Viral Diseases and Complementary Medicine

Paul L. Reller L.Ac. / Last Updated: August 03, 2017


The Evolved Treatment Protocols in Nature for Treating and Preventing Viral Disease

The virus has been around perhaps as long as there has been genetic material on our planet, before life even began, certainly before humans arrived on the planet, and viral genetic code will continue to be a vital part of the human organism forever. Viruses both help life and threaten it, and Nature has evolved many complex mechanisms to protect all life, plant, animal, microbial and insect from viral disease threats. The human organism has evolved a very complicated complement immune system that is largely focused on how to identify and clear viral disease threats, and there are many chemicals that can be stimulated to help with this task, as well as many chemicals from other outside sources, such as medicinal plants, that can be utilized. As threats occur in Nature all organisms evolve mechanisms to counter these threats, and medicinal plants are a category of life that have evolved chemicals that protect the plants from viral disease, and in like manner provide humans with chemicals that protect it. So far, the few effective synthetic drugs that can treat viral diseases are almost all derived from these medicinal plants and their antiviral chemicals. There are many more, a vast array, of herbal and food chemicals that are now proven to be effective as well, though, and some of these important herbal and nutrient medicine studies are presented in the section of this article entitled Additional Information and Links to Scientific Studies, along with some of the evidence showing how acupuncture stimulation of the immune responses fits into this holistic and synergistic treatment protocol. The problem is the complexity of the task in preventing and treating viral diseases.

As stated, the virus is not a living organism and thus cannot be killed with medication. To eliminate problematic viruses from our bodies we need to actually identify which of our cells have the DNA code of the threatening virus and destroy our own cells that are infected with this genetic data. The immune complement response that achieves this task is very complex, and only it can truly accomplish the task. We keep trying to synthesize allopathic chemicals that perform specific tasks that can target specific viral DNA and the RNA expression, but the virus is able to respond by simply changing its genetic code or the capsule that envelops it. The potential to mutate to counter threats to the virus is an essential part of what a virus is, and our advanced human intellect still has not discovered how this is even possible. For this reason, our ability to find effective medicines are limited, but still we need to try to discover whatever medicines we can because the threat of the viral disease can reach unimaginable proportions, which we call the recurrent viral pandemic, a serious life-threatening disease that can affect all humans on the entire planet at once. This viral pandemic has occurred about every one hundred years on the planet, sometimes less severe, and sometimes incredibly severe, such as the last one in 1918 that may have killed up to 50 million people in a relatively short time. Only the strong will survive, and the survivors will carry the viral DNA and the genetic data to counter this pandemic viral threat into the future. This is evolution. Modern medicine states that they will probably not be able to create a specific vaccine to the next pandemic fast enough, and that even is current vaccines and antiviral drugs are effective, they will only be effective for a percentage of the population, and globally we will not have enough medication. Using CIM/TCM and becoming informed and knowledgeable to its use will insure that many more individuals could survive this coming pandemic.

For common viral illnesses such as hepatitis, herpes, influenza, etc. research is proving that traditional herbal remedies do work, and much of the published scientific study is available with links in the articles on this website relating to various viral diseases. Acupuncture is shown to enhance the immune system and works synergistically with this herbal medicine. To prevent viral illness, taking a specific type of herbal formula as soon as the infection occurs, and getting an acupuncture treatment will help to keep the infection mild, and this will stimulate a vaccine-like effect to prevent future occurrence. Immune enhancing herbal formulas and formulas to enhance membrane mucosal immunity will also be helpful to prevent future viral illness. This is scientifically verified and more and more research verifying these effects are published each year.

For viral illnesses that are less severe, and there are many, there is no reason to avoid the use of traditional medicine, long used successfully to treat these diseases, and in recent decades, refined and studied to a remarkable degree to better guide professional care. In CIM/TCM we have continued to study and develop a synergistic and holistic treatment protocol, stimulating the immune responses with acupuncture needle stimulation, providing individualized herbal and nutrient medicines in a step-by-step protocol, and providing sound advice on diet and lifestyle to both prevent viral illness and recover quicker from diseases caused by these viruses. Complementary and Integrative Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine (CIM/TCM) also provide an array of protocols to prevent and treat not only the viruses in the body, but the complex and often chronic diseases triggered or caused by the viruses. Often, the chronic disease no longer is cured simply by eliminating the virus, and the health problems have to be analyzed more thoroughly and holistic treatment has to be designed. Hopefully, the research presented here in this long article, as well as the information to gain greater understanding and take a more proactive approach to viral disease will help many patients.

