The effects of herbal medicine in Parkinson’s are largely untested with the exception of preliminary studies into Ayurveda - an ancient Indian healing system that combines a variety of interventions including herbal remedies.
Mucuna plants, which are used in Ayurveda herbal treatments, are known to contain levodopa - a key Parkinson’s medication that increases dopamine levels in the brain and therefor improves the motor symptoms of the condition. Several studies into mucuna plants and Parkinson’s have had positive results and some have even suggested that the plant might have advantages over conventional levodopa preparations in the long term management of Parkinson’s. However, a rigorous clinical study into this is needed.
A qualified herbal practitioner will be able to advise on other remedies, for example nervine herbs to reduce tremors, or vascular dilators to relax rigid muscles. Some herbs may help with skin conditions.
But remember that natural does not mean harmless, and some herbal treatments can have serious side effects and interfere with Parkinson’s medications. Always talk with your doctor before taking any herbal medicines.
Herbal medicine is not regulated in many countries. It is therefore a good idea to ask your doctor or other healthcare professional for recommendations. Friends, family, other people with Parkinson’s or your national Parkinson’s association may also be able to advise based on personal experience.
It is advisable to see a therapist who has experience of Parkinson’s so do ask about their experience of the condition as well as their qualifications.
The first consultation with a herbal therapist will probably last at least an hour, during which he or she will ask detailed questions about general health, medical and family history, lifestyle and emotional state.
As the approach is holistic, treatment often includes advice on diet and lifestyle as well as herbal remedies. The medicines prescribed may well be made up of a variety of herbs, and will be tailored to individual needs. They can come in a wide range of formulations, including syrups, tinctures, lotions, creams, tablets, inhalations, gargles and washes.
The herbalist may make a follow-up appointment after two weeks, and then monthly, to monitor progress, but this depends on the condition being treated and the individual’s general state of health.