advertisement



Q & A Library


Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Q
Mucuna: Betting on Beans for Parkinson's?

Is mucuna (velvet bean) safe for the treatment of Parkinson's disease?

A
Answer (Published 6/18/2010)

Parkinson's is a progressive neurological disease affecting the "substantia nigra," a small area of cells in the midbrain. Degeneration of these cells results in a reduction in levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. This deficiency upsets the balance between dopamine and another brain chemical, acetylcholine, and ultimately affects movement and coordination. The most familiar signs of the disease are tremor, or trembling in hands, arms, legs, jaw, and face; a generalized slowness of movement, stiff limbs, rigid facial expressions, and problems with balance or gait. Depression often precedes the physical signs, and mental function can deteriorate in advanced cases.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging - Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet! - Everything you need to get started eating a healthful, satisfying diet is here - including eating and shopping guides, over 300 recipes, and an exclusive version of Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid! Start your 14-day free trial now - and start eating anti-inflammatory today!

Mucuna (Mucuna pruriens) has long been used as a treatment for Parkinson's disease in Ayurvedic medicine, but few studies of its effects or effectiveness have been done in the West. The most notable was a very small clinical trial (only eight patients) carried out by British researchers who published their findings in 2004. The rationale for the use of mucuna is that it is a natural source of L-dopa (Levodopa), a compound which is converted to dopamine in the brain and has been used for many years to help relieve symptoms of Parkinson's. The British study compared the standard dose of L-dopa to a powdered preparation made from the seed of mucuna. It showed that the mucuna had a more rapid onset of action against Parkinson's symptoms and that its positive effects were longer lasting than those of L­dopa. Based on their findings, the investigators concluded that further and larger studies of the mucuna seed powder preparation are warranted, but to my knowledge, no human studies have been done since or are underway. The British research was published in the December, 2004, issue of the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry. 

Incidentally, fava beans are also a natural source of L-dopa, but you would have to eat a rather large amount - the equivalent of a 16-ounce can - to get an effective dose. I would not recommend adding either fava beans or mucuna to your diet if you're taking L-dopa for Parkinson's without discussing it with your doctor.

If you have Parkinson's symptoms, I recommend trying breath work, yoga and biofeedback to help reduce stress, which always worsens tremors. Acupuncture may also temporarily improve muscle function, and bodywork can relieve stiffness (I particularly recommend Trager work and the Feldenkrais method).

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Find more information about Parkinson's dieasese.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle, LLC on DrWeil.com (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being
in just eight weeks!
Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!
 

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe
Wellness Guide

Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet Food Pyramid
Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you
and their corresponding answers
from Dr. Weil.

 
Copyright © 2014 Weil Lifestyle, LLC
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here