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Herbs and Nutrients for Neurologic Disorders

Treatment Strategies for Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Stroke, Multiple Sclerosis, Migraine, and Seizures

Published by Healing Arts Press
Distributed by Simon & Schuster



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About The Book

A guide to herbal and holistic medicine for brain health and neurologic disorders

• Provides detailed herbal, antioxidant, and nutritional strategies for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, stroke, migraine, and seizures

• Supported by scientific studies and years of successful clinical practice

• Discusses potential side effects, counter-indications, and the proper dosages to reduce symptoms, slow disease progression, and lessen the chances of recurrence

Numerous medical journals have published studies supporting the use of herbs and nutrients in the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders. Yet in practice most neurologists rarely include them as part of their protocols. In this practical guide, Sidney Kurn, M.D., and Sheryl Shook, Ph.D., explain how to safely and easily incorporate herbs, antioxidants, and nutritional supplements into the standard conventional treatments for 6 common neurologic disorders: Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, stroke, migraine, and seizures.

For each condition, the authors provide detailed strategies supported by scientific evidence and years of successful clinical practice. They examine the biochemical role of each recommended herb, nutrient, or antioxidant and discuss potential side effects, counter-indications, and proper dosages to reduce symptoms, slow disease progression, and--in the case of stroke, migraine, and seizures--lessen the chances of recurrence. The authors explore the nutrient deficiencies and physiological mechanisms, including inflammation, heavy metal toxicity, and mitochondrial dysfunction, that can cause oxidative injuries and initiate neurologic disorders. They reveal which common substances, such as aspartame and glutamate, can trigger these mechanisms at the cellular level and recommend specific herbs and antioxidants, such as turmeric, cannabinoids, resveratrol, and N-acetyl cysteine, to counteract their effects. They discuss the importance of sleep to overall well-being, especially for those suffering from neurologic disorders, and offer tips to help ensure a good night’s sleep.

Integrating neuroscience, biochemistry, herbalism, and decades of clinical experience, the authors lay the scientific foundation for a holistic, naturopathic approach to neurologic disorders and a way to enhance the quality of life for those suffering from these conditions.


Chapter 6

Seizure Disorders

Epilepsy (recurrent seizures) requires ongoing medical care. There is no evidence that seizures can be completely controlled with the use of herbs and nutrients without medication. On the other hand, as discussed above, herbs and nutrients may well help control seizures, allow reduction of medication dosage, and provide neuroprotection in the presence of seizures. As with all disorders, any seizure patient interested in the use of supplements requires individual evaluation for the best choice of supplements as well as ongoing supervision. The following summarizes the use of the nutrients and herbs that have been most successful in treating seizure disorders.


GABA: GABA is the main inhibitory amino acid neurotransmitter in the brain. Clinical experience and review of the available literature suggest it does cross the blood-brain barrier, contrary to the commonly held opinion that it does not. GABA is relatively safe and generally inexpensive. It can be sedative early on so the dose should be gradually titrated. Starting at 500–750mg at bedtime, the individual may slowly increase the dose as high as 1500mg twice/day. As noted above, phosphatidylserine appears to help GABA cross the blood-brain barrier. Phosphatidylserine dosage is 100–150mg twice/day.

Taurine: Taurine is an amino acid minus the amino group and is pervasive in the body’s metabolism. It inhibits the excitatory effects of glutamate and inhibits the enzyme that metabolizes GABA, the brain’s main inhibitory neurotransmitter. Both these effects are important in controlling seizures. Starting at 500mg on an empty stomach at bedtime, the dosage can be increased slowly up to 2 gm twice/day.

Magnesium: Magnesium is an essential mineral with numerous functions in the body’s metabolism. Its value in seizures relates to its inhibitory role in the ion channel of the NMDA receptor, an important receptor for glutamate and the main excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain. In addition, magnesium levels tend to be reduced in individuals with seizures. A chelated (bound to amino acids) form of magnesium is recommended rather than an inorganic form such as magnesium oxide or carbonate. The organic chelated form is better absorbed and the amino acid may be beneficial as well. In fact, magnesium taurate is available providing both magnesium and taurine. Magnesium dosage varies from100–300mg twice/day. At higher dosages, magnesium may cause diarrhea, which can be mitigated with the concurrent use of calcium at a similar dosage to the magnesium.


Although a number of herbs have traditional usage in epilepsy, skullcap, bacopa, peony root, and valerian appear to have the most scientific support.