Many viral pathogens infect our DNA and do not produce symptoms in a majority of cases. In 2016, the Zika virus gained notoriety with the potential to cause birth defects. The U.S. CDC reported that about 80 percent of patients diagnosed as infected with the Zika virus never display symptoms, and that initial estimates of the risk of the infection causing birth defects in pregnancy was between 1 and 15 percent, some of which may be mild, and some severe, such as microcephaly. Obviously, a broader protocol of prevention and treatment that comes with no adverse side effects would be very helpful, integrated into any protocol developed and proven effective in standard medicine, which in 2016 was none. While the research into the Zika virus itself is minimal, a number of studies have shown that common Chinese antiviral herbs are effective for the family that the Zika virus belongs, such as Scutellaria baicalensis (Huang qin). The choice to integrate Chinese herbal medicine and CIM/TCM presents potential and no downside.

Flu virus, or influenza: current standard treatment and research confirming efficacy of Chinese herbs

The flu, or influenza, is perhaps the most widespread illness known to man, yet modern medicine still has no effective treatment. It is an infectious disease caused by RNA viruses of the Orthomyxoviridae family. The most common symptoms include sore throat, headache, muscle ache, chill, fever, cough, fatigue and general discomfort. More serious cases may result in pneumonia, which is sometimes fatal in the elderly and very young patients. The flu is distinguished from the Common Cold, which is caused by a different strain, or family of viruses, the Coronaviruses or the Rhinoviruses for the most part. The term stomach flu, is a mistaken term, referring to gastroenteritis, which is not caused by influenza viruses, but is usually itself of viral origin. Norovirus and rotavirus are the two most common causes of gastroenteritis, although adenovirus and astrovirus are not uncommon. Gastroenteritis may also be caused by bacteria such as the spore-forming Clostridium difficile, parasitic microbes, toxins, or medication.

Currently, due to a lack of standard pharmacological treatment, and the possibility of more severe strains of flu virus causing severe illness, the strategy of utilizing a flu vaccine is widespread. The flu vaccine, though, is targeting only a few strains of more serious types of virus, and has little or no actual effect against most common strains of influenza. The first 15 years of administering flu vaccine in the United States produced no measurable decrease in the number of deaths or serious illnesses in the targeted population of the elderly. Nevertheless, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) continues to support widespread flu vaccine yearly, due to lack of an alternative. The most common human flu vaccine is the trivalent influenza vaccine (TIV) that contains purified and inactivated material from only 3 viral strains, typically 2 influenza A virus subtypes, and 1 influenza B virus strain. New influenza viruses are constantly evolving by mutation and reassortment of the genetic codes. Since viruses are not living organisms they are not restricted by standard passing on of genes via replication of offspring.

