Can Garlic Treat Parkinson’s Disease?
An increasing chorus of research is pointing to a conclusion that garlic and aged garlic are potential treatment and prevention strategies for Parkinson’s disease.
What causes Parkinson’s?
Parkinson’s is complex. The conventional theory that it is just a matter of the brain’s substantia nigra cells losing the ability to produce dopamine is no longer valid. The science has progressed significantly in the past decade.
This had led medical researchers to the reality that the dopamine-producing brain neurons in the substantia nigra begin to slowly die following a mixture of assaults.
These cells losing the ability to produce dopamine is a part of their path downward towards cell death. A number of studies have pointed to this process beginning with exposure to toxins such as herbicides and pesticides. Heavy metals have also been shown as a possible cause.
The variability of toxic assaults on these brain cells are seen in the form of Lewy bodies among these neurons. As these occur, the neurons’ production of dopamine slows, and they gradually die. Accompanying the Lewy bodies is a build up of damaging free radicals, leading to oxidative stress and neuroinflammation.
Also, the mitochondria of these cells also become damaged and they begin to misfire. This damage to the mitochondria – the cells’ energy factories – is the beginning of the end of these important brain cells. This also serves to help block the brain’s reconstructive Nrf2-pathway among these important neurons.
For this reason, replacing dopamine with L-dopa pharmaceuticals helps for awhile, but it is simply a temporary symptom fix in the long run.
Hydrogen sulfide and Parkinson’s
One of the more notable findings of the past couple of years of research is the reality that the health of these dopamine-producing brain cells is related to hydrogen sulfide availability. The mechanics aren’t well understood, but the availability of hydrogen sulfide appears to help product these dopamine-producing brain cells from free radical damage.
Multiple Parkinson’s studies have found that hydrogen sulfide not only protects these neurons from damage. It also helps reverse the loss of nerve control that leads to the motor problems associated with Parkinson’s disease.
Direct research found that Parkinson’s disease in rats was significantly improved, with symptoms improved with the addition of hydrogen sulfide.
Parkinson’s and Thiol levels
Another important finding was underscored by a 2017 study from Turkey’s Yildirim Beyazit University. Medical researchers tested 52 Parkinson’s patients along with 41 healthy people. They found that the Parkinson’s patients had significantly lower levels of thiol. That is, native thiol and total thiol levels in the Parkinson’s patients were a lot lower than they were in healthy people.
Thiol levels are critical to the body’s ability to protect its tissues and cells from damage. One example of this is glutathione. When thiol levels are depleted, the activity of glutathione is compromised. This opens up the body’s most important tissues to damage from toxins and free radicals.
Thiol levels may well be part of the reason why gut probiotics have been linked to Parkinson’s. Good gut microbes tend to bolster and support glutathione levels, and thiol levels in general.
Mounting evidence for Garlic for Parkinson’s
In a 2017 study from Purdue University, researchers interviewed healers from the North American Indian Blackfeet Nation. Their interviews focused upon what natural remedies would be used to symptoms that are now considered Parkinson’s disease symptoms.
The extensive interviews resulted in a list of 26 plant medicines that were known to help relieve Parkinson’s-related symptoms.
The researchers then proceeded to test each of the 26 plant medicines in human brain cells. They found seven plant extracts successfully activated the Nrf2-pathway among the nerve cells. This indicated these plants had the potential of reducing nerve damage related to Parkinson’s disease.
The researchers then tested the plants against nerve cell damage produced by rotenone. Rotenone damage (along with Paraquat) has been shown in previous studies to produce the nerve cell damage evident in Parkinson’s symptoms.
Three plants were found to protect the nerve cells from this Parkinson’s-related damage:
• Garlic cloves (Allium sativum)
• Red clover flowers (Trifolium pretense)
• Serviceberry tree berries (Amelanchier arborea)
Garlic tested in other studies
The use of garlic for nerve-related damage comes not only from the Blackfeet Nation. Garlic has been used for thousands of years for a variety of conditions. The Egyptians, the Greeks, and healers from many other traditional medicines have used garlic for nerve-related disorders of different kinds.
But now we find the emergence of studies that confirm, at least from a laboratory basis, that garlic may be able to provide a valid treatment for Parkinson’s.
The first are findings that garlic significantly increases the body’s levels of hydrogen sulfide and thiol levels. In 2007, University of Alabama researchers discovered that it was garlic’s ability to boost hydrogen sulfide levels that was responsible for its ability to reduce blood pressure.
