Alternative therapies for HIV Treatment
Alternative medicine has been variously called natural, complementary, `holistic` and numerous other terms, which refer to elements of a particular modality or tradition. The traditional ethnomedicinal systems are by nature holistic, meaning that they aim to treat the whole individual, rather than a specific disease or symptom, and that they address not only the physical aspect of the patient but also the mind and the spirit. It is assumed that each individual possesses an innate healing capacity (the "immune system" in the broadest sense), and the goal generally is to reinforce this capacity and restore strength and balance to weakened systems using a variety of natural modalities: body work, detoxification, foods, herbs and other botanicals, tailored as much as to the individual`s specific constitution and condition. The use of alternative therapies for AIDS grew out of this same eclectic mix.
At the beginning of the epidemic, little or no treatment was available for people with HIV possible/AIDS. Although as yet there is no cure, over the last decade researchers have identified a number of drugs that slow progression of the virus as well as therapies to treat the many opportunistic infections that attack people with HIV disease. The key to effective treatment is early detection and intervention. Some early treatments aim to strengthen the immune system, help patients reduce stress, and maintain good nutritional practices and appropriate exercise regimens. Many of the gettingalternative therapies described below place significant emphasis on these lifestyle issues. Taking an active role in any disease is an important adjunct to treatment. Consideration of alternative therapies in conjunction with conventional medicine may offer additional opportunities for persons living with HIV/AIDS to be proactively involved in their treatment.
How to Approach Alternative Therapies
Here are a few suggestions to follow before involved in any alternative therapy:
• Obtain objective information about the therapy. Besides talking with the person promoting the approach, speak with people who have gone through the treatment—preferably those who were treated recently and those treated in the past. Ask about the advantages and disadvantages, risks, side effects, costs, results they experienced, and over what time span results can be expected.
• Inquire about the training and expertise of the person administering the treatment (i.e., certification). If any uncertainty remains, verify the information.
• Consider the costs. Alternative treatments may not currently be reimbursable by health insurance.
• Discuss all treatments with your primary care provider, who needs this information in order to have a complete picture of your treatment plan.
People with HIV/AIDS in the United States use many kinds of alternative approaches to treatment. Some of the most common are briefly described below.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
The use of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medications has become one of the most commonly used alternative therapies for AIDS. Its use has become so widely accepted that two Chinese Medicine Clinics in San Francisco have been awarded contracts through the SF Health Department`s AIDS Office to provide Chinese Medical treatment to people with HIV. The contracts are funded by Ryan White CARE Act allocations. Most people with HIV who use acupuncture and Chinese herbs do so in conjunction with western medicine. There are, however, some who use it as their principal form of medical treatment. It is strongly suggested that it be used under the supervision of a licensed practitioner.
The systematic practice of Chinese Medicine dates back over two thousand years, making it the oldest medical system in the world. Where western medicine is derived solely from scientific method as a means of treating disease, Chinese medicine is intertwined with a philosophy of life, and is based on a holistic view of supporting the mind-body`s innate ability to maintain health and to heal itself should illness occur. This approach is the result of many thousands of years of accumulated experience. Rather than dealing with mechanistic components of the human organism, as western science advocates, the TCM approach is one of aligning the functions of the organs and systems as a whole, promoting the dynamic balance of energy polarities which maintains health and well-being.
Central to the philosophy of Chinese Medicine is the concept of ch`i, or qi, which can loosely be defined as the vital energy of the universe, of which all things are made. Ch`i patterns fluctuate between the polarities of what are called yin and yang, the active and passive sides of the life force. Illnesses can crudely be viewed as either excesses or deficiencies in either the yin or yang components of ch`i. Ch`i is believed to vitalize the body by its movements along the pathways which are known as meridians. The "meridian theory" of Chinese Medicine is not accepted in western medicine, because they have never been objectively identified anatomically. The circumstantial evidence of their existence, however, is undeniable to Chinese doctors, since points along the meridians have been used successfully as the sites for acupuncture needling for thousands of years.
In San Francisco, where Chinese medical treatment has been funded for three years by the Ryan White CARE Act, the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine has treated over 300 symptomatic HIV-positive patients in long-term care. A study of the medical records of these patients, and of quarterly health surveys, has identified seven HIV-related conditions which appear to be most responsive to Chinese medicine. These seven conditions are: weight loss; diarrhea/loose stools; abdominal pain; nausea; headaches; enlarged lymph nodes; and neuropathy.
