Tackling Parkinson’s Disease with Ayurveda
Losing control over your own muscles can be frustrating and inconvenient. Parkinson ’s disease (PD) also defined as ‘Parkinsonian syndrome’ is the second most common degenerative neurological disorder. Epidemiological studies have shown that PD is the most common disease among the elderly from all the countries. About 6.3 million people suffer from PD world-wide. Men above the age of 65 are more prone to PD than women. There is loss of dopamine producing brain cells in PD due to which there is progressive deterioration of the motor functions. PD is characterized by progressive loss of muscle control that results in tremors of limbs and head even at rest. There is also stiffness, slowness, and impaired balance. With the progression of the disease the person finds it difficult to walk, talk and handle simple tasks. The progression and impairment of the disease vary in different individuals.
The three main physical, motor symptoms in PD are:
- Tremor: this can affect the hands and feet. Tremor is most marked at rest and actually improves when performing a task
- Muscular rigidity: this causes stiffness during movement
- Bradykinesia: this leads to slowness and tends to make initiating movements very difficult.
Ayurveda and Parkinson’s
Parkinson’s disease was named after the British doctor James Parkinson, who described the disorder in great detail as ‘Shaking Palsy’ in 1817. Though it was named after this doctor in 1817 yet the very first mention and description of the disease dates back to more than 5,000 years. PD is known as Kampavata in Ayurveda and is one of the vata vyadhi – diseases related to Vata dosha. It is also referred as Kampana (tremors due to vata), Vepana (excessive shaking), Vepathu (shaking, as in being off track or out of alignment) , Spandhana(quivering) and Sphurana (constant pulsating movement). Kampana or vepana means generalized involuntary movements of the body parts.
The actual cause of Parkinson’s is not well known but accelerated ageing, genetic factors, environmental toxins (methyl-phenyl tetra hydro pyridine), drugs such as Resrpine, lithium, ethanol, viral encephalitis, brain tumors or repeated head injury are some of the causes that lead to PD.
Ageing in Ayurveda can be divided into three stages such as childhood that is dominated by kapha, youth with pitta dominance and vridhapya or old age where Vata is predominant. In old age when the vata dosha gets further disturbed with the causative factors it leads to many disease of vata origine. As the name Kampavata says, kampa means tremors and vata is the dosha that is involved in the causative factor.
As a person ages, vata is naturally increased but that doesn’t mean that all old age people are prone to this disease. Improper lifestyle and diet habits are also known to aggravate Vata in the body and can lead to imbalanced movement and pain. When there is shift in the site of vata dosha it accumulates in the weaker places of the body. When the vata dosha gets accumulated in the brain it starts invading the other dhatus or body tissues that further exhibit the symptoms. It dries up the brain cells and affects the normal functioning of the body.
In kampavata, there is involvement of apana vayu and vyana vayu mainly and thus symptoms such as Kampa (tremors), Karshnya (discoloration), Karshya (muscle wasting), Ushna Kamitva (liking for hot food and comforts), Bala bhramsha (loss of strength), Nidra bhramsha (sleeplessness), Indriya Bhramsha (low perception by sense organs), Pralapa (delirium), Bhrama (giddiness), Deenata (helplessness, depression), Sramsa (laxity of joints), Vyasa (involuntary limb movements), Bheda (splitting pain in the body parts), Varta (dryness of stools, pellet form), Spanda (mild spasms, tremors or tics), Toda (pricking pain), Kashaya asyata (feeling of astringent taste in mouth), Supti (numbness), Sankocha (constriction of body parts) and Stambha (stiffness of body parts making movement slow and difficult), etc occur in patients.
Inability to swing their arms in coordination, masked face (without expression), reduced blinking, a monotone and expressionless voice are some other symptoms.
Treatment of Parkinson’s Disease:
Early detection and diagnosis of PD will help in better and qualitative treatment. Unfortunately there are no lab tests that can give a clear identification of the disease. Diagnosis is usually done by ruling out any other disease with similar symptoms, brain scans and other laboratory tests. Levodopa and dopamine are the choice of medication for Parkinson’s. In case the body does not respond to oral medication then brain surgery is done to control the symptoms. With modern medication lot of side effects are associated such as cramps, memory loss, loss of bladder control, dry eyes, hypotension, etc.