Boosting levels of glutathione is but one of the many effects of fresh or aged garlic consumption.
In a 2016 study, researchers from South Korea’s Pusan National University tested a compound extracted from garlic called thiacremonone. This compound was found to significantly halt the progression of damage to substantia nigra cells in Parkinson’s nerve cell degeneration.
In a 2016 study from the University of Missouri School of Medicine, researchers tested aged garlic extract against nerve cell damage related to Parkinson’s. They found that the aged garlic, and in particular, two compounds in aged garlic halted nerve inflammation damage related to the Nrf2 pathway. These two garlic compounds were S-allyl-L-cysteine and N (α)-(1-deoxy-D-fructos-1-yl)-L-arginine.
In another 2016 study, this from Mexico’s National Institute of Neurology and Neurosurgery, S-allylcysteine from garlic was found to significantly halt the progression of Parkinson’s progression. The research found that dopamine-producing cells were protected from neurotoxicity, significantly decreasing motor symptoms.
A 2012 study from India’s SASTRA University found a similar result when they tested S-allylcysteine against Parkinson’s disease symptoms caused by haloperidol. They found that S-allylcysteine from garlic blocked the nerve cell damage and progressive motor symptoms of Parkinson’s.
In a 2007 study from the University of Pennsylvania, researchers tested another garlic compound, S-methyl-L-cysteine, against Parkinson’s nerve damage. They found the compound provided significant protection against the damage to dopamine brain cells. They concluded:
“S-methyl-L-cysteine, a substrate in the catalytic antioxidant system mediated by methionine sulfoxide reductase A (MSRA), prevents the α-synuclein-induced abnormalities. Therefore, interventions focusing on the enzymatic reduction of oxidized methionine catalyzed by MSRA represent a new prevention and therapeutic approach for Parkinson’s disease and potentially for other neurodegenerative diseases involving oxidative stress.”
There are many other studies showing garlic’s ability to boost the entire body’s immunity, reducing neurodegeneration and brain cell damage.
For example, in a 2017 study from South Africa’s University of Pretoria, researchers tested diallyl polysulfides from garlic. They found the compound significantly boosted the liver’s ability to protect cells against damage.
Garlic provides several effects to protect brain cells
The research evidence is clear that garlic contains a host of compounds that work synergistically to protect and even prevent the brain cell damage that results in the devastation of Parkinson’s disease. We’ve discussed several compounds in garlic in this article, including S-methyl-L-cysteine, S-allyl-cysteine, deoxy-D-fructos-1-yl)-L-arginine and thiacremonone.
Other medicinal garlic compounds include alliin (S-allyl-l-cysteine sulfoxide), allicin (diallyl thiosulfinate) and various other sulfur compounds like thiosulfinates and ajoenes, S-allylmercaptocysteine, L-cysteine sulfoxides, γ-glutamyl-L-cysteine, S-trityl-l-cysteine, terpenoids, steroids, flavonoids and phenols. Garlic is a complex plant with many medicinal properties.
All these constituents work together to produce a combination of healing effects on the body. These include reducing free radical damage and oxidative stress.
Effects of garlic also include inhibiting brain cells from developing Lewy bodies. Effects include boosting levels of thiols and glutathione. And garlic’s effects also include boosting levels of hydrogen sulfide within the body and brain tissues.
This synergy of effects from garlic results in what may become one of the biggest breakthroughs in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. No, there has yet to be any large-scale clinical studies treating Parkinson’s patients with garlic. But this is likely the result of the fact that garlic or aged garlic is easily purchased at any supermarket or health food store.
In other words, pharmaceutical companies can’t patent garlic. That might explain why there hasn’t been a big rush from research firms to study garlic and Parkinson’s disease.
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Case Adams is a California Naturopath and a Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies. “My journey into writing about alternative medicine began about 9:30 one evening after I finished with a patient at the clinic I practiced at over a decade ago. I had just spent the last two hours explaining how diet, sleep and other lifestyle choices create health problems and how changes in these, along with certain herbal medicines and other natural strategies can radically yet safely turn our health around. As I drove home that night, I realized this knowledge should be available to more people. So I began writing about health with a mission to reach those who desperately need this information. The strategies in my books and articles are backed by scientific evidence along with wisdom handed down through traditional medicines for thousands of years.”