Parkinson's disease (PD) is neuropathologically characterized as an alpha-synucleinopathy. Alpha-synuclein-containing inclusions are stained as Lewy bodies and Lewy neurites in the brain, which are the pathological hallmark of PD. However, alpha-synuclein-containing inclusions in PD are not restricted to the central nervous system, but are also found in peripheral tissues. Alpha-synuclein levels can also be measured in body fluids. The aim of this study was to conduct a systematic review of available evidence to determine the utility of alpha-synuclein as a peripheral biomarker of PD. We searched PubMed (1948 to 26 May 2013), Embase (1974 to 26 May 2013), the Cochrane Library (up to 26 May 2013), LILACS (up to 26 May 2013) and CINAHL (up to 26 May 2013) for the studies of alpha-synuclein in peripheral tissues or body fluids in PD. A total of 49 studies fulfilled the search criteria. Peripheral tissues such as colonic mucosa showed a sensitivity of 42–90% and a specificity of 100%; submandibular salivary glands showed sensitivity and specificity of 100%; skin biopsy showed 19% sensitivity and 80% specificity in detecting alpha-synuclein pathology. CSF alpha-synuclein had 71–94% sensitivity and 25–53% specificity for distinguishing PD from controls. Plasma alpha-synuclein had 48–53% sensitivity and 69–85% specificity. Neither plasma nor CSF alpha-synuclein is presently a reliable marker of PD. This differs from alpha-synuclein in solid tissue samples of the enteric and autonomic nervous system, which offer some potential as a surrogate marker of brain synucleinopathy.