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Neuroinflammation – Part 4

March 16, 2011

Activated microglia resemble armed sentries patrolling the perimeter of some ancient fortification. Walking along the top of the city wall in the darkness, they move quietly and with little fanfare so long as they detect no enemies. However, if they come upon an invader clambering over the parapet, the change is remarkable and instantaneous. There is no wait for orders. Instead swords leap from their scabbards and fierce cries warn their fellows of the threat as the attack is initiated. They battle with the goal of holding the invader at bay to allow time for the garrison to rally and mount the true defense. Once this is accomplished, things go quiet again and the town settles back in for some needed rest.

But what if the sentry were to become so agitated and hypervigilant that he did not stand down? What if, even though the evil ones had been dispatched, the sentry continued to dart back and forth shouting and striking out with his sword? What if he did so day after day, disrupting the garrison and preventing the needed rest and recuperation? Where he had been an asset and had strengthened the community, now it was quite the opposite as loss of sleep and increased stress took a toll on the very people he sought to protect.

That is the situation faced when neuroinflammation rules the brain. Day after day, year after year, neurons (or fellow soldiers) sicken and die from the actions of their own defenders. After twenty years of this one may find that a hand trembles or the sense of smell is lost. And so, here is one of the pillars upon which Parkinson’s Disease is built.

And here, too, is an opportunity to disrupt and perhaps even halt a critical process.  It is this view of PD as a bundle of ongoing processes that I rely on in the absence of anything more definitive.  There are a half-dozen or so that present similar opportunities but neuroinflammation seems critically important.

While our bodies rely on hormones called gluccocorticoids to quell inflammation and our doctors recommend NSAIDs, both of these are hazardous with longtime use. I prefer botanicals with proven anti-inflammatory properties. My reasons are:

  • Most have a long history of traditional use – in effect a clinical trial centuries in length – which is reassuring on issues of safety.
  • Compared to modern pharmaceuticals, most are relatively weak. This seems illogical at first but one must realize that inflammation is needed to maintain life. Depress it completely and you die.
  • Plant-derived treatments are complex mxtures and allow for unique amplifications or “synergy” as different compounds act as cofactors for one another. We evolved with this system and animals still seek out medicinal plants when ill.
  • Modern science has confirmed that botanicals contain some astonishingly powerful chemicals, some of which seem able to actually reverse neurological damage.

And so my own interests are directed toward plant derived treatments. If a miracle lies hidden somewhere, that is where I believe it will be found. That is doubly true in the case of inflammation as I will attempt to show from time to time on this blog.

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