TGIF: Alternative Treatments Give Relief to Parkinson’s Patients

The lack of dopamine is the primary reason for the symptoms associated with the Parkinson’s Disease. Since the prescription Levodopa first began being administered in the 1960’s, it has lessened much of the suffering experienced by millions of people throughout the world, and is recognized as the “gold standard” in medical treatment of the disease. However, it can not completely reverse the symptoms, and like all drugs, is more effective in some than others.

There are no interventions that we know for sure slow down the progression of Parkinson’s, but recent research suggests that one potential means to this might be found in modifying nerve cell metabolism. Most cells in our body contain “energy generators” called mitochondria; their function is vital, and the brain in particular uses high amounts of energy. Researchers think that deficiencies in the functioning of mitochondria may play a role in PD, raising the question as to whether changing the energy balance in nerve cells could be protective.

Consequently many have sought hope in alternative treatments. Parkinson’s disease has been a recognized ailment in virtually all cultures since ancient times. Most alternative treatments are harmless, but some herbal remedies may interfere with prescription medication, so be sure to consult your health practitioner for advice. Many of these ancient treatments are becoming popular in the west and are increasingly validated by western medicine.

Ayurvedic medicine has been practiced in India for 5000 years. Parkinson’s symptoms are mentioned in ancient text under the name Kampavata. Ayurvedic medicine is a comprehensive system placing equal emphasis on diet, exercise, meditation, massage and herbs. Here is a detailed list of some alternative treatments for Parkinson’s Disease:

Broad beans– Australian researchers discovered that broad beans are also an extremely effective natural source of L-dopa. The highest concentration of L-dopa is found in the pod so they are most effective when consumed whole.

Herbal Remedies – Coordination and balance difficulties are only some of the problems faced by PWPs; for many, such effects as depression and memory decline may be even more troubling. One substance that seems to have mild benefit for memory in Alzheimer’s disease is ginkgo biloba, a plant extract consisting of a complex mixture of different chemicals. It also seems to protect nerve cells from MPTP, a neurotoxin that leads to Parkinson’s disease.

In efforts to ease the depression that is commonly associated with Parkinson’s, some patients take St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum). However, since it has properties similar to medicines such as Prozac or Paxil, it should not be taken alongside other antidepressants because of the risk of serious side effects.

Botulinum toxin A– This is a bacterium that causes food poisoning (botulism) but has proven to be effective in reducing hand, head and voice tremors when in a weak solution.

Dietary Supplementations – One compound that has attracted a lot of attention lately in this connection is Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), a common nutritional supplement. CoQ10 plays an important role in the mitochondria and is also a potent antioxidant.

Another supplement that likely acts through its effects on energy metabolism and could be useful in Parkinson’s is creatine. This compound increases levels of phosphocreatine, an energy source in the muscle and brain, and in experimental studies it protects against nerve cell injury. The supplement has few reported side effects and is also of interest as a potential therapy for muscle disease as well as other chronic diseases such as Lou Gehrig’s disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) or Huntington’s chorea.

Glutathione, a compound with multiple effects on nerve cell metabolism as well as a powerful antioxidant, is of particular interest for patients because of studies showing its depletion in the substantia nigra (the site of major nerve cell damage in PD).

Acupuncture– Used for centuries in China to correct energy disturbances in the body. It has become a popular method of treatment for Parkinson’s sufferers the world over. So far there are no placebo controlled studies that show acupuncture can treat the motor control symptoms of the disease, but there is some evidence that it can assist with sleep disturbances. There is much anecdotal evidence to suggest that it may be effective in increasing feelings of well being and relaxation.

Vitamin Therapy –  There has been much hope that antioxidants could play a role in slowing the progression of the disease. Vitamins C and E can combat the damage caused by so called “free radicals”  and high dietary intake of vitamin E has been linked to lower risk of getting Parkinson’s disease.

Exercise and Massage– While not treating the symptoms directly, yoga or Tai Chi can help improve overall balance. Massage can help reduce some of the discomfort associated with muscle stiffness that is commonly experienced by patients.

If you suffer from Parkinson’s disease and would like to begin an alternative treatment plan, please call our office at (304) 263-4927 to schedule an appointment.



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