Many diseases that used to be rare are said to be more common in our society today. One such is Parkinson’s disease. Every year April 11 is observed as Parkinson’s Disease Day. It aims to strengthen the lives of patients by raising awareness about this disease and by educating them about the possibilities in different fields of treatment. A combination of diet, lifestyle, and stress management training can effectively manage this disease.
In 1817, a British doctor named James Parkinson first introduced this disease to the Western medical world through a paper submitted after observing six patients.
In the middle of the 18th century, Basavaraja first drew the attention of the Ayurvedic world to this disease in his Vedic book ‘Basavarajiya’ and termed it Kampavata. Not only this, but he also recorded the best remedies in his treaty.
What is Parkinson’s disease?
The brain is one of the main organs of the human body. The brain performs many functions such as thinking, memory, and neural transmission. Therefore, the efficiency of this organ plays a major role in the overall balance of the body. Parkinson’s disease is one such disease that causes brain damage.
Parkinson’s disease is a movement disorder characterized by extensive degeneration of the nerves, caused by a type of “Lewy bodies” called alpha-synuclein (a.Synuclein) attacking cells in certain areas of the brain.
Parkinson’s disease develops when the nerve cells in the basal ganglia, a region of the brain that regulates movement, undergo apoptosis or degeneration. Dopamine is a key chemical in the brain that helps regulate movement and mood. When these neurons die or become impaired, they tend to produce less of this chemical, which results in a variety of symptoms like tremors, rigidity in the muscles, akinesia, and postural disability linked to various Cognitive, Behavioural, and other Psychological symptoms.
Resting tremors, slowness of everyday activities (eg buttoning a shirt), loss of natural flexibility of the body, difficulty in displaying a sarcastic smile, fear of crossing the road, etc are some of its major symptoms. Often, long before these symptoms develop, patients report that they are unable to identify odors and experience reduced vision.
- A family history of the disease, exposure to pesticides or herbicides, exposure to hydrocarbon solutions, and brain injury have all been found to be associated with a higher risk of Parkinson’s disease.
- MPTP (Methyl phenyl tetrahydropyridine) drugs, carbon monoxide gas, manganese metal, cyanide, etc. are more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease. Medications used to prevent vomiting or treat psychiatric disorders such as depression and schizophrenia may also cause Parkinson’s disease.
- Parkinson’s disease can occur in people between the ages of 35 and 85, but on average, the disease is diagnosed in the 50s. The age at onset of symptoms is relatively young in the genetic Parkinson’s disease group. Juvenile Parkinson’s Disease is a rare form of Parkinson’s disease in which symptoms begin in childhood. Typically, the patient’s life expectancy is 10 to 25 years after the onset of Parkinson’s symptoms. Statistics show that people who develop Parkinson’s at a younger age live longer with the disease.
- Parkinson’s disease begins when Lewy bodies begin to accumulate in the medulla oblongata, the olfactory buds that help sense smell, and eventually spreads to the midbrain, substantia nigra, and other centers. When it reaches the fourth stage, widespread symptoms begin to appear. A Parkinson’s patient is completely free of symptoms in stages 5-6.
- The exact cause of Parkinson’s disease is unknown. However, the current conclusion is that the reactions of many environmental and genetic factors may lead to the biochemical changes that cause Parkinson’s. But many genetic mutations have been identified that can lead to the cell degeneration that is the basis of Parkinson’s disease. About five percent of Parkinson’s disease is inherited. More than ten genetic loci have been identified in this regard.
The core symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are
- Difficulty in swallowing food
- Trembling of body parts (tremor)
- The abnormally stiff appearance of body parts due to muscle inflexibility (Rigidity)
- Decreased body mobility (Bradykinesia)
- Postural instability
- Parkinsonian gait
These movement problems are mainly caused by a decrease in the level of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the cell junctions (synapses) of the brain nerve pathway known as the nigro-striatal pathway. Parkinson’s disease begins when Lewy bodies begin to accumulate in the medulla oblongata and the olfactory buds that help sense smell.
- Frequent falls
- Orthostatic hypotension
- Urinary incontinence
The Ayurvedic concept
Parkinson’s disease can be correlated to Kampavata in Ayurveda, where symptoms like Kampa (Tremor), Stambha (Rigidity), Chestasanga (Bradykinesia and Akinesia), Vakvikriti (disturbance in speech) etc were described in different contexts of various ayurvedic treaties. It occurs mainly due to the imbalance in the normal pathway of vata dosha.
Ayurvedic Treatment for Parkinson’s diseases
Treatment mainly focuses on balancing the deranged vata dosha.
Nidana parivarjana (avoidance of etiological factors)
– Avoidable etiological factors include drugs, brain injuries, infections, and environmental toxins.
