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Can Ashwagandha Help with Parkinson's Disease

Ashwagandha may help maintain dopamine levels in the brain and reduce symptoms of Parkinson's disease.

Antioxidant herbs such as ashwagandha may offer safe and effective therapeutic benefits to people with Parkinson's disease and other center nervous system disorders.25 Physical symptoms include tremors, stiffness, and loss of coordination. Dementia can also occur with Parkinson’s.60

Parkinson's disease is caused by the degeneration of neurons in the brain that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine and depletion of the enzyme tyrosine hydroxylase (derived from the amino acid tyrosine), which is crucial to the production of dopamine. Elevated levels of free radicals and the damage they cause to neurons are also associated with the development of this disease. Inflammation also contributes to the development of Parkinson’s by depleting tyrosine hydroxylase and damaging neurons that produce dopamine. Dysregulation of iron can also generate free radicals and interfere with iron-regulatory proteins that may play a role in disease development in both Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.60

How Does it Work?

Lab research shows that extracts of ashwagandha can regenerate parts of neurons, possibly counteracting damage to neurons that can lead to the development of Parkinson’s disease. Studies suggest that its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties both play a role in ashwagandha’s ability to reverse the biochemical processes associated with Parkinson’s. Ashwagandha also contains tyrosine, which is a necessary for the production of dopamine.5,60

In an interesting clinical study involving 101 healthy men, ashwagandha was found to inhibit the loss of melanin in hair.24 Melanin loss from the neurons that produce dopamine is also noted in Parkinson’s disease, and re-pigmentation of grey hair has been reported in patients with Parkinson’s disease who were treated with carbidopa and bromocryptine, drugs that stimulate dopamine production.25,63 Tyrosine, melanin, dopamine, and iron metabolism are all intertwined in the brain and deficiency or dysfunction with any one factor may play a role in the development of Parkinson’s disease.64Ashwagandha, which contains tyrosine and iron, is an adaptogen and may help bring these metabolic systems back into balance. These regulatory effects could explain study results that indicate some benefit from ashwagandha in Parkinson’s patients.

Evidence of Benefit

Animal studies indicate that ashwagandha helps protect neurons from stress, and can improve memory and even reverse cognitive deficits.60 In one human study involving oral consumption of powdered ashwagandha root and other herbs mixed with milk, patients with Parkinson’s disease experienced significant improvement in symptoms (e.g., reduced tremors and cramps).10

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