Neuraminidase inhibitors such as oseltamivir are the current choice of treating more serious cases of influenza (Tamiflu, Relenza, and Peramivir). Due to side effects and drug warnings, though, these drugs have not been widely prescribed until recently, with a large advertising push. Increased use of Tamiflu has resulted in a very large rise in viral drug resistance to oseltamivir, though, decreasing its potential to treat more serious cases of influenza and the upcoming pandemic . M2 inhibitors (adamantanes) are sometimes effective against influenza A strains if given early in the infection, but are always ineffective against influenza B strains, because these viruses do not contain the M2 molecules. Drug resistance has rapidly risen in the U.S. as well, and resistance in the H3N2 strain rose to 91 percent in 2005. It is believed that the rapid development of drug resistant viral strains was due to the addition of adamantanes in many over-the-counter cold remedies. By 2012, though, medical doctors were starting to prescribe neuraminidase inhibitors such as Tamiflu routinely when patients presented acute cases of influenza or other viral illness, despite drug resistance due to overuse and overprescription. It seems like we will never learn. The most common immediate side effects of Tamiflu are nausea (10 percent of patients in clinical trials), headache (18 percent), diarrhea (7 percent), cough (5 percent), and dizziness (2 percent), but the eventual side effects of abnormal behavioral and psychiatric symptoms, such as tactile hallucination, have been the most alarming adverse effect. By 2012, the European Medicines Agency and the Nordic Cochrane Centre for drug meta-analysis was challenging the manufacturer Roche for complete drug trial data, due to numerous reports of more frequently occurring adverse effects, as well as a lack of proof of efficacy, especially with development of drug resistance. In the meantime, more than a dozen countries have spent a fortune stockpiling these adamantane antiviral drugs. Currently, most research is now focused on the finding of effective biologics, which are drugs that, like herbs, stimulate natural immune defenses. Of course, Mother Nature has been experimenting and evolving a wide array of chemicals that achieve this purpose, and these are found in medicinal herbs. Mother Nature has had the advantage of millions of years to develop these effective herbal chemicals. Why these few antiviral pharmaceuticals are not preserved for severe viral diseases to stop this development of drug resistance should be the big question, and mirrors the present condundrum with antibiotic overuse and antibiotic-resistant strains of virulent bacterial disease. Simply utilizing professional herbal medicine is the logical answer to these problems, but it fought because of economic and competitive concerns.

While Western research into herbal treatment of influenza is very sparse, there has been a number of clinical research trials that have, so far, confirmed efficacy of Chinese herbs in the treatment of human flu. See one review from the NIH PubMed database by clicking here: More specific study of Chinese herbs as potent medicines for treating viral diseases are now being conducted, though, and one example, in 2015, at China Medical University, National Chung Hsing University and Tunghai University, all in Taichung, Taiwan, found that the Chinese herb Polygonum cuspidatum (Hu zhang), now famous as the source of the active herbal chemical Resveratrol, exerted significant antiviral effects inhibiting influenza virus replication through a number of physiological pathways, including inhibition of hemagglutinin and neuramindase, and increasing the expression of interferon beta. The direct inhibition of viral replication and simultaneous activation of host immune response has not been previously found in any herbal or pharmacological antiviral medicine, and was proven to inhibit the viral influenza strain H1N1, believed to be the family that will produce the next viral pandemic. To see this important study, the first of many showing the importance of integrating herbal medicine into antiviral strategies, click here: More and more such studies are confirming the proof of efficacy of herbal chemicals to inhibit viral replication, and some of these may be accessed in the section of this articles entitled Additional Information. Most of the commonly used antiviral herbs have now been proven effective, and the array of mechanisms to inhibit pathogenic viruses is broad, as well as the proven mechanisms that enhance both innate and learned immunity. Of course, there are thousands of year of empirical proof of Chinese herbal formulas in treating viral infections and endemic diseases, and many patients today will confirm their efficacy as well. There is also considerable research in Asian countries verifying the efficacy of a wide array or medicinal herbs and explaining their physiological effects, although most of these studies have still not found acceptance into medical journals in the West that will publish them. There is no reason that both pharmaceutical biologics and herbal medicines cannot be utilized for an effective treatment protocol in the future, though, and with virtually no history of negative herb-drug interactions in this regard, with both being heavily prescribed in hospitals in China, South Korea and Japan for decades, we shall see whether health authorities finally acknowledge the sensible nature of such Integrative Medicine or continue to kowtow to pharmaceutical lobbying to protect profits from patented medicines that so far have proven inadequate to cope with the spectrum of viral diseases and the upcoming viral pandemic.

