Something different for you today – a history lesson…with some science.
The history of Parkinson’s disease dates back well before Dr James Parkinson made his observations about 6 patients 199 years ago (oh, big anniversary coming up! Who knew)
But it may surprise you to know that the history of Parkinson’s disease dates back before even Jesus turned up.
You actually have to go back a long back in order to get to the beginning…
If you were demonstrating the early features of Parkinson’s disease in the year 500 BCE, there was really only one place in the world that you wanted to be:
India. Source: blogs.umb.edu
Not only did India have a extremely sophisticated system of diagnosis for what we call Parkinson’s disease, but they also have a VERY effective treatment!
Don’t believe me? Read on.
Around 5000 BCE, the wise and farsighted members of the Indian medical establishment began pooling their collective knowledge – firstly in an oral form, but then eventually in a written format. That written material became the text known as the Ayurveda (/aɪ.ərˈveɪdə/; Sanskrit for “the science of life” or “Life-knowledge”).
It can not be understated how sophisticated the Ayurveda was for its time. This was a period bridging the ‘new stone age’ and the ‘Bronze age’. People’s understanding of medical afflictions was basically limited to what the Gods and evil spirits were doing to them.
The earliest account of Parkinson’s disease features in the Ayurveda was compiled by Susruta (the 600 BC author of “Susruta Samhita”). He described slowness (cestasanga in Sanskrit) and akinesia (cestahani) in certain individuals, and also (curiously) reported that certain poisons could cause rigidity and tremor.
To demonstrate to you just how sophisticated the Ayurveda was, consider this: when faced with a person exhibiting tremor a practitioner using the Ayurveda could chose between six different types of tremor:
- Vepathu (a generalised tremor)
- Prevepana (excessive shaking)
- Kampa vata (tremors due to vata)
- Sirakampa (head tremor)
- Spandin (quivering)
- Kampana (tremors)
Number 3 (Kampa vata) on that list is what we now refer to as Parkinson’s disease. Kampa basically means ‘tremor’, while Vata is more difficult to define – it is essentially the property/force that governs all movement in the mind and body (blood flow, breathing, etc – even the movement of thoughts).
Since the 3rd century BCE, practitioner of the Ayurveda have been using the seeds of Mucuna pruriens in treating conditions of tremor.
Mucuna Prurien seeds. Source: Kisalaya
Authors: Damodaran M, Ramaswamy R.
Journal: Biochem J. 1937 Dec;31(12):2149-52. No abstract available.
PMID: 16746556 (this article is OPEN ACCESS and available to read if you would like)
Authors: Katzenschlager R, Evans A, Manson A, Patsalos PN, Ratnaraj N, Watt H, Timmermann L, Van der Giessen R, Lees AJ.
Journal: J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2004 Dec;75(12):1672-7.
PMID: 15548480 (this report is OPEN ACCESS if you would like to read it)