Aids is a retrovirus which infects and kills T-cells, macrophages and dendritic cells. As these defense mechanisms are destroyed our immune systems are not as efficient, causing us to be more susceptible to infection and rendering us unable to fight off disease by destroying our adaptive immune system. AIDS is taking over the Middle East and is currently considered to be endemic in parts of Asia, China, and Southern Africa. Herbal remedies are frequently used by HIV-AIDS patients, as opposed to pharmaceuticals, in poorer countries due to the high cost of modern medicine. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) utilizes herbal supplements, extracts, acupuncture, massage, and exercise as the primary treatment of opportunistic infections, whereas in the United States the standard of care includes the use of pharmaceuticals with “”herbal complementary therapy to be used in addition to drugs.
Herbal supplements that boost the immune system can be useful in treating side effects of the disease such as nausea and depression, but action of the drugs aren’t adequately studied enough to say whether they are sufficient in fighting diseases alone. There is much evidence showing that herbal medicine can be effective for immune support, improving antioxidant levels, and as an anti-retroviral. The peer-reviewed articles that I researched examined clinical trials of herbal medicine as a treatment for HIV-AIDS patients. I will be examining which specific herbs are commonly used to treat HIV-AIDS, the therapeutic responses of herbal treatment and if the treatments alone are effective enough to significantly increase affected patient lifespan.
Traditional Chinese medicine is effective in relieving HIV-AIDS associated symptoms such as diarrhea, weakness, fever, malaise, insomnia, and weight loss. Patients can either chose a single symptom and be given a herbal solution to relieve it or use many methods and treatments to prevent symptoms from occurring in the first place.
The “”Xie Li Kang capsule is a combination Chinese herbal hospital medication with TCM properties that are known to warm the abdomen which invigorates the spleen, is an insecticide and can relieve diarrhea with astringents. This pill is made of Galla Chinensis, Myristica Eragrans, Cortex Dictamnus, and garlic. In a double-blind study conducted on Xie Li Kang to test its effectiveness in relieving HIV related diarrhea, patients experienced decreased stool weight but did not decrease the frequency of diarrhea.
Yi Ai Kang capsule is a TCM formulation that strengthens the spleen, dries dampness, stimulates vital energy, as well as nourishing blood. This capsule includes the following ingredients: Astragalus Membranaceus, Ginseng, Ligusticum Chuanxiong, Radix Paeoniae Alba, and Scutellaria Baicalensis. In one study, 379 HIV patients that were not on any additional treatment, took Yi Ai Kang daily and reported decreased fatigue, increased breathing ability and decreased spontaneous perspiration.
Aining granule is a TCM supplement that promotes yin, purifies qi (the circle of life force), and rejuvenates the spleen. It is made of Radix Astragali Mongolici, Fructus Lycii, Panax Notoginseng, Poria Cocos, and Radix et Rhizoma Glycyrrhizae. In a random double-blind study testing 100 patients that took Aining granule as well as combination antiretroviral therapy (cART); CD4 + T cell counts decreased in both groups, but the levels decreased less in the group taking Aining granule. Aining granule also proved to reduce fatigue, anorexia, nausea, and rash.
Aside from Chinese methods of treatment, there are many common natural supplements and oils that can improve common side effects. To improve skin immunity, you can topically use aloe vera. for an antibacterial intervention, you can topically apply propolis, anti-inflammatory responses can be alleviated with olive tree oil, tea tree oil, and turmeric. Effective anti-viral supplements include golden seal, biscuit root, neem tree, and St John’s wort; Circulatory stimulants include ginger and ginkgo; hyssop is a natural expectorant; and for kidney protection, consider using liquorice, milk thistle, and greater celandine.
Summary of research:
In South Africa, 33 HIV-positive volunteers were followed for one year to test the effectiveness of TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) without any other treatments. Among the participants, 80% showed improved physical appearance, 65% had an increased appetite, 70% had skin lesions disappear, 100% of patients experienced the disappearance of urogenital lesions, 80% of participants gained body weight, CD4 T-cell counts increased 2.5 times their original values.