Peony root, in particular, appears to inhibit calcium influx, an essential current for release of excitatory neurotransmitters. It also inhibits the gene essential for apoptosis and inhibits an important element of the metabolic cascade leading to inflammation. These latter properties suggest a role in neuroprotection. Finally, peony root appears to inhibit the high-frequency voltage discharge of neurons, a type of neuronal firing, that occurs in epilepsy.

Bacopa appears to have neuroprotective properties, enhances cognition, and has traditional usage in epilepsy. For individuals with frequent seizures, neuroprotection is important to limit neuronal excitotoxicity and stress.

Valerian, used for millennia, appears to have GABA enhancing properties, similar to a number of the pharmaceutical anticonvulsants. Smell and taste is a bit of an obstacle to the otherwise safe usage of this herb.

Skullcap is a traditional anticonvulsant herb with limited modern scientific study. The lack of evidence does not imply a lack of efficacy, and traditional usage is generally a good guide to an herb’s indication in a clinical setting.

Herbs can be utilized as aqueous extractions (teas or decoctions), alcohol extractions (tinctures), encapsulated dried herb, or gaseous extractions yielding increased potency encapsulated powders. An advantage to tinctures is the capacity for blending a combination of extracts into a single tincture. All the herbs noted above come as tinctures, and can be mixed together into a single tincture. For high potency tinctures with a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio of herbal mg to alcohol ml, one or more teaspoons twice/day is recommended. Based on the evidence presented above, a higher proportion of peony root in the tincture is recommended.


Historical usage, case series, and physiological mechanisms of cannabinoids all support the efficacy of its usage for recurrent seizures. In particular, a high CBD strain should be used to avoid the psychoactive effects of THC. The UCLA series in pediatric patients had a median dosage of 4.3mg/kg/day per patient (children). For an adult, starting with a low oral form of a high CBD preparation at 10–25mg/day appears reasonable. The gravity of seizures requires the monitoring of a medical practitioner, familiar with epilepsy as well as the use of cannabis in medical practice. This may require an open-minded neurologist along with a knowledgeable primary care provider familiar with cannabis medicine. Dosage will vary with each patient. It would not be appropriate to decrease or discontinue other anticonvulsants until there is a noticeable decline in the frequency or intensity of the seizures. Refer to the cannabinoid section of the introduction of the book for important general dosing guidelines for cannabinoids.


The relationship between seizure and sleep was documented by Hippocrates, and the connection has been described in many contexts since then. Reference the sleep chapter for details regarding improving sleep quality.

About The Authors

Sidney J. Kurn, M.D., has been a practicing neurologist since 1979, adding acupuncture to his practice in 1994 and herbal medicine in 1996. Now semi-retired, Dr. Kurn is currently studying physics at UC Berkeley. He lives in Santa Rosa, California.

Sheryl Shook, Ph.D., earned her doctorate in neuroscience from University of California, Davis. She has completed studies in herbal medicine and currently is a sleep science and anatomy and physiology professor. She lives in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Healing Arts Press (June 18, 2016)
  • Length: 256 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781620555538

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Raves and Reviews

“Because neurological diseases are among the hardest to treat, and among the most complex and resistant conditions, this book is both a very good and a very important guide. I would highly recommend that clinicians have this book on their shelves.”

– American Herbalist Guild, Alan Tillotson, May 2016

“Sidney J. Kurn, M.D., and Sheryl Shook, Ph.D., provide a thoroughly researched and clinically tested manual that opens up a new world of treatment possibilities for general and neurologic practitioners. Herbs and Nutrients for Neurologic Disorders is a unique contribution, highly recommended for integrating the burgeoning fields of herbal and traditional neurologic medicine.”

– Joel M. Reiter, M.D., neurologist and coauthor of Taking Control of Your Seizures: Workbook

“This book is required reading for any practitioner of integrative medicine who treats neurological patients. Sidney J. Kurn, M.D., and Sheryl Shook, Ph.D., make well-documented treatment recommendations, keeping with the highest quality standards of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). The chapters are clearly organized, and the treatment summaries at the end of each chapter make it easy to quickly design a program of nutritional therapy and supplements for your patients.”

– Brian Bouch, M.D., associate clinical professor at the UCLA School of Medicine and founder of Hill P

“This is a major contribution to holistic medicine, showing what can be achieved in the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders when skilled practitioners integrate the insights and practice of neurology with those of herbal medicine. This is trailblazing work.”

