Parkinson's symptoms, such as muscle tremors, slowness of movement and rigidity, are caused by the progressive destruction of brain cells that produce dopamine. Previous work has suggested that an abundance of a protein called alpha-synuclein may be to blame. Current treatments aim to boost levels of dopamine, which only partly alleviates symptoms and does not affect the protein clusters.

Parkinson's disease is a common neurodegenerative disease in the elderly, which is pathologically characterized by selective loss of dopaminergic neurons. Compound preparations of Chinese medicines that can tonify the kidney have been reported to significantly improve symptoms of Parkinson's disease.

However, the mechanism of action remains unclear.

To investigate whether Chinese medicines that tonify the kidney can protect in vitro cultures of dopaminergic neurons, a recent study published in the Neural Regeneration Research (Vol. 8, No. 30, 2013) showed that Chinese medicines used for tonifying the kidney, such as Herba Epimedii and Herba Cistanches, can protect nerve cells by regulating the expression of apoptosis-related factors and neurotrophic factors.

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Reference: Lin SG, Ye SF, Huang JM, Tian Y, Xu YH, Wu MQ, Wang JX, Wu SY, Cai J. How do Chinese medicines that tonify the kidney inhibit dopaminergic neuron apoptosis? Neural Regen Res. 2013;8(30):2820-2826.