Traditional Herbal Care Can Reverse AIDS Symptoms
HARARE (All Africa News Agency, July 24, 2000) - A two-year research to
investigate the effects of traditional herbal remedies on HIV progression has
found that some of the medicines are capable of reversing AIDS symptoms.
Although the herbs cannot reduce viral load, they have been found to boost
immunity in people infected with HIV virus.
Preliminary results of the laboratory research conducted in and around the
Zimbabwean capital here by the Blair Research Institute, working with traditional
healers, concluded that there are positive effects of traditional herbs on
In an interview recently, the director of the Blair Research Institute, Dr Stephen
Chandiwana, said the research had concluded that natural herbs played a crucial
role in people infected with diseases.
The "open label clinical trial" showed that patients put on traditional treatment
had their immunity improved and were more relieved of opportunistic infections
than those purely on conventional treatment.
The study was prompted by claims by some traditional healers that they had
found a cure for the deadly disease. It was sponsored by Old Mutual Zimbabwe
and the Netherlands Embassy from June 1996 to May 1998.
Chandiwana said 200 people living with HIV/AIDS were selected to take part
in the research.
Half of them were put under the care of a traditional healers but were not
stopped from taking conventional treatment while the remainder were purely on
Participants were placed in three categories: HIV-positive people who had no
symptoms, those with symptoms and those with advanced compromised
immunity due to HIV.
Indicators of disease progression like CD4 cell count and viral load were closely
Consultants reviewed the patients every month. It was observed that the viral
load in those taking herbs remained stable while for those on normal care it had
Chandiwana said the results also showed that improved management of HIV
infection produced fairly sustainable improvement in clinical condition of patients.
The study had established that a number of people infected with the HIV virus
were relying on traditional medicine.
The fact that there was no statistical viral load could be interpreted in two ways.
First, it was most likely that the herbs used had no anti-retroviral properties.
Second, it could also mean that patients could have got worse if their viral load
had been left to increase.
"The study has demonstrated that scientists can carry out reasonably informative
studies with traditional herbalists to provide some insights into the potential
management of HIV using herbs," Chandiwana added.
The challenge for scientists was now to try and delineate the active ingredients in
the herbs, Chandiwana said. He regretted that the traditional healers involved in
the study had declined to disclose what they had given the patients.
A project to be undertaken in collaboration with the University of Zimbabwe to
investigate the contents of some of the herbs would soon be embarked on.