QUESTION: I am looking for a natural way to help my mother. Her doctors think she has Parkinson’s Disease but they aren’t sure. She has tremors in both of her hands, and everyday activities are becoming more difficult for her. Can you recommend some natural products that she can try? The drugs that her doctors want her to take have too many possibilities for adverse reactions. If you can help, I would appreciate it.\n\nANSWER: Generally the recommendations I have found are for nervous system relaxing herbs, vitamin supplements and dietary advice. The following information is a summary of what I found in each book.\n\nHerbal Tonic Therapies by Daniel Mowrey speaks very highly of Lapachoknown as an immune stimulant with far reaching benefits for many different conditions including Parkinson’s disease. It makes a lot of sense to me and I have seen first hand how immune boosting can help the body overcome problems in specific areas. I find it interesting to read the various authors comments on the suspected causes of this condition. Heavy metal poisoning is one of the possible causes and Lapacho has been documented to be beneficial in combating poisons and toxins also. Ginkgo is another recommendation found in this book as well as many other sources. Ginkgo is famous for its ability to increase circulation to the brain. Mowrey cites a study that where Ginkgo was given to patients with Parkinson’s disease secondary to cerebral arteriosclerosis. It did indeed increase blood supply to the brain and improved its nutritional status. I have always felt that improved circulation anywhere in the body promotes better health. Since this disease involves degeneration of nerve cells in the brain it makes sense that increasing circulation to the brain might be beneficial.\n\nThe Herbal Drugstore by Linda White \u0026amp; Steven Foster recommends Gingko as well, reporting that the increase of oxygen to the brain inhibits the progress of dementia which can be a problem in the late stages of Parkinson’s.Grapeseed Extract is suggested for its antioxidant action which they say “can help collect harmful byproducts of the body’s chemical processes that exist in brain tissue.” Evening Primrose Oil is high in the essential fatty acid, gamma-linolenic acid or GLA and has been used as a clinical treatment for Parkinson’s and other tremor-causing disorders. White and Foster state the brain is composed primarily of unsaturated fatty acids “giving a clue to potential botanical medicines for disorders that affect brain chemistry.” Doses should be 2 tablespoons Evening Primrose Oil per day or 1500 to 2400 milligrams in capsules per day.\n\nThe Green Pharmacy by James Duke includes a fascinating entry about using food as medicine for Parkinson’s. Fava Beans are one of the best plant sources of a compound called L-dopa which is a natural precursor of dopamine in the brain. Degeneration of brain cells in Parkinson’s can cause less production of dopamine. L-dopa is a standard pharmaceutical therapy for this disease. Duke reports it takes a 16 oz can of Fava Beans to get enough L-dopa to have an effect on Parkinson’s. I highly recommend obtaining a copy of this book for yourself to read the details of eating Fava Beans for this purpose. He addresses many aspects including comparison of the cost of these beans compared to the pharmaceutical drug, using the Fava Bean Sprouts which contain 10 times more L-dopa, the other beneficial compounds in the beans, beneficial effect of the high fiber content as constipation is sometimes a common problem with this disease and he offers advice to dealing with gas experienced when the diet is high in beans of any kind. He repeats the recommendations for Evening Primrose Oil and Ginkgo and adds Passionflower and St. John’s Wort to the list.\n\nPassionflower, a nervous system relaxing herb, contains two helpful alkaloids harmine and harmaline considered to be effective anti-Parkinson’s compounds. Duke offers another especially interesting bit of information about the curious fact that smokers have an unusually low risk of Parkinson’s. Nicotine increases the release of dopamine in the brain. On the other hand the enzyme monoamine oxidase (MAO) depresses dopamine. MAO inhibitors are common antidepressant medications and logic leads us to believe these boost dopamine and decrease Parkinson’s risk. St. John’s Wort is the most famous natural remedy for depression and is considered a MAO inhibitor. I would definitely consider taking St. John’s Wort if it were me.\n\nThe Clinicians Handbook of Natural Healing by Gary Null is a compilation of scientific peer review studies of natural supplements and their proven treatment values. Vitamin C and Vitamin E have shown to be helpful in Parkinson’s with some studies showing a significant association between deficiency of these vitamins and Parkinson’s. This book has an interesting section called Activity\/Plants where the following foods and herbs are under the category “Antiparkinson’s”: Camu-camu, Acerola, Broadbean (Fava Bean), Ben Nut, Sunflower, Buffalo Gourd, Cowage, Berro, Asparagus, Black Cumin, Blackbean, Spinach, Chaya, Asparagus Pea, Jew’s Mallow, Soybean, Vinespinach, Swamp Cabbage, Pigweed. I’m not familiar with all these plants but the list itself is intriguing.