Little-known chemical in Himalayan herb shows promise for preventing Parkinson's

Tuesday, June 25, 2013 by: Lance Johnson
Tags: Parkinson''s, picrorhiza kurroa, healing herbs

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(NaturalNews) Parkinson's disease, characterized by chronic rigidity, slowness of movement, impaired coordination, and tremors of the face, hands, and legs, is becoming a common, progressive, pervasive disease in today's world. As nerve cells die in the region of the brain called substantia nigra, Parkinson's disease begins to settle in. The dying neurons produce dopamine, a chemical messenger that controls coordination and movement. Over time, as the condition worsens, dopamine production decreases, leaving the patient unable to control movements in their face, hands, and legs.

Doctors predict Parkinson's to double between 2005 and 2030

The Parkinson's Disease Foundation quotes that as many as "one million people in the US and an estimated seven to 10 million worldwide" live with Parkinson's disease. Dr. E. Ray Dorsey and his colleagues at the University of Rochester say that, "This is a chronic condition that will be claiming more and more people." The 4.1 million recorded cases of Parkinson's in 2005 is predicted to double in 25 years, according to Dorsey and his colleagues.

Dr. Warren Olanow, professor of neurology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in Manhattan agrees. "They are absolutely on target. This will certainly be a bigger public health issue. Not only will more people develop Parkinson's but patients will have it longer and remain disabled by it."

But does this truly have to be the case?

The little known Himalayan herb that could change all that

As professors predict doom and gloom, with Parkinson's disease statistics skyrocketing, one little-known Himalayan herb is coming out of the shadows and showing positive signs of helping prevent Parkinson's disease.

That herb is picrorhiza kurroa and the compound inside it that's catching researcher's attention is known as apocynin. First used in 1883 by a German pharmacologist, apocynin was extracted from the Canadian hemp plant, (apocynum cannabinum) and used to treat heart problems and edema. Now, this little-known plant derivative is being isolated from the Himalayan herb picrorhiza kurroa, and is showing promise for prevention of Parkinson's.

Apocynin was first isolated from the Himalayan herb picrorhiza kurroa in 1971, where it immediately became useful for treating jaundice, asthma, and heart problems. With strong anti-inflammatory properties, this herb prevents the formation of free radicals, oxygen ions, and peroxides in the body.

From herb, to compound, to specific neuroprotective molecule

To break it down further, Brian Dranka, Ph.D., of the Medical College of Wisconsin and his colleagues, Balaraman Kalyanaraman and Angeline E. Quadracci, have separated a specific molecule from apocynin called diapocynin. Using this molecule, Dranka has effectively treated a specific type of transgenic mouse called LRRK2R1441G. These mice are known to lose coordinated movements at around 10 months old, establishing Parkinson's-type symptoms. At three months old, the test mice were given diapocynin treatment. By the tenth month of the experiment, the loss of motor coordination had been prevented.

Dr. Kalyanaraman is pleased with the findings but says more research is to be done explaining how diapocynin's neuroprotective action works. "These early findings are encouraging, but in this model, we still do not know how this molecule exerts neuroprotective action. Further studies are necessary to discover the exact mode of action of the diaopocynin and other molecules with a similar structure," he said.

Himalayan herb paints hope for future Parkinson's treatment

Doctors are expressing great need for new early detection methods for those who might suffer from Parkinson's disease. No causes have been isolated, but researchers are anxious to use this transgenic mouse study to help them identify early biomarkers in patients to help with early detection. By isolating picrorhiza kurroa's unique compound, apocynin, and furthermore, it's specific molecule diapocynin, doctors may have found the right natural medicine - a neuroprotective powerhouse capable of delaying or even preventing neuron death in the brain.

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