Use of Chinese Herbs for AIDS/HIV
Medicine has been used to responding to epidemics since the antiquity.
One of the early responses being the Shang Han Lun
(Treatise on Febrile Diseases), written by Chang Chung Ching in the Han
Dynasty. Chang Chung Ching lived from A.D. 142-220 and was motivated by
the loss of approximately 140 of his family members to epidemic fever,
to channel all of his energy into the study of febrile conditions. One
of the most revered of all Chinese physicians in history, there are
shrines erected in his honor, and his spirit and work continues to
inspire students and practitioners to this day.
AIDS/HIV was first experienced in North America in the early 1980's. The
conventional medical community as well as the general population was
taken by surprise by this mysterious disease. There has been AIDS/HIV in
Africa and "wasting syndromes" resembling AIDS/HIV for quite a while,
but the medical establishment had not given it a lot of attention
previous to this time.
AIDS is defined as "the occurrence of certain systemic infections or
malignancies predictive of impaired cellular-mediated immunity in the
absence of other causes; evidence of HIV infection." The disease usually
occurs in stages from a latent stage with initial symptoms such as
fever, dizziness, sore throat, sweating, weakness, joint pain, diarrhea,
rash and generalized lymphadenopathy, followed by an asymptomatic
latency period. In the middle stage symptoms such as fever, weight loss,
night sweats, diarrhea, thrush/candida, lymphadenitis, skin lesions,
herpes and depression are common. Persons with a T-4 cell count of 200
or below are considered to have full-blown AIDS. These patients are
often extremely weak and prone to opportunistic infections and malignant
tumors including: pulmonary tuberculosis, cervical Cancer, bacterial
pneumonia, thrush/candida, Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP),
Kaposi's Sarcoma, Mycobacterium avium-intracellular (MAI), Hairy
Leukoplakia, Toxoplasmosis, Cryptosporidiosis, Cryptococcosis, Herpes
Simplex and Zoster, and Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma.
Life Affirming Therapies
establishment has been seeking a magic bullet cure for AIDS/HIV, but
there is not even total agreement that HIV is the cause of AIDS. So far
the modern approach to treating AIDS/HIV have been toxic, economically
expensive, with numerous side effects. The most beneficial modalities
utilized in the treatment of persons with AIDS have been the "life
affirming therapies" -- treatments that support life and life functions.
Being diagnosed HIV positive is no longer considered a death sentence,
as it once was. Persons with AIDS are surviving for longer and longer
periods of time partly, I believe to the "life affirming therapies"
becoming more and more available.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are proving to be very valuable
tools in working with this epidemic. Oriental Medicine has historically
been used to treat all the symptoms associated with AIDS/HIV. Routinely,
practitioners of Oriental Medicine are called upon to support patients'
immune systems that have been weakened by stress, life situations,
exposure to toxic substances, and improper dietary practices.
Oriental Medicine and the Immune System
We know from
Oriental medical theory there are no isolated body functions. We know
that all the Channels, organs and body functions are interdependent upon
one another. There seems to be a common misconception that the "immune
system" is a separate system from the rest of the body. But in Oriental
medicine, the immune function is made up of several different energetic
We know that part of the function of the Spleen Channel is to govern the
lymph system, and that the Spleen organ in Oriental medicine is the
principle organ of digestion. The Spleen transports nutrients, produces
Blood and keeps Blood within its channels. It is also responsible for
transforming food into nourishment. The body's Defensive Qi (Wei Qi) is
made partly from the essence of food produced by the Spleen. Wei Qi
circulates on the surface of the body to protect us from invasion by
exogenous pathogenic factors. It is thought that the digestive system is
the first system attacked by HIV. Improper or irregular eating practices
and excessive mental activity and worry will injure the Spleen function.
The Kidney Channel is responsible for the roots of Yin and Yang of the
whole body. Original Qi, the basis of Kidney Qi, energizes the
functional activity of all of the organs, and is the foundation of
vitality and stamina. Original Qi also aids in the manufacture of
Defensive or Wei Qi from the distillate it receives from the Spleen.