\n\nPrescription for Nutritional Healing by James and Phyllis Balch, commonly sold at health food stores as well as bookstores, is very popular with the public. The following statement these two authors make has even more impact after the reading the list of food\/plants above, “When the brain is not able to manufacture dopamine, Parkinson’s disease results. Malnutrition is believed to be a major underlying factor.” They give specific cautions of what vitamins and food to avoid if taking the pharmaceutical drug levodopa for this condition. They go as far as to say using Vitamin B6 (injection best) is probably safer and is as effective as levodopa. Dietary recommendations are to eat 75% raw foods with seeds, grains, nuts and raw milk.\n\nMany antispasm, nervous system relaxing herbs are recommended in several other herb books: Passion Flower, Black Cohosh, Ginger, Lobelia, Scullcap, Valerian, Damiana, Blue Vervain. All of these relaxing herbs are excellent but we have a product called Nervine Liquid Extract Combination: Blue Vervain, Damiana, \u0026amp; Scullcap, which would be my first choice. This is not a recommendation from me to you but if I were your mother, I would start with this one. It is a recipe from the book Elementary Treatise in Herbologyby Dr. Edward E. Shook. The late Dr. Shook gave a series of lectures to medical doctors in Berkeley, CA after World War II. His books Elementary Treatise in Herbology and Advanced Treatise in Herbology are a manuscript of these classes. Usually I only reference herb books based on modern scientific research but I just love Dr. Shook’s lectures. Because he was speaking to doctors his information was very specific referring to the naturally occurring chemical constituents in herbs that help to explain and verify their actions. While speaking of the “facts” of herbal medicine he was also extremely passionate about what was obviously a subject very dear to his heart. He was trying, actually pleading sometimes, to persuade them to not totally disregard plant medicine. A subject very dear to my heart as well. Here is what he said about this recipe, “This is one of the best nervine tonics ever made and will overcome St. Vitus’ Dance, ague, shaking and quaking of the limbs. It is one of the safest and most effective female regulators for amenorrhoea and dysmenorrhoea. Also a wonderful tonic for weak stomach, gas and flatus. A repeat reference to previous lessons will give you a clear picture of what to expect from its use. It is quite harmless and may be taken for a considerable length of time, without injury to the most delicate system. It will keep indefinitely and be always available.” I know people who have used this to great success for restless leg syndrome.\n\nWell, this is the best I have found for Parkinson’s disease. I sincerely hope this information will be of help to you. I hope it turns out that your mother does not have Parkinson’s and maybe natural remedies can help the symptoms she is experiencing. Please make note of the botanical and safety Information below.\n \nBOTANICAL \u0026amp; SAFETY INFORMATION:\n\nBlack Cohosh Root\nCimicifuga racemosa\nAvoid when pregnant or nursing, limit use to 6 months.\n\nBlue Vervain Herb\nVerbena hastata\nAvoid during pregnancy\n\nDamiana Leaf\nTurnera aphrodisiaca\nSafe to consume when used appropriately.\n\nGinger Root\nZingiber officinale\nSafe to consume when used appropriately.\n\nGinkgo Leaf\nGinkgo biloba\nSafe to consume when used appropriately, possible concern with ingestion of blood thinning medications but inconclusive.\n\nLapacho Bark (Pau D’Arco)\nTabebuia avelleneda\nSafe to consume when used appropriately.\n\nLobelia Herb\nLobelia inflata\nAvoid during pregnancy. Avoid large doses. May cause nausea and vomiting.\n\nPassion Flower Herb\nPassiflora incarnata\nSafe to consume when used appropriately.\n\nScullcap Herb\nScutellaria lateriflora\nSafe to consume when used appropriately.\n\nSt. John’s Wort Flower\nHypericum perforatum\nMay potentiate pharmaceutical MAO-inhibitors, fair-skinned people should avoid excessive sunlight and tanning while using.\n\nValerian Root\nValeriana offinalis\nSafe to consume when used appropriately.\n\n\nREFERENCES:\n\nBalch, James F. and Balch, Phyllis A. Prescription for Nutritional Healing. Garden City Park, NY: Avery Publishing Group. 1997.\n\nCampion, Kitty. The Family Medical Herbal. London: Dorling Kindersley. 1988.\n\nDuke, James A. The Green Pharmacy. New York: St. Martin’s Paperbacks. 1998.\n\nHoffmann, David. The Complete Illustrated Holistic Herbal. Shaftsbury, Dorsett: Element Books. 1996.\n\nMowrey, Daniel B. Herbal Tonic Therapies. New Canaan: Keats Publishing Co. 1993.\n\nShook, Edward E. Elementary Treatise in Herbology. Banning, CA: Enos Publishing Co. 1993.\n\nTenney, Louise. Today’s Herbal Health. Provo, Utah: Woodland Books. 1992.\n\nWhite, Linda B., Foster, Steven and the staff of Herbs for Health. The Herbal Drugstore. Emmaus, Pennsylvania: Rodale Press. 2000.