Parkinson's disease is one of the fastest-growing areas of medical research. As the number of people affected with the disease rises, so does the demand for understanding and treatment. Scientists around the world are testing all sorts of different pharmaceutical and herbal treatments for Parkinson's disease. One of the most promising is an herbal medication called cowhage.

Cowhage is commonly referred to as the "velvet bean." The Latin name for the plant is Mucuna pruriens. “Cowitch," "donkey eye," and "kapikachu" are less common names. It grows abundantly in tropical and subtropical regions of the world and is native to southern China and eastern India.

Cowhage has been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for a long time. This is because of its neuroprotective effects and antioxidant properties. In simple terms, Ayurvedic medicine takes a holistic to illness. It places a lot of importance on the proper balance between mind and body and the outside world. Natural herbal remedies are often used alongside proper diet.

Fact Box
Ayurvedic medicine comes from India and has been around for several thousand years, making it one of the world's oldest medical systems.

A compound in cowhage called levodopa is used to treat Parkinson's. Levodopa is widely regarded as the most effective treatment for Parkinson's symptoms. The brain converts levodopa into dopamine, a crucial neurotransmitter that helps brain cells communicate with one another.

Low dopamine levels in the brain trigger common symptoms of Parkinson's, including:

  • shaking
  • tremors
  • stiffness
  • slow movement

Levodopa is typically used in combination with other medications to treat Parkinson's.

Take precautions before introducing cowhage or its extracts into your body. Cowhage doesn't have a lot of side effects on its own, but it can interfere with other medications.

Cowhage can adversely interfere with:

  • medication for diabetes
  • certain antidepressants and antipsychotics
  • blood pressure medicine

Be sure to consult with your doctor prior to taking the drug.

Cowhage has other uses beyond the treatment of Parkinson's. Historically, cowhage was used to treat male infertility, nervous disorders, snake bites, and skin disorders like atopic dermatitis. It has also been used as an aphrodisiac.

It’s less than desirable for your dinner plate. Cowhage sounds like it would make a great dietary supplement because of the high levels of crude protein, essential amino acids, and essential fatty acids in its seeds. However, it has toxic and antinutritional qualities. For example, it contains polyphenols, tannins, and phytic acid, all of which can make protein less digestible. 

Some people believe you can eliminate the potentially toxic effects of the seeds by properly heating the beans. Not enough research has been conducted in this area, so be sure to talk to your doctor before beginning cowhage treatment.