The broccoli seed tea experiment

The results of a study (n=8) designed and executed entirely by People with Parkinson’s, reveal that non-motor symptoms were strongly attenuated by a broccoli seed tea, whereas motor symptoms remained unchanged over the 6-week program.

These results and their interpretation are given in an article on the “Documents” page.

They imply that the mechanisms involved in attenuating non-motor symptoms are different to those for motor symptoms and are consistent with the theory that oxidative stress damage to mitochondria leads to an energy deficit in dopaminergic neurons which precedes the reduction in dopamine production that occurs later in the disease.

If you would like to know more about the scientific justification for this experiment, read “Resetting the Redox Balance to fight Parkinson’s disease.

The Protocol

My own experiments and observations enabled me to set up a protocol for the preparation and dosing of Brassica seed extracts and a checklist for following up the evolution of symptoms over a period of weeks or months. This protocol, although far from perfect, was made available to a group of Parkinson’s disease sufferers in October 2020. A small number decided to try it out for themselves by following a program of self-experimentation, making their own broccoli tea and sharing their data.

Making sulforaphane from Brassica seeds

To get a good yield of sulforaphane from broccoli seeds or sprouts, you need to take into account the basic chemistry. The seeds or sprouts contain three separate substances, glucoraphanin, myrosinase (an enzyme which catalyses the conversion of glucoraphanin to sulforaphane) and a co-enzyme ESP (epithiospecifier protein), which modifies the conversion of glucoraphanin to make an inactive byproduct. A high yield of sulforaphane can only be obtained when ESP is inactivated and the conditions are optimised to enable myrosinase to work efficiently. The conditions present in the gastrointestinal tract (temperature, pH), lead to low bioavailability of sulforaphane. At high temperatures the myrosinase enzyme is destroyed which totally blocks any production of sulforaphane. For these reasons, cooked broccoli contains very little sulforaphane. White mustard or daikon radish seeds contain versions of myrosinase which is more efficient than that in broccoli seed and can be used as replacement catalysts. Optimised hydrolysis conditions produce a cloudy yellow suspension which can be which filtered through a fine-mesh tea strainer to remove inactive particulate matter. This suspension contains highly bioavailable sulforaphane which will calm down Keap1 and let Nrf2 do its work.


The first results from this pioneering experiment are quite remarkable. They clearly show that a specific group of symptoms, collectively called non-motor symptoms respond strongly to this treatment over a period of just a few weeks, whereas motor symptoms remain practically unchanged over this short timescale.

Non-motor symptoms were strongly attenuated by broccoli seed tea whereas motor symptoms were unaffected.

These results are both encouraging and instructive. Encouraging, because they provide the first evidence that activating Nrf2 has an immediate and powerful impact on a subset of Parkinson’s disease symptoms. Instructive, because the distinction between non-motor and motor symptoms provides guidance about the processes being used when Nrf2 impacts the health of neurons. This result was achieved by Parkinson’s patients taking action to improve their knowledge of the disease. They did it entirely on their own, in just 3 months and with no external funding. These Patients took action to become researchers and have succeeded where others dared not try. These results make 2 important statements:

  • A broccoli tea, rich in sulforaphane rapidly attenuates a subset of Parkinson’s disease symptoms,
  • There was a clear distinction in the response of non-motor compared to motor symptoms. This implies that at least 2 different processes are involved in the genesis and/or resolution of Parkinson’s disease symptoms.

What more can we learn from the results of this patient-driven study?

The 3 symptoms which responded most strongly and progressively to the treatment were “fatigue, sleep quality and lack of motivation”. These symptoms have a strong association with energy production. This implies that the first direct impact of upregulating Nrf2 is to improve energy production in neurons, most likely by reducing ROS damage to mitochondria. If so, this could also break the vicious circle whereby mitochondrial damage, once established is self-sustaining. ROS damage to mitochondria creates more ROS which leads to more mitochondrial damage etc. In extreme cases it can get out of control. We can infer from this that oxidative stress is likely to be the dominant mechanism in the genesis of the process that leads to these non-motor symptoms. If confirmed, this mechanistic pathway should be the primary target to be investigated in any therapeutic plan to fight Parkinson’s disease.

Urinary incontinence and night time urinary frequency were also considerably improved. These are symptoms that strongly impact the quality of life of PwP.

Another important conclusion is that the natural isothiocyanates found in Brassica seeds have more than enough potency to reduce oxidative stress and rapidly attenuate non-motor Parkinson’s disease symptoms.

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Research scientist with Parkinson's disease exploring transcription factor Nrf2 activation to stop PD progression. See for more details.

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