In 2015, experts at Oxford University and the University of Bergen published a report on the current state of flu vaccines. In this paper, the authors stated: "Natural infection (with a specific virus) is able to induce this multifaceted mucosal and systemic immune response (mucosal IgA and other antibodies targeting hemagglutinin, T-cell responses, antibodies targeting NA and M2e) to confer protection against subsequent influenza with similar strains. Thus, the challenge for an effective influenza vaccine is to mimic natural infection in conferring protection against influenza." These experts point out that anti-NA (neuraminidase) antibodies have been shown to be expressed after natural infection, as well as an array of T cell responses and cytokines. It is clear that a vaccine-like immunity could be triggered if a patient were infected with a specific virus and the illness was mild. Use of herbal medicine to prevent the progression of the infection at an early stage would then infer a vaccine-like immunity that would be in effect for like viruses. In 2015, a study at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, in China, showed that the most common formula to prevent viral illness in Chinese herbal medicine, Yu Ping Feng San, composed of Astragalus, Atractylodis, and Saposhnikoviae (Huang qi, Bai zhu and Fang feng) exerts antiviral and antibacterial effects, and induces an immune response that inhibits neuraminidase activity (protein antibody responses). To see this study, just click here: . Another 2015 study, at the Heilongjiang University of Science and Technology, in Harbin, China, showed that the Indian herb Withania somnifera (Ashwaghanda) also targets the neuraminidase of the H1N1 family of viruses, stimulating anti-NA responses. To see this study, just click here: . The list of common immune enhancing and antiviral herbs that are now proven to provide this vaccine-like response is growing. A 2011 study at Jilin University, in Changchun, China, evaluated the anti-NA activity of 439 water extracts of Traditional Chinese Medicine herbs, finding 5 herbal extracts that exhibited potent neuraminidase inhibition to effectively create a vaccine-like effect against Influenza A H1N1, the viral family believed to be the biggest pandemic threat, and yearly threat. These 5 herbs, Melia Toosendam (Chuan lian zi and Ku lian pi), Prunella vulgaris (Xia ku cao), Liquidamber formosana (Lu lu tong), Lithospermum erythrorhizon (Zi cao), and Duchesnea indica (She mei) exerted strong anti-NA inhibition against H1N1 viral infection. To see this study, just click here: . These 5 herbs are commonly used in formulas to provide the strongest antiviral effects in TCM practice.

As research into the anti-viral mechanisms of herbal chemistry accelerates, a large amount of data is supporting the effectiveness of Chinese herbal medicine to treat viral illness. In addition to this safe and inexpensive treatment for viral disease with professional herbal medicine, prevention of viral disease and strengthening one's immune system is an even more important goal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine (CIM) and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which is also now supported with much scientific evidence. A sample of this scientific data is presented below in additional information with links to the study summaries.

Expanding the protocol for HIV prevention and integrative therapy

The National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States, in 2010, stated: "We must also move away from thinking that one approach to HIV prevention will work, whether it is condoms, pills, or information. Instead, we need to develop, evaluate, and implement effective prevention strategies and combination of approaches, including efforts such as expanded HIV testing (since people who know their status are less likely to transmit HIV), education and support to encourage people to reduce risky behaviors, the strategic use of medications and biomedical interventions (which have allowed us, for example, to nearly eliminate HIV transmission to newborns), the development of vaccines and microbicides, and the expansion of evidence-based mental health and substance abuse prevention and treatment programs."

Microbicides are substances that destroy microbes, and viruses, and of course, a number of herbal chemicals are proven to be microbicides, and are now confirmed as microbicidal to HIV. Integration of Complementary Medicine into an effective comprehensive protocol holds much promise, and is being researched and encouraged worldwide. Besides direct microbicidal therapy, though, biomedical strategies to enhance immune function, support general health, and alleviate adverse health effects of standard drug protocol is obviously important. To date, Complementary Medicine, in the form of acupuncture, herbal and nutrient medicine, has been shown to be very successful as an adjunct therapy in HIV/AIDS care, mandated in a number of successful programs, such as the Ryan White program, created under the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act of the U.S. Congress, in 1990. Other programs are again encouraging evidence-based utilization of Complementary Medicine in the treatment of HIV/AIDS due to the failures of the present strategies, and the harsh chronic adverse effects of HIV medications, acknowledging that herbal medicines have been discouraged too vociferously, for no apparent reason than the encouragement of increased pharmacological use and profit. These new programs across the world acknowledge that there are viable roles in both HIV prevention and treatment, with herbal medicine, as well as adjunct therapies to alleviate medication side effects and promote improved overall health and immune function. The choice is not between standard care and an alternative, but between improving outcomes with integrated care or not.