Unlike modern medication, Ayurveda has very good and effective treatment for Parkinson’s disease. Many researchers have been conducted to see the effectiveness of Ayurveda treatment in Parkinson’s. Ayurveda treats any disease holistically and that includes correction of the dosha involved using internal medication, panchakarma treatments, diet and life style changes and counseling and not to forget Yoga and meditation.
The Ayurveda line of treatment includes palliative treatment and detoxification treatment. Unlike any other system of medicine Ayurveda doesn’t treat a disease symptomatically. Each person is treated individually and it concentrates on balancing the vitiated dosha.
Palliative treatment includes Nidana Parivarjana (abstinence from causative factors), life-style changes, internal medication, counseling therapy and yoga treatment.
Nidana Parivarjana : Avoiding vata aggravating diet such as potatoes, whole grams, green peas, travelling in cold breeze, cold items, etc have to be avoided. Consuming a balanced diet that includes shali (old rice), godhuma (wheat), fresh fruit and vegetable, nuts, milk and milk products. Sprouts are good and should be included in diet.
Life style causative changes:
- Avoiding head injuries and other vata aggravating causes.
- Keeping oneself active as much as possible.
- Regular eating habits, exercise and sleep have to be followed.
Snehana and Shodhana: Shodhana therapy is given to expel the aggravated dosha and balance it. In case of PD, snehana (oleation therapy) that includes abhyanga (oil massage), Shirodhara, shiropichu are all done to provide the necessary strength to the body and the brain. Most of the oils that are chosen are Maha Narayana taila, Kshrabala Taila, Sahacharadi taila, Dhanvantara taila, Maha Masha taila, Bala taila, Ashvagandha taila, etc are used.
Shodhana therapy also includes:
Nasya – Installation of medicine through the nostrils. Nasya helps in rejuvenation of the brain cells. It also regularizes the normal flow of vata. Brihmana nasya is given to provide strength to the neurons. Ksheerabala bala, Narayana taila, Dhanwantaram taila, Purana ghrita (old Cow’s ghee) are commonly used.
Basti – or medicated enemas, is the best treatment for vitiated Vayu. Basti regularizes and controls vata dosha and hence body is put back into equilibrium. It also helps in prevention of the recurrence of the disease, aids in rejuvenation of the health by strengthening the joints, ligaments and muscles. Asthapana basti (bassti in decoction form), Anuvasana basti (Using medicated oil), Matra Basti (Anuvasana basti in small dose are the types of basti that are usually given.
Apart from these treatments Patra Pinda Sweda (massage and steam using herbal bundles), Shashtika Shali Pinda sweda (medicated rice massage), churna sweda (powder massage) are also given.
Medicines are given in the form of Kashaya, Arishta, tablets, powders and Rasayanas.
Some commonly used medicines are as below:
- Maharasnadi Kashaya
- Gandharvahastadi Kashaya
- Pathyakshadhatryadi Kashaya
- Prasarinyadi Kashaya
- Punarnavadi Kashaya
- Ashtavargam Kashaya
- Dashamoola Kashaya
- Brahmi Bati
- Smritisagar Rasa
- Vatakulantaka Rasa
- Vatagajankush Rasa
- Sameerapannaga rasa
- Brihatvatachintamani Rasa
- Mahavatavidhwans Rasa
- Kapikachchu churna
- Ashwagandha churna
- Swarna Bhasma
- Swarna Makshika Bhasma
- Yogaraja Guggulu
- Trayodashanga Guggulu
- Vajikara Rasayanam
- Ashwagandha Rasayanam
- Vanari kalpa
- Ajashwagandha Rasayanam
- Ajamamsa Rasayanam
Ayurveda has excellent treatment remedies for many neurological and psychosomatic cases. Early detection of Kampavata or PD by an experienced Ayurveda physician can help in proper and effective treatment of the same. Though 100% cure cannot be assured, Ayurveda most definitely can help in arresting the progression of the disease to a great extent with or without side effects. Family care and patient ability to understand and co-operate to the management also plays a very important role.