May 2013

Tobacco Plant Family May Reduce Parkinson's Risk

Consumption of plants that are in the same botanical family as tobacco, Solanaceae, may help reduce the risk of Parkinson's disease (PD), a study reports.

PD is a movement disorder that is chronic and progressive, meaning that symptoms continue and worsen over time. PD affects nerve cells in a part of the brain that controls muscle movement. The four primary symptoms of PD are tremor, or trembling in hands, arms, legs, jaw, and face; rigidity, or stiffness of the limbs and trunk; slowness of movement; and postural instability, or impaired balance and coordination. As these symptoms become more severe, people may have difficulty walking, talking, or completing other simple tasks.

In addition to tobacco, the Solanaceae family includes flowering plants and important crops such as peppers, tomatoes, and potatoes. In the current study, the researchers set out to determine whether consuming these plants may affect risk of PD. They looked at 490 cases of PD that had been diagnosed between 1992 and 2008, and compared them to 644 healthy controls. The team evaluated self-reported consumption of peppers, tomatoes, tomato juice, or potatoes during adulthood, as well as other vegetable consumption, age, gender, race, and use of tobacco and caffeine.

The results suggested that PD risk decreased with consumption of all edible Solanaceae plants combined, but not with the consumption of all other vegetables combined. The researchers found significant results for peppers in particular. These benefits appeared to be more common among men and women who had never used tobacco or who had smoked cigarettes for fewer than 10 years.

The researchers concluded that components of these plants may help reduce the risk of PD. However, they emphasized that further study is needed before firm conclusions can be made in this area.

Many integrative therapies have been studied for potential benefits in PD. There is good scientific evidence supporting the use of music therapy for this condition. Other treatments that have been studied include 5-HTP, acupressure, acupuncture, ayurveda, caffeine, chromium, and coenzyme Q10. However, there is unclear or conflicting evidence on the effectiveness of these therapies. More research is needed.

For more information about PD, please visit Natural Standard's Medical Conditions Database.


  1. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. 
  2. Nielsen SS, Franklin GM, Longstreth WT, et al. Nicotine from edible Solanaceae and risk of Parkinson disease. Ann Neurol 9 May 2013. DOI: 10.1002/ana.23884

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