Patients with Parkinson’s disease experience a severe lack of Dopamine – a neurotransmitter. This is due to the reduction in endogenous production of Dopamine in the substantia nigra – the part of the brain that contains an abundance of dopaminergic (dopamine-producing) neurons. With this said, L-dopa (the precursor to dopamine) becomes the foundation of treatment which is why drugs like Sinemet (which contains L-dopa and Carbidopa) and Pramipexole (which activates dopamine receptors) are prescribed.
What is Levodopa (L-Dopa)
L-dopa is an amino acid precursor to Dopamine. It is used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease due to the fact that it converts to Dopamine. It is able to cross the blood-brain barrier and enter the nervous system where it gets converted to dopamine and is able to carry out its neurotransmitter functions as well as treat the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s and other disorders related to reduced Dopamine such as Restless Leg Syndrome.
The Problem With Levodopa
The problem with oral intake of L-dopa is that it gets metabolized and converted into dopamine before it can reach the brain. Unfortunately, dopamine then remains in circulation throughout the body but cannot pass the blood-brain-barrier and enter the brain to allow it to do its job in the central nervous system. L-dopa on the other hand is able to pass the blood-brain-barrier by hitching a ride with amino-acid transporters. Therefore, it is imperative to prevent the conversion of L-dopa into Dopamine. This is where the purpose of Carbidopa comes in.
What is Carbidopa
Carbidopa is a decarboxylase inhibitor – a substance that prevents the peripheral conversion of L-Dopa to Dopamine by inhibiting the enzyme amino acid decarboxylase.
This is the reason why drugs like Sinemet contain both L-dopa and Carbidopa. It allows the patient to get L-dopa and keep it in that form for a longer period of time – allowing for more of it to reach the brain.
To learn how to treat Parkinson’s disease naturally, check out this article.
Natural Sources of Levodopa & Carbidopa
Fava Beans (Vicia Faba)
Fava beans, also known as broad beans, are a rich source of amino acids including L-dopa as well as Carbidopa – making this food a boon for Parkinson’s patients (see study). Fava beans have also been used in clinical research and proven to improve plasma levels of L-dopa along with significant clinical improvement (see study). On average, patients in these studies were consuming about 250g of fava beans.
Mucuna Pruriens (Velvet Bean)
Mucuna Pruriens is an Ayurvedic herb used for treating a wide range of conditions in Ayurvedic medicine including a condition referred to as “Kampavata” in Ayurvedic literature. This is a condition that pretty much matches the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Mucuna Pruriens uses also includes being a potent aphrodisiac with the ability to increase testosterone as well as sperm quality and motility.
Mucuna is a rich source of L-dopa (but not Carbidopa) and has proven to be highly effective in treating Parkinson’s disease in clinical trials. Research has also suggested that Mucuna Pruriens has better bioavailability than standard pharmaceutical L-dopa. Comparative clinical trials have proven that Mucuna can do the same thing as standard L-dopa but with longer “on” times and more rapid onset of action (see study).
Mucuna can be easily misused and have adverse effects. Also, not all Mucuna supplements are of good quality. Always use this herb under the proper supervision of an Ayurvedic doctor.
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(Always use medicinal herbs under the supervision of a doctor)
by Dr. Nishal R.
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