Many studies have now provided clinical proof that acupuncture and electroacupuncture at specific points modulates immune responses, achieving restoration of CD4 counts, improved ratios of CD4/CD8, and improved complement T cell responses and membrane health. These effects could be important in both prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), though, offers a synergistic array of individualized therapies that provides a broader and better outcome by combining acupuncture with herbal and nutrient medicine, and physiotherapy. These benefits are now proven to provide measurable outcomes in clinical trials, and while anecdotal evidence of potential drug-herb contraindication is widespread, there is no clinical evidence, and finally scientific studies are getting past the difficulty of study design and funding and producing evidence that standard herbal care does not create negative problems with drug protocols. To see one such study of acupuncture and improved CD4 counts (a glycoprotein on the surface of T helper cells and macrophages), click here: . The section entitled Additional Information and Links to Studies at the end of this article provides many more such studies and evidence.

In 2012, the World Health Organization (WHO) and Food and Agricultural Organization (FAQ) jointly published a manual on nutritional and herbal care for people living with HIV/AIDS. The WHO has long endorsed research into herbal chemicals to treat and prevent HIV and HIV-associated health problems, and a number of prominent research universities around the world continue to find promising chemicals in medicinal herbs that hopefully will produce a viable medicine to reduce HIV infection. For instance, chemicals found in the herbs Justicia gendarussa and Camelia sinensis are being researched in 2012 to find a viable new medicine to lower HIV counts. Scientific study has identified a number of herbal chemicals that produce antimicrobial chemicals effective for HIV, as well as a number of herbal chemicals shown to indirectly aid the immune responses to HIV. While there is the danger of fraud in the realm of herbal medicine, this has not been shown to be a widespread phenomena impacting the treatment of HIV, and in 2010, the WHO stated that it is estimated that 4 billion people worldwide use herbal medicines for some aspect of their primary healthcare. A number of countries, such as South Africa, officially endorse evidence-based herbal medicine as part of the primary care in HIV/AIDS. While warnings of herb-drug interactions are prevalent, to date, there is very little evidence of such negative effects, only speculation that high dosages of such herbs as St. John's Wort and Aged Garlic may alter the level of some anti-retroviral drugs in plasma. As with most realms of medicine, overblown warnings of herb-drug interactions are prevalent, yet after more than a decade of such warnings, almost no cases of actual clinical harm have been produced.

In Africa, where HIV/AIDS has produced the most devastating effects, and remains largely uncontrolled, despite enormous efforts to provide inexpensive pharmacological treatment, public education, and barrier methods of protection with sexual transmission, a renewed interest in integration of herbal medicine has occurred. In 2012, a Nigerian pharmaceutical researcher and winner of the 2012 African Pharmaceutical Researcher of the Year, Ben Amodu, whose company, Halal Chemicals Nigeria Ltd., produces herbal medicines certified by the NAFDAC (National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control), has stated that the World Health Organization (WHO) has again endorsed herbal medicine as an integrative part of treatment of HIV/AIDS, and continues to work on research and certification of herbal medicines to treat both the viral infection and associated health problems. Mr. Amodu states that he is concerned with the adverse effects of current pharmaceuticals, and feels that herbal medicines may both aid the pharmaceutical effects, perhaps reducing the need for high dosage and prolonged multidrug therapy, as well as provide effective treatment for prevention of opportunistic infections and improving the function of the immune system. While there is no cure for HIV infection or AIDS, either pharmacological or herbal, the potential for increased effectiveness in the treatment of these devastating conditions with the addition of Complementary Medicine is obvious. In Africa, a number of countries now conduct serious herbal research and have recommended a number of preliminary herbal medicines through their Ministries of Health, despite decades of strong discouragement from pharmaceutical companies and international AIDS foundations. None of these health ministeries suggest that herbal medicine should replace effective pharmaceutical treatment.

