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Fighting and Winning Parkinson’s

This article was originally published here on TNIE on 15 April 2023.

Parkinson’s disease, once known as shaking palsy, is a progressive neurode- generative disorder characterised by a triad of symptoms—hand tremors, slowness of movements, and rigidity. Ayurvedic classical compendia like Charaka Samhita, Sushruta Samhita, and Ashtanga Sangraha have mentioned similar clinical conditions within the spectrum of vatavyadhi, which is the group of diseases that generally afflict the nervous and musculoskel- etal system. Another text, Basavaraajeeyam, which originated in Andhra Pradesh, also mentions a similar triad of symptoms.
Even though India has a low incidence of the disease compared to Euro- pean nations, the trend seems to have changed in recent times. As the world observes Parkinson’s Day on April 11, here’s how ancient medicinal science can contain the progress of the neurodegenerative disorder and support its management and prevention.

Along with the disease, Ayurveda considers one suffering from it. The human body is understood at four levels: sharira (the physical body), satva (the mind), atma (the spirit/soul), and indriyas (the sensorium). Individuals with Parkinson’s are affected at all levels. The disease starts manifesting physically with slowing down of activity and tremors, and may later lead to issues like difficulty in swallowing, dribbling of saliva, sleeplessness, etc., finally rendering the patient bedridden. Ayurveda manages Parkinson’s at three levels: lifestyle modifications, internal medicines to improve symptoms and general health, and tailor-made kriyakrama (proce- dures) like pan- chakarma specific to each individual’s clinical presentation.

Panchakarma: Among this, vasti (therapeutic enema) and nasya (nasal administration of medicated herbal preparations) are most effective in improving the body’s strength and responses to daily activities. Takradhara, a kind of shirodhara (pouring medicinal preparations over the head) using buttermilk; dhanyam- la/kashaya dhara (pouring medicated liquids over the body); and various sweda kriyas (sedative techniques) are effective in reducing signs and symptoms. Other therapeutic panchakarma treatments such as vamana (emesis) and virechana (purgation) can prevent the onset
of the conditions.

Rasayana: Once the body is stimulated through kriyakramas, the role of rasayana (rejuvenating modalities) comes into play. According to specific conditions, rasasyana dravyas (ayurvedic formulations) like aindri rasayana, amalaki rasayana, chyavanaprasha, etc., are recommended.

Non-therapeutic interventions: Along with therapy, non-pharmacological interventions like yoga and pranayama too are found to be effective in treating Parkinson’s. Patients who regularly practise them have better gait balance, emotional stability and improved daily activities.

Early prevention: Stress, when continuous and long-term, plays a role in the progression of the condition. Loss of loved ones, emotional distress, loneli- ness and job strain all contribute to it. Start taking care of yourself from the 40s to prevent the development of neurodegenerative conditions like Parkin- son’s and dementia later in life.

Disclaimer: The above article is for general awareness and informational purposes only. It should not be taken as medical advice. If you have any concerns about your health, please consult with your healthcare provider for proper diagnosis and treatment.