Parkinson’s: A natural treatment alternative

Coll Bell believes that being “on the bean” has given him a better chance of living a normal life with Parkinson’s including his one hour a day “digger therapy”.

At the ripe old age of 55, I had just returned from UK where I’d been building boats. I was in the process of building our new house, but things weren’t going to plan. It had reached a stage where using a hammer to nail the beams together had become so frustrating that on some days it became impossible.

There were other problems too, like fitting into tight spaces, not being able to get back up when in the prone position, staying upright and an annoying tremor in my right hand. I finally relented and made an appointment with my GP who referred me to a neurologist at North Shore Hospital. The verdict was delivered: “I am sorry to say, Mr Bell, that you show all the signs of having Parkinson’s Disease.”
A prescription was issued, and I was sent on my way to come to terms with the news. It was certainly a bit of a shock, but one positive thing was I now knew why life was awkward and this helped to ease my frustration when it came to manual tasks. Being new to medical matters, I followed the advice of the professionals and started on a course of medication with the drug Sinemet.

It wasn’t long before I started to notice subtle changes. Yes, my dexterity improved but I seemed to have lost the desire to do anything, eat anything or enjoy some of my passions.  So began the slippery slide into side-effect hell. Depression and nausea were two of the worst.

The actual symptoms of Parkinson’s became secondary to the side effects, so after a year of suffering, I made a decision. I threw out all the medication and let my body establish normality. I tried various alternatives such as Co-Enzyme Q10, acupuncture and even just trying to adjust to carrying on with normal tasks and accept that it would take three times as long as it used to take. None of these worked for me.

But then I discovered the magical properties of the mucuna bean. After some research and the sourcing of a New Zealand supplier, I embarked on my ‘alternative’ journey. Mucuna pruriens (Mp), sometimes known as velvet bean, is a leguminous plant, which grows literally like a weed in many tropical and sub-tropical parts of the world. In India, it’s been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine. It contains L-Dopamine, the main ingredient in conventional Parkinson’s medication. Recent international studies have looked at it as a good alternative to conventional medications in third world regions, where it’s freely available.

The results of several high-level, randomised, double-blind crossover trials done last year alone are freely available online – all conclude that Mp works. However, this research hasn’t filtered down to this part of the world and last year, Med Safe banned the sale of Mucuna L-Dopa in New Zealand and no-one seems to want to talk about it. It’s a shame, when the use of this natural treatment has saved me from all the awful side effects of the commonly used pharmaceutical treatment. I still go ‘cold-turkey’ every six months to check if I’m cured, but after 10 years my symptoms are still there. But what I find most upsetting is the total lack of information available on the subject.

I’m happy to talk to anyone about my experience of using Mucuna bean for Parkinson’s. My email is: collcaroline@farmside.co.nz


The mucuna pruriens plant, also commonly known as velvet bean or cowage, contains a natural form of levodopa – the same drug found in Sinemet used to control motor symptoms of Parkinson’s.

Parkinson’s NZ chief executive Deirdre O’Sullivan says many people find levodopa treatment very effective, but doctors carefully manage treatment with levodopa because of its side effects, particularly the development of involuntary movements (dyskinesias).
Ms O’Sullivan says that while natural treatment options may hold a certain appeal, they can bring unwanted risks of their own.

“Supplements are not regulated to the same standard as the drugs approved by MedSafe in New Zealand,” she says. “People may not know how much levodopa is in each dose or how often they should take the plant extract. Relying on a natural supplement with levodopa could lead to unexpected or undesired outcomes.”

Anyone with Parkinson’s considering alternative medicine or natural treatment options should consult their doctor or specialist.

Parkinson’s NZ strongly recommends against replacing medication with an alternative treatment. Info: 0800 473 4636 or parkinsons.org.nz


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