the pharmacologically active ingredients which have been scientifically verified.
- Herbs such as Ginkgo biloba and Bacopa monniera (brahmi) may be effective in PD by improving blood circulation in the brain.
- Mucuna pruriensis is an herb that contains levodopa
- Hypericum perforatum (St. John’s wort), a herb that has been used extensively in Europe for many years, may be helpful in treating depression and insomnia that is often associated with PD.
- Aromatherapy can be considered as part of herbal therapy, where essential oils of plants are used for treatment. Passion flower or oil of evening primrose has been clai readymed to be helpful in alleviating various symptoms of PD.
- Green tea: Green tea shows signs of being able to help against Parkinson’s disease. Research has shown that green tea contains polyphenols that are known to protect the dopamine neurons in a study model. The neuroprotective agent in green tea reduced the dopaminergic neuronal death rate to half, when it was administered to mice.
- Turmeric: The clumping of the protein Alpha- synuclein in the form of Lewy bodies is a known reason responsible to cause Parkinson’s disease. Consumption of turmeric which contains a compound Curcumin, helps to fight off the Parkinson’s disease by disrupting the aggregation and clumping of the protein alpha-synuclein.
Whole Medical Systems
Considered by many as the oldest healing science, ayurveda is an age old method of treatment practiced in ancient India since nearly 5000 years. The body is treated as a whole, with equal emphasis on diet, herbs, enema, meditation, massage, and exercise (yoga). PD has been mentioned in old ayurvedic texts as Kampa (tremor) vata (energy controlling body functions). Mucuna pruriens is an herb used in ayurvedic medicine for treating PD that has effects similar to levodopa but with less side effects.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Acupuncture, Chinese herbs, massage, diet, and exercise comprise traditional Chinese medicine which has been practices for over 2000 years in China. It includes the concept that two opposite principles, yin and yang, is in balance within our body. Illness occurs whenever there is imbalance of yin and yang due to improper flow of life force and this balance needs to be restored to achieve health. In acupuncture, very fine sterile needles are inserted into specific points of the body. These are presumed to realign energy flow through the body and help in healing.
The homeopathic system of medicine was developed in Germany over 200 years ago. The basic principle of homeopathy is “like cures like”, meaning that a disease can be cured by a substance which produces similar symptoms in healthy people. The body’s ability to heal itself is utilized by giving tiny doses of highly diluted substances known as potentized remedies. These remedies are derived from natural substances originating in plants, animals, or minerals. It may be effective in alleviating certain symptoms of PD. Medication will depend upon the individual symptoms.
This is a system of therapy which relies almost totally on natural remedies such as air, water, and sunlight, along with diet and massage. The belief is that a healthy environment will cause the body to heal naturally. These days, homeopathic remedies, herbs and even acupuncture are often used by naturopaths in conjunction with traditional naturopathic principles.
To sum up, it must be noted that there is no single cure to Parkinson’s disease. It is important to take extra measures to slow down the progression of symptoms. Having said that, the importance of various natural nootropic compounds, which have been used for thousands of years must be realised as these are great preventive medicines, as well as natural methods to treat Parkinson’s in early stages.