Mechanisms for Alternative Treatments in Parkinson’s Disease: Acupuncture, Tai Chi, and Other Treatments

  • Bijan D. Ghaffari
  • Benzi KlugerEmail author
Movement Disorders (M Okun, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Movement Disorders


At least 40 % of patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD) use one or more forms of alternative therapy (AT) to complement standard treatments. This article reviews the commonest forms of AT for PD, including acupuncture, tai chi, yoga, mindfulness, massage, herbal medicine, and cannabis. We discuss the current evidence for the clinical efficacy of each AT and discuss potential mechanisms, including those suggested by animal and human studies. With a few notable exceptions, none of the treatments examined were investigated rigorously enough to draw definitive conclusions about efficacy or mechanism. Tai chi, acupuncture, Mucuna pruriens, cannabinoids, and music therapy have all been proposed to work through specific mechanisms, although current evidence is insufficient to support or refute these claims, with the possible exception of Mucuna pruriens (which contains levodopa). It is likely that most ATs predominantly treat PD patients through general mechanisms, including placebo effects, stress reduction, and improved mood and sleep, and AT may provide patients with a greater locus of control regarding their illness.


Parkinson’s disease Alternative medecine Acupuncture Tai chi 


Compliance with Ethics Guidelines

Conflict of Interest

Bijan D. Ghaffari declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Benzi Kluger has received grants from the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, the National Institutes of Health, the Army Research Office, and the Veteran Affairs Medical Center. He has also received honorarium from the Parkinson Association of the Rockies, the Davis Phinney Foundation, and the Parkinson's Disease Foundation.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of NeurologyUniversity of Colorado School of MedicineAuroraUSA

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