– David Hoffmann, FNIMH, AHG, medical herbalist at Traditional Medicinals and author of Herbs for Heal

Herbs and Nutrients for Neurologic Disorders represents the fruits of multifaceted learning and should be a boon to both physicians and other health care practitioners--and to patients, too. I am grateful for this book as a very accessible source of nutritional and herbal medicine treatment options for chronic neurological syndromes and diseases. Highly recommended.”

– Peter V. Madill, M.D., board member of the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback

Herbs and Nutrients for Neurologic Disorders takes me back to the originator of the materia medica, Pedacius Dioscorides. This Greek army surgeon (circa AD 60) under Nero began the medical study of plants as a scientific discipline. The authors have continued this tradition of scientific botany with a magnificent tome on the herbal treatment of common diseases. I was especially taken by the chapter on Parkinson’s Disease. Every patient I see with Parkinsonism will be advised to read this chapter and to consider its recommendations.”

– James K. Gude, M.D., clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco,

“At once a scholarly work and practical guide, this book provides the essential conceptual framework, supporting research, and clinical formulations needed to treat common neurologic diseases from a functional, holistic approach. An indispensable resource for both the clinician and patient alike. What a gem!”

– Gerald Camarata, M.D., family physician specializing in herbal and functional medicine and clinical

“This book offers a unique integration of these two authors’ vast knowledge from their many years of dedicated clinical work and patient care. A real asset to neurological patients and their health providers.”

– Isaac Eliaz, M.D., M.S., L.Ac., founder and medical director of the Amitabha Medical Clinic and Heal

“Doctors and patients alike will benefit from this understandable and well-researched volume. This work fills an important void in the complementary alternative medicine literature.”

– Dan Kenner, Ph.D., L.Ac., writer and consultant in integrative medicine in both Oriental and naturop

This book offers an excellent source of information regarding the value of certain herbs, micronutrients, and diet for neurological disorders. The authors have described functions of various herbs and nutrients in great detail.”

– Kedar N. Prasad, Ph.D., author of Fight Alzheimer’s with Vitamins and Antioxidants and Fight P

“The authors have extensively researched all the herbs and supplements that have been scientifically shown to help with neurologic disorders. Interestingly, the same nutrients come up time and again across the conditions--cannabinoids, essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, probiotics, enzymes, and herbs such as turmeric. These all have proven pharmacological effects and can be used together with treatments prescribed by an M.D. The similarity of treatment should come as no surprise as the authors have made a fascinating comparison between the various neurologic disorders. In each of them, inflammation, oxidative stress, excitotoxicity, toxic exposure, diminished gastrointestinal health, genetics, and epigenetics all play a role. The herbs and supplements they describe help combat each of these. But while there are similarities between the various conditions and treatments, there are also differences. In each chapter the authors succinctly list the specific herbs and nutrients special for each condition. In addition, they emphasize the vital importance of sleep and dietary considerations. This book should be required reading not just for anyone affected by any of the conditions mentioned but also for doctors who still opt to treat them exclusively with medication.”

– Judy Graham, editor of New Pathways magazine and author of Managing Multiple Sclerosis Naturally and

"As Americans increasingly use herbs and nutrients to treat themselves for a wide swath of ailments, this kind of skilled advice, backed by rigorous science, is beneficial for general adult readership. VERDICT: All readers, including students and providers of integrative health care, will find this title to be a first rate resource."

– Library Journal

“This is a no-nonsense, data-rich presentation compiled by an allopathic-trained neurologist and a PhD in neuroscience. What these professionals have in common is an interest in alternative, herbal medicine and an honest desire to help people challenged by neurologic disorders. The book begins with an overview of naturopathic literature. Much of that literature is now included in mainstream medical journals but is still not often found in general practice, despite the fact that it offers simple, inexpensive remedies for the treatment of these six devastating disorders. Contributing factors relating to these diseases are then covered with complete discussions of the dangers of sleep debt, the loss of nutrients in our food, increased toxins in the environment, and diminished gastrointestinal health. Once the general stage has been set, each disease is covered intensively in its own chapter. The extraordinarily detailed science which is contained within the pages makes this a serious read. The authors have, however, made it more reader-friendly by including a summary at the end of each chapter along with a chart of the herbs and nutrients which have been found helpful in treating the disease. Let customers know that this book is not folklore. It is science that can be very helpful indeed.”

– Retailing Insight, Anna Jedrziewski, August 2016

Herbs & Nutrients for Neurologic Disorders, with its detailed biological explanations and extensive footnotes, is not a light read. But if you are dealing with one of these illnesses, it can be a valuable resource for you and your practitioner.”

– Energy Times, Lisa James, July 2016

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