Chinese medicine was first popularized as a treatment for AIDS in San Francisco by Misha Cohen, a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, in 1984. A good deal of western type research on certain aspects of Chinese Medicine has since been conducted. Many of the herbs have been found to inhibit HIV and other viruses in laboratory experiments. Other herbs have been shown to act as biological response modifiers, enhancing certain immune responses. In addition, a small, strictly controlled study using acupuncture to treat HIV infected individuals was conducted at Lincoln Hospital in Bronx, NY, a few years back. It was reported that individuals receiving correctly applied acupuncture needling had notable increases in their CD4 counts after only a brief course of therapy. This pilot study certainly demonstrated the need for further research.
Some human efficacy studies of Chinese medicine for HIV disease are currently underway. Chinese herbs may be a rich source of therapeutic agents for AIDS and its related illnesses. It is essential that people with HIV have all the information they need to select the treatment options most suited to their own needs and dispositions. Chinese Medicine is a promising option which is safe, appears to be somewhat effective, and is affordable to most.
Prior to the emergence of AIDS, few people were familiar with or cared about the immune system. Now, more than ever, the general public is interested in exploring ways to bolster immune response to prevent the progression of AIDS, as well as to reduce the number and intensity of opportunistic infections and to improve the overall state of their health. By strengthening a person`s own defenses, the body is best enabled to defend itself.
Homeopathy is one way to do this. Although no therapy can or will help every HIV+ person or everyone with AIDS, homeopathy is beginning to develop a reputation for helping people at varying stages of this disease. To understand what homeopathy has to offer, it is necessary to learn something about a different approach to infectious disease than simply attacking a pathogen.
As increasing numbers of physicians learn about homeopathic medicine, they will be exposed to viable alternative treatments which can play an integral role in the care and treatment of people with HIV and AIDS.
Homeopathic medicines, which include minerals, vitamins, and animal products, are natural substances given in very low doses. Homeopathy is based on the principle that "like cures like", that is, substances that in large doses would cause adverse symptoms will, in small doses, treat those same symptoms. Homeopathy is highly individualized to a patient`s symptoms.
The treatment of people with HIV or AIDS requires professional health care, even when their ailments are seemingly minor. Ideally, they should receive treatment from a homeopath who is an M.D. or a D.O., but otherwise the best care is one that integrates homeopathic treatment with appropriate medical diagnosis and, in emergency situations, with appropriate medical treatment.
One of the advantages of using homeopathy in treating people with AIDS is that they tend to get various unusual symptoms, diseases, and syndromes which evade immediate diagnosis. A homeopath, however, can prescribe a remedy before a definitive conventional diagnosis is made. Because homeopathic medicines are prescribed on the basis of a person`s unique pattern of symptoms, a conventional diagnosis is not necessary for a curative remedy to be prescribed. Preliminary results of a study initiated by the Central Council for Research in Homeopathy (CCRH) in 1989 testify to immunostimulatory role of homeopathic medicines in HIV infection.
A randomized placebo-controlled study during 1995-1997 to ascertain the treatment efficacy involved 39 people prescribed homeopathic medicines—Amyle Nitricum-30CH and Azadirachta indica-6X—taken as medicated globules. The individuals also underwent physical and breathing exercises, besides half ounce of honey and 30 grams to 50 grams of moong dal (green gram) sprouts in their daily regimen. At the end of each month, the individuals tested remained asymptomatic.
Despite the seemingly positive results that homeopathic medicines provide for people who are HIV positive, for those with early onset of AIDS, and for those with nonextreme cases of AIDS, most homeopaths do not observe significant improvement in treating people who have advanced stages of AIDS. But there are exceptions to this general rule, and numerous homeopaths find that select patients with advanced stages of AIDS experience dramatic improvement in their quality of life.
Dr. Issac Mathai, a homeopath based in Bangalore, India, recounts: "I have handled around 20 AIDS cases since 1987 with positive changes. The treatment, which improves our immune system by stimulating it to fight this immunity related disease, includes homeopathic medicines, herbal supplements and vitamins. This helps in AIDS cases as the condition itself is related to immunity. Besides, dietary or lifestyle changes make a lot of difference in the patient`s general health."
Dr. Mathai mentions a 38-year-old, diagnosed HIV positive in 1985 along with his partner, who was asymptomatic after the treatment: "During the treatment his general health was good. Occasionally, he suffered from colds, coughs and stomach upsets, which were treated appropriately with acute homeopathic medicines. During this time his partner passed away. Yet he survived with maintenance medicines, which keep his immune system in good condition."
