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Levodopa, Parkinson’s Disease and the Medicinal Bean

Levodopa, Parkinson’s Disease and the Medicinal Bean

 

Studies have shown that Vicia faba, commonly known as the faba beans is a potential medication for Parkinson’s disease. However, it is not just a matter of adding them to your diet. There are still things that you need to consider in order to maximize its beneficial effects and reduce or prevent complications. These are timing and the strength of levodopa.

 

Levodopa is an amino acid and is the treatment of choice for patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease. This is becase levodopa or L-dopa is the primary precursor of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that the PD patients are lacking. Inside the brain and in some other parts of the body, there are what we call the dopaminergic neurons that are responsible for the production, storage and regulation of dopamine. In patients with PD, the substantia nigra has decreased number of dopaminergic neurons to the point where they are unable to manufacture sufficient amount of dopamine. So in the early stages of the disease, levodopa is used to alleviate and improve, though not all, symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. And with this treatment, patients usually experience minimal side effects.

 

Vicia faba (L-dopa)

The plant contains significant amounts of levodopa. As a matter of fact, every part of the plant contains varying amounts of the said amino acid. The stems, leaves, blossoms and pods have 10 times more L-dopa than its seeds.

 

Aside from faba bean, mucuna beans are also known sources of levodopa. But, what differentiates faba from these beans is that faba also contains tyrosine and phenylalanine, both are precursors of levodopa. Phenylalanine is converted by the body to tyrosine and tyrosine is then converted to levodopa, epinephrine and norepinephrine – the 3 major neurotransmitters. As you can see, faba has a genetic blueprint for tyrosine hydroxylase, the enzyme that converts tyrosine to levodopa. 

 

Fava as Potential PD medication

After several clinical studies, it was found out that Vicia faba (L-dopa) have prolonged beneficial effects compared to PD medications. And from these, they believe that the plant probably have other substances in it that is helpful in the treatment of PD. 


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