Shodhana chikitsa should be used first, then palliative therapies called shamana chikitsa.
- Snehana: Oleating the body with medicated oils such as Ashvagandha taila, Mahanarayana taila, Kshirabala taila, Sahacharadi taila, Mahamasha taila, Bala taila, and Dhanvantara Taila can be used
- Swedana: Ksheera dhara, 7 days of Patrapinda sveda or Sarvanga sveda (Steam treatment), Shashtika shali pinda sweda etc are beneficial
- Matra Vasti daily with 50 ml of Sahacharadi taila, Saindhava lavana (Q.S.), and Shatapushpa for 15-21 days
- Rajayapana vasti
- Nasya: Instilling medicated oils such as Narayana taila, and/or Ksheerabala taila for 7 days
- Shirovasti with Ksheerabala taila, masha taila etc.
- Shirodhara with medicated liquids such as Mahakukkutamamsa taila, Ksheerabala taila, Maasha taila, Maha narayana taila, etc. daily.
Ashwagandha, kapikachu etc, can be used as churna and can be consumed along with milk. Mahayogaraja guggulu, Maharasnadi kashayam, Brihat vata chintamani ras, Ashwagandharishta, Balarishta etc can be used according to the condition of the patient.
NB: Consult a certified ayurvedic medical practitioner before undergoing the above treatment protocols.
The following yogic practices are helpful for Parkinson’s disease, but they should only be carried out with the assistance of a certified yoga practitioner.
- Using the breathing techniques Anuloma Viloma, Nadi Shuddhi, and Bhramari pranayama as well as meditation and Yama and Niyama of ashtanga yoga brings about fruitful results.
- Weight-bearing postures to control tremors and asanas to rectify postural imbalances
- Yoga asanas such as Parvatasana, merudandansana, Talasana etc are proven beneficial.
Is Ayurveda effective for Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s patients can benefit greatly from ayurvedic regimens. Ayurveda considers this disease under Dhatu kshaya janya vyadhi which means diseases caused due to the depletion of body tissues and this pathology occurs in the brain cells leading to the manifestation of symptoms in the whole body. Ayurvedic treaties have described clear-cut remedies for correcting tissue depletion and vata imbalance which falls under brihmana chikitsa. Ayurveda, when integrated with other medical sciences, is seen as more fruitful for patients.
Panchakarma therapies like Abhyanga help balance the deranged vata dosha and helps strengthen the body. Swedana with milk and other drugs helps in nourishing the depleted muscle tissues and also prevents further chances of muscle weakness.
Swedana causes vasodilation of blood vessels and enhances the absorption of medicines. In Shirovasti, medicated oil is made to retain in the head for a longer duration that helps in relaxing and revitalizing the Central Nervous System by balancing the hormonal functions that regulate emotional behaviors and sleep disturbances.
Rajayapana vasti helps in strengthening the depleted muscles and has neuroprotective action and finally brings equilibrium in the body.
Along with these treatment protocols, proper lifestyle and daily regimens which pacify the patient’s vikruti (imbalance) are necessary.
Following a yogic model, patients should be encouraged to look within to discover the underlying psychological and spiritual components contributing to their condition. As a result, all patients should be encouraged to reduce stress and cultivate practices that promote mental peace, such as meditation. Ayurvedic treatment is effective as it goes beyond the pharmacological and incorporates the behavioral, and it ultimately depends on the internal and subtle energies of our being.
Lifestyle changes for managing Parkinson’s diseases
- Eat in moderation.
- Avoid very spicy foods, salty foods, high-calorie foods like kappa, oily foods, spicy-oil-salty pickles, etc.
- Avoid snacking and eat three times a day.
- Stop eating late at night and have a light dinner at 8 pm.
- You can reduce the amount of rice by increasing the number of vegetables and fruits.
- Pure cow’s ghee and buttermilk with ginger can be eaten with lunch.
- Eggs, meat foods, etc. can be used according to the disease and with the advice of an Ayurvedic expert.
- Limit intake of protein, manganese and Vitamin B
- Make it a habit to take light afternoon naps on a recline, do mental activities, and take walks.
- Stop the morning shower.
- Take a good night’s sleep as a great stepping stone to good health.
- Sleep well for six hours.
- Turn away from stress and anxiety.
- Believe that you will overcome this time and make your body stronger.
- This disease can be effectively controlled by adding diet, lifestyle and stress management training.
- Good support from family members is also necessary.
Parkinson’s disease is a chronic degenerative disorder that affects the nervous system.
Ayurvedic treatment for this disease can help get rid of the body toxins and balance the deranged doshas with the help of internal medications and Panchakarma treatments like Abhayagam, Swedana, Nasya, Shirodhara and Vasti etc. Gradually the digestive fire slowly increases and the nervous system strengthens.