The history of parkinsonism: descriptions in ancient Indian medical literature

Mov Disord. 2013 May;28(5):566-8. doi: 10.1002/mds.25420. Epub 2013 Mar 8.


The clinical syndrome of parkinsonism was identified in ancient India even before the period of Christ and was treated methodically. The earliest reference to bradykinesia dates to 600 bc. Evidences prove that as early as 300 bc, Charaka proposed a coherent picture of parkinsonism by describing tremor, rigidity, bradykinesia, and gait disturbances as its components. The scenario was further developed by Madhava, Vagbhata, and Dalhana all through history. The 15th-century classic "Bhasava rajyam" introduced the term kampavata, which may be regarded as an ayurvedic analogue of parkinsonism. The pathogenesis of kampavata centered on the concept of imbalance in the vata factor, which controls psychomotor activities. The essential element in therapy was the administration of powdered seed of Mucuna pruriens, or atmagupta, which as per reports, contains 4%-6% of levodopa. In addition to proving the existence and identification of parkinsonism in ancient India, the study points to the significance of ancient Indian Sanskrit works in medical history.

Publication types

  • Editorial
  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • History, Ancient
  • Humans
  • India
  • Medicine, Ayurvedic / history*
  • Parkinson Disease / history*
  • Parkinson Disease / therapy*