What is Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinsons disease is an age-related progressive neurological disorder, characterized by degeneration of central nervous tissues, thereby affecting the motor skills of the individual. It signals the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells, resulting in a group of conditions called motor system disorders.
The primary symptoms of Parkinsons disease are tremor of hands, legs, jaw, and face, stiffness, rigidity of the limbs and trunk, postural instability, slowing of movements, stooped posture, impaired balance and co-ordination etc. Often, people with Parkinsons disease show reduced facial expressions and speak in soft voice.
The secondary symptoms of the disease may include depression, personality change, sleep disturbances, speech impairments, constipation, sexual difficulties and dementia.
Parkinsons disease is caused by one or more environmental factors, inherited susceptibility to the disease, as the inheritance of the chromosome “ 4 gene may lead to Parkinsons disease in some people. The disease is caused by a combination of both genetic susceptibility and environmental stresses, resulting in death of brain cells.
Another latest theory suggests that free radicals may play a role in development of Parkinsons disease. Free radicals are chemical compounds with a positive charge, created when dopamine is broken down, by combining it with oxygen.
Ayurvedic perception of Parkinson’s disease
According to Ayurveda, Parkinsons is a Vata ailment that is chronic, with symptoms worsening over time. The disease has been described in ayurvedic texts as Kampavata (Kampa “ tremor, vata “ metabolic derangement predisposing to this neurologic and mental disease).
Parkinsons disease usually affects people over the age of 65 years. Ancient Ayurvedic scripts suggest existence of such a disease more than 2000 to 3000 years ago.
Ayurveda works on the principle of achieving balance among three main doshas “ Vata, pitta and kapha. Vata governs the air and body movement. According to ayurveda, the Parkinsons disease is caused by an imbalance of the Vata Dosha, which is the presence of aggravated air in the brain. In the course of time, the aggravated air corrodes the area of the brain that controls involuntary movements, giving rise to Parkinsons symptoms.
Treatments available in Ayurveda
There is no complete cure for Parkinsons disease. Ayurvedic medicine has shown several medical trials that can help in controlling the symptoms great extent, with hardly any side effects.
Several formulations containing Kapikachu (Mucuna pruriens) were suggested for treatment of patients with Parkinsons. Levodopa is the general major drug used in treating Parkinsons disease. Kapikachu has levodopa as the major active compound. There are evidences indicating that Parkinsons disease existed in ancient India, under the name Kampavata, and herbal preparations containing levodopa were administered to alleviate the symptoms of the disease.
In fact, it is said that herbal medicines containing levodopa, monoamine oxidase inhibitors, and anti-cholinergics were traditionally used in treatment of Parkinsons disease in India. A study conducted in the year 1995 on Hp-200 (derived from the Ayurvedic therapeutic agent Kapikachu seed powder), was tested on patients suffering from this disease. The results were monitored with Unified Rating Scale of the disease. The results showed that the ayurvedic treatment was effective and caused only minor side effects.
Currently, although there is no definite cure for Parkinsons disease several medications offer dramatic relief from the symptoms.
Garlic is said to be a wonderful mega resource that controls oxidative damage to neurons. Garlic extract contains several organosulfur compounds, other than allicin, that are vital and beneficial in balancing vata components. Therefore, 5gm garlic paste, along with 5gm gingely oil, with a pinch of black rock salt, taken twice a day, can prove effective in reducing symptoms.
A decoction of Tinospora cordifolia, Pluchea lanceolata, Zingiber officinale, Boerrhvia diffusa, 20ml each can be mixed with 10ml castor oil and taken twice a day. The disturbances of vayu in the colo-rectal region, and be treated with moist laxatives such as triphala and psyllium.
Similarly, mucuna pruriens, along with neuro-protective herbs such as Ashwagandha and Haridra can be used for treatment. The ayurvedic formulation made with Ashwagandha and Mucuna pruriens 10gm can be taken with milk twice a day for few weeks.
Herbs such as Brahmi and Jatamansi can be added to formulas or used separately. They also help in controlling secondary symptoms of the disease such as depression.
Sanjivani Parkinson’s Herbs, a supplement of Mucuna Prureins, Asiatica, Hydrocotyle and Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha), is said to be effective in promoting brain locomotive functions. This is a safe and natural relief for various movement disorders, when consumed in 500mg capsule form twice daily.
Practice of yoga can help people suffering from Parkinson’s to control and endure the disease. Yogic breathing programs such as Bhramari Pranayama, coupled with ayurvedic treatments such as Pancha Karma can reduce the need for levodopa and related drugs, and helps in alleviating and reducing symptoms of the disease. Certain other yoga postures such as standing, supine, sitting or inverted postures can be performed under guidance and supervision of trained experts of yoga, in a manner such that even patients with limited flexibility can be trained to perform them. It can help in improving flexibility and overall quality of life.