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Table of Contents > Conditions > Parkinson's Disease
Parkinson's Disease
Signs and Symptoms
What Causes It?
What to Expect at Your Provider's Office
Treatment Options
Drug Therapies
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Following Up
Special Considerations
Supporting Research

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
  • Shaking
  • Poor balance
  • Stiffness and rigid limbs
  • Walking problems
  • Extremely slow movement
  • Involuntary eye closure

Secondary symptoms may include the following.

  • Memory loss
  • Constipation
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Dementia
  • Speech, breathing, swallowing problems
  • Stooped posture

What Causes It?

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 heroin use.


What to Expect at Your 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
Drug Therapies

Several drugs treat the symptoms of Parkinson's, but they do not cure the disease. It is quite common for your provider to change medications and adjust dosages. Certain drugs used for the treatment of other diseases, especially glaucoma, heart disease, and high blood pressure, can influence the treatment of Parkinson's disease.

Psychotherapy can help you cope with associated conditions such as depression. Speech, physical, and occupational therapy may help.


Complementary and Alternative Therapies

Alternative therapies may provide some relief of symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.


Nutrition
  • Essential fatty acids are anti-inflammatory. A mix of omega-6 (evening primrose, black currant, borage, pumpkin seed) and omega-3 (flaxseed 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, phosphatidylcholine, and DMAE (dimethylaminoethanol).
  • Neurotransmitters made from amino acids such as glutamic acid and GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) are used for Parkinson's.

Herbs

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 monogyna): 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 lateriflora), oats (Avena sativa), and lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) help support the structure of the nervous system

Homeopathy

Usually, the dose is 3 to 5 pellets of a 12X to 30C remedy 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

Massage

May help with increasing circulation and decreasing muscle spasm.


Physical Medicine

Chelation therapy may be effective if the Parkinson's is due to heavy metal toxicity or environmental toxins.


Acupuncture

May be helpful, particularly for the tremor involved.


Following Up

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

Exercise will also help you improve mobility.


Supporting Research

Bartram T. Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. Dorset, England: Grace Publishers; 1995:328-329.

Blumenthal M, ed. The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. 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 http://www.ninds.nih.gov/health_and_medical/disorders/parkinsons_disease.htm on January 16, 1999.

Parkinson's Disease Foundation. Accessed at http://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.

Tierney 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.


Review Date: August 1999
Reviewed By: Participants in the review process include: Peter Hinderberger, MD, PhD, Ruscombe Mansion Community Health Center, Baltimore, MD; Leonard Wisneski, MD, FACP, George Washington University, Rockville, MD; Tom Wolfe, P.AHG, Smile Herb Shop, College Park, MD; Terry Yochum, DC, Rocky Mountain Chiropractic Center, Arvada, CO.

Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc

The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts) regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed herein.

 
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