Concludes Dr. Mathai: "Since homeopathic treatment is customized to a patient`s requirement, it could vary from person to person."
Mumbai-based homeopath Dr. Mukesh Batra also treats HIV/AIDS. Says Batra: "We have treated about half-a-dozen AIDS cases in the three years. The treatment works on building up the immune system. Our success rate has been almost 100 per cent in treatments that relieve symptoms of AIDS patients such as repeated cold, cough, weight loss, diarrhea. A patient with AIDS was treated at our clinic in Mauritius a couple of years ago. He tested HIV positive. He was losing weight and had repeated attacks of cold, cough and pneumonia. With homeopathic treatment for about a year and a half he began to put on weight and his tests returned to normal."
The history of homeopathy`s successes in treating infectious disease epidemics, the research that suggests the immunomodulatory effects of homeopathic medicines, and the clinical research on HIV+ and AIDS patients that indicates beneficial response to homeopathic medicines should command attention by physicians, scientists, and public health officials. Despite this body of work, it is both surprising and depressing that homeopathic medicine has been consistently ignored as a viable part of a comprehensive program in treating HIV positive and AIDS patients.
Acupuncture involves the relatively painless insertion of extremely thin needles into the skin at specific points to help balance the body`s flow of energy, referred to as qi ("chee"). When needles are inserted into the appropriate points, it is thought that energy is unblocked, and symptoms can be relieved. Variations of acupuncture include acupressure and shiatsu (pressure and massage of acupuncture points). Acupuncture is sometimes used to relieve some HIV-related symptoms such as neuropathy, fatigue, and pain. It is also used in an attempt to strengthen the immune system.
Acupuncture is based on the understanding that just as energy can be disrupted or depleted, so also can it be rechanneled and replenished. Thus, the acupuncture needles may stimulate the body`s own energy reserves or they may transmit energy from the environment into the body. Because each individual will have a unique interplay of energies, organs, and elements, as well as a unique character, the treatment is, theoretically, individualized.
It is important to find a licensed acupuncturist who is experienced in treating people with HIV. Local AIDS hotlines and community-based organizations may be helpful in offering referrals. After finding a qualified acupuncturist, the first step in treatment is accurate diagnosis. The practitioner uses several traditional diagnostic techniques to determine whether treatment should be aimed at stimulating or dispersing energy. Needles are then inserted at specific points along the appropriate meridian.
Initially, practitioners used acupuncture to provide symptom-relief for persons with AIDS. Michael Smith, MD, D.Ac., of Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx has noted that after the first four or five treatments, most patients begin to experience a decrease in abnormal sweating, diarrhea, and skin rashes. Patients have also reported higher energy levels and many have gained substantial amounts of weight.
Patients on chemotherapy have noted a reduction in side effects such as nausea, fatigue, and weakness. "Acupuncture helps the body help itself," claims Dr. Smith, who emphasizes that the affects of the treatment on the overall health of a person is the key to understanding acupuncture. The Somerville Acupuncture Center in Boston, The AIDS Alternative Health Project in Chicago, and Quan Yin herbal support program in San Francisco have reported similar symptomatic relief and overall improvement.
Recently, at a local conference on AIDS, Dr. Merrill, M.D., presented a compelling view regarding acupuncture and HIV-infected individuals. Dr. Merrill stated that he would not recommend alternative therapies as a sole treatment for HIV, but that acupuncture may add significantly to an overall improvement in the sense of well being of HIV-infected patients. Additionally, while Merrill believes acupuncture may not cure infections or increase T4 cells, it does provide subtle enhancing properties, like increasing endorphins and possibly reducing stress and pain. Merrill also stated that acupuncture might be helpful in reducing spasms in gastrointestinal conditions, common drug-induced nausea, and some neurologic problems.
The validity of acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine remains controversial in the Western culture. There is no claim that acupuncture has direct antiviral effect on HIV. But many professionals trained in both Western and Chinese medicine, have found that acupuncture offers many benefits to the overall health of a person with HIV. In fact, more and more people with HIV are using acupuncture to reduce stress, pain, and tension, among other conditions.
The Tamil Siddhars are 18 enlightened men and women who wrote down the causes of 4,448 different diseases and prescribed medicines. AIDS was called `Vettai Noi`. AIDS syndrome was already known to the Siddha system of medicine. It was further classified into 21 types, most of which are caused due to wrong diet, excessive sex causing depletion of prana (meaningless sex depletes a person emotionally, physical and spiritually according to the Siddhars). The chief cause of Vettai Noi is the defects in the three humors—Tridohas.
