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James Saper R.TCM.P.
328 Woolwich Street, Guelph, Ontario N1H 3W5 (519) 341-9314

Chinese Medicine Research on Parkinson Disease

Parkinsonıs disease is a slow, progressive disease of the nervous system. It is caused by the degeneration and loss of dopaminergic neurons in the tissue of the brain known as the substiania nigra. Tremors or shaking, rigidity and difficulty initiating movements are characteristic symptoms of the disease. The causes remain unknown, but recent studies have focused on a possible genetic component. Parkinsonıs disease generally affects people who are elderly, but on occasion it occurs in people in their 40s.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been researched and used in China in the treatment of Parkinsonıs disease. The treatment protocols are based off of a combination of assessment and diagnosis using standard Western Medical disease definitions and TCM disease categories.

A Summary of selected research reports

There is a vast amount of modern research that is being done on TCM and itıs effectiveness in many different diseases. The majority of this research is reported in Chinese or Japanese language journals where, due to the language barrier, it goes unrecognised by Western researchers. Below is a brief summary of some of the research that has been published on Parkinsonıs disease. These reports were researched and summarized by Dr. Kai Chen, M.M. Ph.D (Beijing).

One study evaluated the use of a Chinese herbal formula with 58 patients with Parkinsonıs. Of the 58 people taking the formula, 47 showed marked improvements and another 9 showed some measurable improvements (79.3% effectiveness rate). The study then compared a group of 35 patients receiving herbal treatment with a separate group of 38 patients who were treated using the Pharmaceutical artane. In the group receiving herbal treatment 82.8% showed marked improvements and another 14.3% showed measurable improvements. These results were better than in the artane treatment group where 31.6% showed marked improvements and another 44.7% showed some measurable improvements.
Ren Xingxing. 58 cases of Parkinsonıs syndrome treated with Xifeng Tang. Shandong J TCM 1989; 8(3): 23

In one clinical report a group of 40 patients who were either unable to take pharmaceutical medications due to side-effects or for whom the medications were ineffective were given a Chinese herbal formula for a three month period. At the end of this period the patients were evaluated using a standardized assessment scale (Webster PD scale). Three of the patients showed a decrease in their assessment score of over 50%, 10 patients had a decrease of between 20 ­ 49% and 13 patients had a decrease of between 1 ­ 19% in their assessment scores. Despite the fact that 35% of the study group did not respond to treatment after 3 months, it is worth noting that the patients who comprised this group were either unable to take pharmaceutical medication or did not respond to pharmaceutical treatment.
Chen Jianzong, et al. 40 cases of Parkinsons's disease treated with Pingchan No.1. J Anhui TCM Col. 1999; 18(2)

.Another study of interest involved the use of a classical Chinese formula combined with administration of L-dopa. While the sample size was small ­ 7 patients ­ the report found that the combined treatment was more effective in relieving the symptoms of Parkinson's than using L-dopa by itself and that there were fewer side effects when compared to treatment using L-dopa alone. The study speculated that the combined treatment resulted in improved L-dopa absorption in the intestines and improved 5-HT metabolism in the brain.
Chuanshang Zhengren. Effect of Liujunzi Tang on Parkinsonıs disease and the metabolism of 5-HT on cerebrospinal fluid. Jan Tradit Med J 1994; (5): 212

A clinical report involving combined acupuncture and herbal treatment looked at treatment effectiveness for 113 Parkinsonıs patients. After an average of 2 months of receiving treatment either daily or every other day, one patient was report to be relieved of all symptoms, another 60 showed marked improvements and an additional 29 patients shown some measurable improvements after treatment. This study found that 79% of the patients had some degree of improvement with 54% of the study group receiving marked improvements or better.
Jiang Shuda, et al. Observation of 113 case of Parkinsons's disease treated with acupuncture and herb medicine together. J TCM 1990; (12): 29

Another smaller study looked at acupuncture treatments alone in the treatment of 30 patients. Treatments were administered every other day with regular breaks in between treatment courses. After approximately 3 months of treatment the report found that symptoms had been resolved in 5 cases, 9 patients showed marked improvements and another 10 patients had some improvements. Similar to the previous study, this report found that 80% of the patients treated showed measurable improvements with 47% showing marked improvements or resolution of their symptoms.
Qin Liangfu, et al. Clinical observation of 30 cases of Parkinsons's disease treated with acupuncture. Chi J Acup 1989; 9(6): 16

A clinical report that involved 52 Parkinsonıs patients used the combined treatments of acupuncture and Chinese herbs. The course of treatment lasted 3 months, after which the report found that 8 patients had relief of their symptoms and another 40 patients showed measurable improvements. The overall effectiveness rate of this treatment was 92.3%.
Li Yusheng, 52 cases of Parkinsons's disease treated with acupuncture and herb medicine. Chi J Acup 1995; 15(3): 26

One published large scale study involved the treatment of 159 Parkinsonıs patients using acupuncture. This report found that after treatment 2 patients had their symptoms resolved and another 125 showed measurable improvements, for an overall effective rate of 79.9%. The study also observed that response to treatment was quicker and greater in younger patients and in patients without complications.
Liu Jiaying, et al. Clinical observation of 159 cases of Parkinson's disease treated with acupuncture. Acup Clinic J 1993; 9(5): 10


This factsheet is not intended to treat, diagnose or prescribe. The information provided is not to be considered a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care practitioner.

İ James Saper, 2005