Parkinson’s disease affects about one million people in the USA. About 1% of people over 60 years of age are affected and it is not known why more men than women are prone to it. Western science also does not know what causes Parkinson’s disease. Pharmaceutical treatment involves prescribing Levodopa and when that becomes ineffective other dopamine agonists are tried which have the side effects of involuntary muscle twitching. The disease is debilitating and it is estimated that 165 million dollars will be spent of Parkinson’s disease research in 2019. One billion dollars has been spent on Parkinson’s disease research in the last 5 years but levodopa which has been around since the 1970’s is still the main drug used.
What causes the tremors of Parkinson’s disease according to Chinese medicine theory?
In Bob Flaws book, The Treatment of Modern Medical Diseases with Chinese Medicine, there are five major patterns of disarmony that contribute to cause of tremors asociated with Parkinson’s disease. Some of these will be discussed starting with Liver yin and blood insufficiency. Chinese medicine holds that the liver controlls the ligaments and tendons and if the yin component becomes weak, the yang component of the liver becomes excess. The liver also plays a role in movement and if this is out of balance Chinese medicine states that liver wind results causing shakes, tremors or spasms. Chinese medicine also views that the Spleen controlls the flesh of the muscles and if the Spleen energy becomes deficient the muscles will suffer. When the spleen is weak, excessive water build up will result known as “dampness” in Chinese medicine. Mark Crain, well known registered Chinese medicine practitioner from Brisbane says “I believe that its the spleen dampness weighing the muscles down that causes the Parkinson’s stoop as it is called“.
More than a billion dollars has been spent on pharmaceutical research for Parkinson’s disease with no result.
Some research has been done on Parkinson’s disease and Chinese herbs in Hong Kong but none that I am aware of in the West at the time of writing. One study involved the use of the Chinese herbal formula Jia Wei Liu Jun Zi Tang and the other study focused on the herb gou teng. I am of course pleased that research on Parkinson’s disease and Chinese herbs has been done but I am rather cynical of the research itself. The treatment of Parkinson’s disease as with any disease with Chinese herbs involves the patient being diagnosed and the appropriate formulation prescribed to the patient according to their individual requirements. Mark Crain commented “This type of research is just suited to satisfy academics. The researchers who partook in the project are not even herbalists, but are researchers and staticians. The formula that Kum et al used is just a basic spleen tonic formula and in my opinion would be most unsuitable if the patient presented with a liver pathology causing Parkinson’s disease. The other researchers who studied the herb gou teng obviously just picked it on the strength that it is common herb used in the treatment of tremors. Be it, it is an important herb, it is not the Holy Grail of herbs that treat tremors“.
Modern medicine says that environmental factors may play a role in the cause of Parkinson’s disease, could Chinese medicine treat this?
In 200 A.D Zhang Zhong Jin wrote the land mark Chinese herbal medicine textbook, which is translated as On Cold Injury or The Treatise of Cold Injury. This book takes into account that seasonal weather changes can attack the body and bring into the body cold pathogens or in modern science terms bacteria and viruses invade the body. These diseases then lodge into different layers of the body and can stay dormant and cause other symptoms. The book has many references to herbal formulas that treat tremors and spasms.
Parkinson’s disease is commonly treated with acupuncture and Chinese herbs in China and Japan.