The 18 Siddhars of the Siddha traditional have classified 4,448 diseases and prescribed medicines in the form of herb, roots, salts, metals and mineral compounds. AIDS was classified as Vettai Noi as early as a few thousands of years ago in the cradle of the ancient prehistoric civilization in Tamil Nadu, Southern India.
Siddha system is based on hypothetical and biological laws of nature. The Siddhars were pioneers to the world in the field of minerals, metals, and medicinal herbs. They found out the methods of processing metals, minerals, herbs and natural raw materials to make churnams, chenthurams and leyhams (Churnam is powdered formulation, leyhams is thick batter like formulation).
Vettai Noi, was further classified into 21 types, most of which are caused by depletion of the Prana and/or Ojas through excess indulgence and abuse of the body, rendering the immune system weak and susceptible to pathogens.
The chief cause of Vettai Noi is due to the three humors, Tridoshas and mainly due to Azhal Kurtrum (Pittam or bile, acidic nature) exhibited in the blood stream.
The following herbs are recommended for the effective treatment of Vettai Noi.
1. Aragumpul (Cynodon Dactylon Pers)
2. Karisalinkanni (Eclipta Alba Hassk)
3. Musu Musukkai (Mukai Scavrillia)
4. Thoodhovali (Solanum Trilobatum Linn)
5. Jeeragam (Luminum Cyminum)
Other Siddha medicines that could be prescribed under medical supervision and administered for AIDS as supportive therapy are as follows:
1. For purification of blood: Kanthaga Rasayanam, Paranki Pattai churam, Palakaria Parpam.
2. For reducing fever: Linga chenduram, Gowri Chinthamani, Thirikadugu Churnam, Rama Banam, Vadha, Piththa, Kaba Sura Kudineer.
3. For persistent diarrhea: Thair Sundi churnam, Kavika churnam, Amaiodu Parpam.
4. Revitalizers and rejuvenators to the disabled immune system of the body: Orilai Thamarai karpam, Serankottai Eagam, Thertran Kottai leyham, Amukkara.
5. Antiviral drugs: Rasagandhi, Mezhugu, Murukkanvithtu, Masikai, Edi Vallathathy mezhugu.
6. Restoration of the disturbed mind: Vallarai.
The medications rasagandhi mezhugu, amukkara chooranam and nellikkai lehyam are effective for HIV/AIDS patients who do not have overt neural HIV.
Drugs that control opportunistic infections complement these. Since 1992 all the three formulations are said to have been tested on over 35,000 patients at the Government Hospital of Thoracic Medicine, Tambaram Sanatorium, Chennai, India, and are apparently without side effects. They are said to reduce viral load, boost counts of CD8 and CD4 cells, control symptoms and increase body weight. Although prolonged viral suppression has occurred in a few patients, these drugs are as yet unable to cure AIDS.
(Reference: Dr. V . Kalidoss, Siddha System of Medicines for Treatment of AIDS)
The Treatment for AIDS Prospects in Siddha Medicine
The body`s immunity gets heavily depleted by excess indulgence as stated by the Siddhars. Siddhars have evaluated that Azhal thathu is responsible for the defense of the body. Disease takes place with the deterioration of the Vindhu thathu. Such deterioration leads to diseases such as pain, skin lesions, formation of nodes, malignancy, fistula, abscess, cervical adenitis, inquinal adentitis (adentitis is inflammation of the glands), ulcers in the loin, eczematous eruptions, pustules, constipation, TB, diarrhea, chronic dysentery, anemia, jaundice and upper respiratory infections. Siddha medicines are formulated in such a way as to have a total rejuvenating effect on the body and not only effective against a particular disorder.
The special feature of the Siddha medicine is that most of the preparations are in compound formulation, and because of its synergistic action, toxicity is diminished, thereby increasing bioavailability through the cells of the body. The pharmacodynamics of this system is entirely different from other systems of medicines.
Drugs that could be prepared for AIDS may be classified as follows:
1. Herbal preparations
Serankottai Nei (herbal ghee), Mahavallathy leyham, Parangi rasayanam.
2. Herbo mineral preparations
Gandhak Parpam, Gandhaka rasayanam.
3. Herbo mercuric preparations
Idivallathy mezhugu, Poona Chandrodayam.
4. Herbo-mercuric-arsenal preparations
Rasagandhi mezhugu, Nandhi Mezhugu, Sivandar Amirtham, Kshayakulanthan Chenduram.
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American Institute of Preventive Medicine