Herbal HIV research is starting to be taken seriously by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) as well, with preliminary trials of herbal medicines funded in South Africa by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Fogarty International Center, and grants from the NIH funding preliminary drug trials of two touted South African herbs, Lessertia frutescens (Sutherlandia), and Hypoxis hemerocallidea, which has also been studied by McMaster University and the University of Ottawa, in Canada. A 2005 study of these two herbs, though, published in AIDS Official Journal of the International AIDS Society (AIDS Jan 2005; Vol19(1): 95-97), found that "Extracts from Hypoxis and Sutherlandia showed significant effects on cytochrome P450 3A4 metabolism and activated the pregnane X receptor approximately twofold. P-glycoprotein expression was inhibited, with Hypoxis showing 42-51% and Sutherlandia 19-31% of activity compared to verapramil", discouraging the concurrent strategy of these herbs combined with ART drugs. The evidence of positive effects was quickly countered by study of the "potential" to affect drug metabolism and increase the effective level of anti-HIV pharmaceuticals in blood (the pregnane X receptor expresses to regulate detoxification in cells, and is associated with the regulation of the P450 family of enzymes that breakdown not only drugs, but many organic substances and normal metabolites in the body). Many pharmaceutical drugs are found to increase or decrease the CYP, or cytochrome P450 family of detox enzymes, affecting the circulating dosage of other drugs. While these effects are studies and noted in pharmaceuticals, guidelines for prescription drugs noting adverse potential drug interactions are seldom taken seriously when prescribing a number of pharmaceuticals. To date, no evidence of clinical effects reducing the activity of ART drug metabolism has been noted, though, from the concurrent use of herbal and drug therapies. In South Africa, the University of the Western Cape, in Cape Town, has created the South African Herbal Science and Medicine Institute, which is devoted to sound herbal medicinal research since 2003. Hopefully, such research will provide scientific proof that herbal medicine can be used safely and effectively with drug regimens, or before drug regimens are indicated with low CD4 counts.

An example of an herbal anti-HIV medicinal, now well-known and studied, trans-resveratrol, from the Chinese herb Polygonum cuspidatum, has been found to have a significant anti-HIV effect, as well as antiviral effects against Herpes simplex, Varicella and Influenza type A. A 2012 study cited below in additional information, by the University of Minnesota Institute for Molecular Virology, confirms that resveratrol inhibits HIV, and in a manner different from current anti-HIV pharmaceuticals. The minimal toxicity even at high dosage, and the positive effects as a neuroprotective, cardioprotective and anti-cancer treatment, makes the integration of resveratrol a significant benefit to current anti-HIV protocols, and an associated herbal chemical quercetin, has been found to have modest anti-HIV activity as well, with these combined herbal chemicals also delivering significant antioxidant and neuroprotective benefits. If the drug cocktail presents too many adverse side effects, or becomes ineffective, resveratrol and quercetin may play a helpful role in adding anti-HIV effects when drugs need to be reduced or changed, or even aid the anti-HIV effects when added to the current drug protocol, with no adverse effects. This is just one example of what scientists are discovering to support integration of Chinese herbal medicine into HIV/AIDS treatment, and many more studies are now finding an array of Chinese herbal chemicals to be very effective and safe. These study links are available in the Addtiional Information section of this article, presenting no doubt of proof. The fierce opposition to this Integrative Medicine has served no purpose other than to deny patients greater effectiveness and safety.

In the U.S., a 2012 research meta-review of Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicines (TCHM) for treating HIV and AIDS was published in PubMed Central (PMC), a database of research provided by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, NIH. Eleven randomized placebo-controlled human clinical trials involving 998 patients were found in published literature meeting the highest standards. Due to this limited number of RCTs, and small sample sizes, definitive conclusions were not able to be "firmly drawn", but the conclusions were: "Compared to placebo, TCHM demonstrated positive effects in improving Quality of Life and symptoms, increasing CD4+ cell of peripheral leukocytes, which are a side effect of antiretroviral drugs, suggested that an integrated treatment approach may be of benefit...In conclusion, the results of our systematic review provide limited evidence for the effectiveness of Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine in treating patients with HIV infection and AIDS." No serious adverse effects were noted in these studies. Potential risk of negative herb-drug interactions was not clearly demonstrated, but the need for more exploration of this subject was noted. (Wen Zou et al, Evid Based Compl Alt Med 2012;950757; PMC3545408).

