As the author of the Parkinson’s Warrior series of books, I have been asked countless times as to whether the mucuna pruriens plant is useful for treating Parkinson’s. Let’s take a closer look and discover why there is so much interest in this plant, and whether it can be useful as a dopamine replacement.
Yes, it’s true that mucuna pruriens contains L-DOPA, the chemical that our bodies converts into dopamine, which is what goes missing in Parkinson’s. The logic seems sound, taking a natural form of L-DOPA rather than a drug like Sinemet is preferable, since Sinemet causes very harsh side effects after long-time use.
But it turns out that mucuna pruiens is missing a vital ingredient that instantly disqualifies it as a viable Sinemet replacement. See, the levodopa in Sinemet does not work alone in order to reach the brain so it can do its work. Sinemet uses carbidopa in a ratio of one part carbidopa and four parts levodopa. As the levodopa goes through the digestive tract and makes its way to the blood-brain barrier, the carbidopa protects it from breaking down before it crosses that barrier.
Without the carbidopa, in other words, mucuna pruiens never gets its L-DOPA to the brain, and never has a chance to act. Another issue is that taken as a supplement, mucuna pruiens is not guaranteed for efficacy by any governing body such as the FDA in the United States. This means that your supplement could be very potent, or it could be diluted or mixed with fillers that are inactive ingredients in your capsule or pill.
With so much interest in mucuna pruiens, it makes sense to get excited about it as a Sinemet replacement. However, in this case, it should not be substituted for the real thing, as your body needs dopamine and a proven method for delivery. That is Sinemet, and unfortunately, this is not a solution.
Do you disagree with this assessment? Conduct your own personal study (under your doctor’s supervision); take an equivalent of mucuna pruiens instead of Sinemet for 7 days. Each day, record your results for several objective tests (time to get up from a chair 5 times, time to touch your thumb to your other four fingers 5 times, etc.), then at the end of 7 days, switch back to your regular medication. Do your times increase or decrease? Leave your notes in the comments below.
I am proud to release my new book, Parkinson’s Warrior: Guide to Supplements, Natural Therapies, and Medical Marijuana. The book details my journey with supplements, alternate therapies like yoga and tai-chi, and goes into great depth regarding medical marijuana. If you would like to learn more about complementary therapies, I humbly recommend you purchase this book. It is now available on Amazon.com and other bookstores in print and as an ebook.
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Nick Pernisco is the Parkinson’s Warrior, a person with Parkinson’s who has dedicated his life to helping others with Parkinson’s. Get the Parkinson’s Warrior book here. Join the discussion on Facebook.