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Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine

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Historical and cross-cultural perspectives on Parkinson’s disease

Lee Xenakis Blonder
  • Corresponding author
  • Sanders- Brown Center on Aging and Departments of Behavioral Science, Neurology and Anthropology, University of Kentucky, 101 Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, Lexington, KY 40536-0230, USA
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Published Online: 2018-05-08 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jcim-2016-0065


Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a common neurodegenerative disorder, affecting up to 10 million people worldwide according to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation. Epidemiological and genetic studies show a preponderance of idiopathic cases and a subset linked to genetic polymorphisms of a familial nature. Traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda recognized and treated the illness that Western Medicine terms PD millennia ago, and descriptions of Parkinson’s symptomatology by Europeans date back 2000 years to the ancient Greek physician Galen. However, the Western nosological classification now referred to in English as “Parkinson’s disease” and the description of symptoms that define it, are accredited to British physician James Parkinson, who in 1817 authored The Shaking Palsy. Later in the nineteenth century, French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot re-labeled paralysis agitans “Parkinson’s disease” and over a century of scientific research ensued. This review discusses European, North American, and Asian contributions to the understanding and treatment of PD from ancient times through the twentieth century.

Keywords: alternative medicine; ayurvedic medicine; history of medicine; Parkinson’s disease; therapeutics; traditional Chinese medicine


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About the article

Received: 2016-07-12

Accepted: 2018-03-22

Published Online: 2018-05-08

Author contributions: All the authors have accepted responsibility for the entire content of this submitted manuscript and approved submission.

Research funding: None declared.

Employment or leadership: None declared.

Honorarium: None declared.

Competing interests: The funding organization(s) played no role in the study design; in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; or in the decision to submit the report for publication.

Citation Information: Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine, Volume 15, Issue 3, 20160065, ISSN (Online) 1553-3840, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jcim-2016-0065.

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