Obviously, with only 11 small randomized controlled human clinical trials published of researched herbal medicine as an adjunct treatment for HIV/AIDS by 2012, there has been a discouragement of this valuable protocol. These results, or lack of results, are used to continue to discourage use of Complementary Medicine in this realm, but there is no proof that such treatment is without benefit, or that it is unsafe. Laboratory study has noted a number of Chinese herbs with strong anti-HIV activity, with a number of examples cited below in Information Resources, and demonstrates that there is proof in vivo and in vitro that specific herbal medicines are directly useful as an integrative therapy to better control HIV, and are without toxicity or evidence of risk. In addition, despite decades of strong discouragement from standard medicine and the pharmaceutical industry, human clinical trials are finally progressing to assess the efficacy of a number of Chinese herbal medicines, for not only anti-HIV activity, but also as valuable adjunct treatment to counter adverse effects of standard pharmacological anti-retrovirals and other routinely prescribed drugs, to enhance immune function, and to improve the quality of life for these patients. A lot of research exists that shows proof of efficacy of Chinese Herbal Medicine, and other aspects of Complementary Medicine, in the support of healthy systems in HIV patients, to counter adverse effects of pharmaceutical therapy, and as an aid to potential prevention. Of course, professional quality and prescription is needed, as the herbs are best utilized in the proper dose and extract type, and the Licensed Acupuncturist and herbalist is well trained and knowledgeable to provide this care.

Research in 2011, at the University of Warwick, Coventy, England (Seniya C et al) discovered that a specific chemicals derived from Chinese herbs, namely compounds of 4-thiazolidinone, and their metabolites, have remarkable antiviral potency as reverse transcriptase inhibitors with a high affinity for the HIV-1RT receptor. One such natural metabolite, (5E)-3-(2-aminoethyl)-5-benzylidene-1, 3-thiazolidine-2,4-dione, has shown remarkable effectiveness and low toxicity, and is being developed currently. To see this study summary, click here: . These chemicals are found in such herbs as Bu gu zhi, or Psoralea, and show the potential for herbal medicine to achieve success in the treatment and prevention of HIV infection. Few studies have actually measured the potential for negative herb-drug interactions in HIV/AIDS care, due to the complexity of study design, but much anecdotal evidence has been presented. In 2015, a study with laboratory animals at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the Chinese Academy of Sciences showed that at typical Chinese herbal formula in treatment showed no metabolic evidence of negative herb-drug interaction with the antiretroviral drug atazanavir (ATV). To see this study summary, click here: .

In the United States the use of Complementary Medicine in the treatment of HIV/AIDS met with amazing success in the 1990s, yet has been discouraged to a large extent since then. A survey of patients conducted in 2000 by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Bethesda, Maryland, found that the 100 patients surveyed at the Warren G. Magnuson Clinical Center of the NIH, touted as America's Clinical Research Hospital, and often working closely with the nearby Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, found that 91 percent of the patients utilized Complementary Medicine, including acupuncture, herbal and nutrient medicine, physiotherapies, massage, energetic medicine, and relaxation techniques, primarily to treat symptoms of skin disease, depression, insomnia, nausea, weakness and fatigue, and general quality of life. The survey found that patients attributed benefits of Complementary Medicine in coping, overall improved health, enhanced treatment outcomes, and feeling more in control in between 88 to 100 percent of patients, with 61 percent of patients stating that Complementary Medicine was as or more effective than standard treatment for such health problems mentioned above (PMID: 11059503). Despite such endorsement, or perhaps because of it, the utilization of Complementary Medicine in the treatment of HIV/AIDS has not fully supported in the last decade by standard medicine, leaving most patients to utilize self-therapy and off-the-shelf remedies of questionable quality, and little professional guidance.