Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder of the central nervous system. It causes tremors (especially in the hands) and rigidity (especially in the face). The disease affects men and women equally primarily after age 60. However approximately 10 percent of those with the disease are under age 40. Although no cure for the disease is available at this time drug therapy can help alleviate the symptoms.
Signs and Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease
- Poor balance
- Stiffness and rigid limbs
- Walking problems
- Extremely slow movement
- Involuntary eye closure
Secondary symptoms may include the following.
- Memory loss
- Sleep disturbances
- Speech breathing swallowing problems
- Stooped posture
What Causes Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s disease is caused by the loss of brain cells that produce the neurotransmitter (brain chemical) dopamine which affects muscle activity. The brain’s inability to produce enough of these cells may be due to environmental factors (such as toxins or viruses) heredity certain other brain chemicals the aging process and heroine use.
What to Expect at Your Health Care Provider’s Office
Since no test can positively identify Parkinson’s your provider will rely largely on interviews with you and your family. He or she may order brain scans to measure dopamine activity. Genetic testing may help identify a specific illness (like Huntington’s disease) linked to the disease.
Treatment Options for Parkinson’s Disease
Several drugs treat the symptoms of Parkinson’s but they do not cure it. Certain drugs used to treat glaucoma heart disease and high blood pressure are also effective in the treatment of Parkinson’s. Exercise is important in maintaining or improving mobility. Speech physical and occupational therapy also can help. Psychotherapy can help you cope with depression and the other emotionally stressful aspects of the disease.
Drug Therapies for Parkinson’s Disease
- Levodopa—improves slowness of movement and rigidity; side effects include severe nausea and vomiting low blood pressure involuntary movements restlessness
- Carbidopa—used with levodopa to reduce its side effects
- Anticholinergics—such as benztropine or biperiden; used before levodopa when symptoms are milder; side effects include dry mouth constipation urinary retention hallucinations memory loss blurred vision and confusion
Complementary and Alternative Therapies for Parkinson’s Disease
Alternative therapies may provide some relief of symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.
Nutrition for Parkinson’s Disease
- Essential fatty acids are anti-inflammatory. A mix of omega-6 (evening primrose black currant borage pumpkin seed) and omega-3 (flax seed and fish oils) may be best (2 tbsp. oil per day or 1 000 to 1 500 mg twice a day).
- Antioxidants vitamin C (1 000 mg three times a day) vitamin E (400 to 800 IU per day) and the trace mineral selenium (200 mcg) may slow progression of Parkinson’s. Other antioxidants are alpha-lipoic acid grape seed extract and pycnogenol.
- A vitamin B complex is helpful.
- Vitamin B6 (10 to 100 mg per day) may help with symptom control but should be given with zinc (30 mg per day).
- Manganese: excessive exposure increases the risk of Parkinson’s
- Amino acids: Low-protein diets may help control tremors. However D-tyrosine (100 mg per kg per day) increases dopamine turnover.
- Glutathione: antioxidant (200 mg twice a day)
- Choline increases brain function; various forms include lecithin phosphatidyl choline and DMAE (Dimethylaminoethanol)
- Neurotransmitters made from amino acids such as glutamic acid and GABA (Gamma-aminobutyricacid) are used for Parkinson’s
Herbal Remedies for Parkinson’s Disease
Herbs may be used as dried extracts (capsules powders teas) glycerites (glycerine extracts) or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise indicated teas should be made with 1 tsp. herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers and 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 to 4 cups per day.
- Gotu kola (Centella asiatica): historic use in Parkinson’s. One cup tea twice a day or 30 to 60 drops tincture twice a day
- Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba): circulatory stimulant and an antioxidant (as a supplement 120 mg per day)
- Hawthorn (Crataegus oxyacantha): circulatory stimulant antioxidant (2 to 5 g per day)
- Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) globe artichoke (Cynara scolymus) and Bupleurum species provide liver support.
- St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) skullcap (Scutellaria laterifolia) oats (Avena sativa) and lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) help support the structure of the nervous system.
Homeopathy for Parkinson’s Disease
Usually the dose is 12X to 30C every one to four hours until your symptoms get better.
- Argentum nitricum for ataxia (loss of muscle coordination) trembling awkwardness painless paralysis
- Causticum for Parkinson’s with restless legs at night contractures
- Mercurius vivus for Parkinson’s that is worse at night especially with panic attacks
- Plumbum metallicum especially with arteriosclerosis
- Zincum metallicum for great restlessness and depression
Chelation therapy may be effective if the Parkinson’s is due to heavy metal toxicity or environmental toxins.
May be helpful particularly for the tremor involved.
May help with increasing circulation and decreasing muscle spasm.
Since Parkinson’s disease advances with time you will need to be under constant medical care. Drug treatments often become less effective over time and you must keep a close eye on your symptoms.
Special Considerations for Parkinson’s Disease
Exercise will also help you improve mobility.
Supporting Research on Parkinson’s Disease
Bartram T. Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. Dorset England: Grace Publishers; 1995:328–329.
Blumenthal M ed. The Complete German Commission E Monographs. Boston Mass: Integrative Medicine Communications; 1998:138.
Fauci AS Braunwald E Isselbacher KJ et al eds. Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine. 14th ed. New York NY: McGraw-Hill; 1998.
Morrison R. Desktop Guide to Keynotes and Confirmatory Symptoms. Albany Calif: Hahnemann Clinic Publishing; 1993:32–33 111–113 244–247 303–304 401–403.
National Institutes of Health. Accessed at www.ninds.nih.gov/healinfo/disorder/parkinso/pdhtr.htm on January 16 1999.
Parkinson’s Disease Foundation. Accessed at www.pdf.org/ on January 16 1999.
Perry TL Godin DV Dansen S. Parkinson’s disease: a disorder due to nigral glutathione deficiency. Neurosci Lett. 1982;33:305–310.
Thierney LM Jr McPhee SJ Papadakis MA. Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment 1999. 38th ed. Stamford Conn: Appleton & Lange; 1999.
Werbach M. Nutritional Influences on Illness. New Canaan Conn: Keats Publishing; 1988:346–349.