Stress and excessive sexual activity will injure the Kidney function.
The Liver Channel is responsible for the free and easy movement of Qi
throughout the body. The Liver has the important function of storing
Blood, and regulating Blood volume throughout the body. This function
directly affects our energy levels, and therefore our resistance to
external pathogenic factors. The Liver function is impaired by excessive
consumption of alcohol, drugs and rich or excessively spicy foods, and
frustration or repressed anger.
The Lungs are responsible for taking in heavenly or yang energy from the
air. As a result the Lungs control the circulation of Qi of the whole
body. Defensive or Wei Qi also is under the control of the Lungs which
regulate the circulation of Wei Qi to the skin and the opening and
closing of the pores. A weakness of Lung Qi can lead to a weakness of
Wei Qi leaving us more prone to disease. The Lungs are normally the
first organ to be attacked by exogenous disease. The Lung function is
impaired by breathing polluted air or by quick, irregular, shallow
breathing, and excessive sadness or grief.
So we can see that impairment in any aspect of the energetic function of
the body will effect the "immune system." By assessing each individual
we can support the aspect of their immune function that needs support.
We must also make the appropriate lifestyle adjustments to support good
In addition to using the tools of Western diagnosis, I believe that it
is important to approach AIDS/HIV from the energetic basis of
traditional Oriental medicine so that we may arrive at treatments which
are specific to the state of the individual.
With HIV/AIDS the common and root energetic patterns of disharmony are
Deficiency Patterns and Heat Toxin Patterns. The initial Qi Deficiency
leads to Deficiency of Blood, Yin and Essence. Heat Toxin refers to the
toxic Heat generated by bacterial and viral infections. The aspect of
the pathogenic factor that is atypical is that the pathogen is
introduced at the Blood level instead of following the normal route --
penetrating from the surface and progressing inwards. This bypasses the
body's surface defenses, making the pathogen more virulent. Thus it is
very important to begin treatment while the patient is still
asymptomatic, when possible. Because of the emphasis on preventive
treatment in Oriental medicine, we can ideally keep the patient
asymptomatic with appropriate "life affirming" therapy.
Golden Flower herbal treatment for HIV/AIDS uses two principal formulas
to address the Deficiency and Heat Toxin: Astragalus and Ligustrum
Formula and Viola Clear Fire Formula.
Astragalus and Ligustrum Formula
is specifically designed to tonify Deficiency of Qi, Blood, Yin and
Yang. The ingredients have been shown to have a beneficial effect on
immune response. This formula evolved from Fuzheng
research done in modern China. "Fuzheng" means "support the
normal, or righteous." Normal or Righteous Qi helps protect the body
from adverse influences. Fuzheng Therapy originally used tonic or
adaptogenic herbs to protect the immune systems of Cancer patients from
the toxic effects of radiation or chemotherapy. Currently this therapy
is being used in the treatment of patients who are HIV positive,
patients with AIDS Related complex (ARC), AIDS, Chronic Epstein-Barr
Virus (CEBV), and patients with other immune deficiency syndromes. The
focus of Astragalus and Ligustrum Formula is on tonifying the Qi, by
supporting the Spleen and Kidney. In addition to the tonic herbs, we
have added Poria to drain dampness, and Citri to move the Qi. These two
herbs help prevent the bloating and stagnation which often occur when
taking tonic herbs over a period of time. White Peony was added to
nourish the Blood; Epimedium and Cinnamon Bark to support Kidney Yang:
and Ligustrum to nourish Kidney Yin. Scrophularia is included to cool
the Blood and to moderate the warming effects of the other herbs. We
intentionally made this formula balanced so as not to be excessively
Hot, since patients with HIV/AIDS can tend toward showing signs of Heat.
Viola Clear Fire Formula
is used for addressing Heat Toxin. It was formulated based on written
information available about Chinese herbs and their effect on HIV and on
several years of clinical testing. According to Aids and Chinese
Medicine (Zang and Hsu, 1990 ) the herbs used in this formula have shown
to be among the most promising for use with HIV infection. The herbs in
this formula, according to modern pharmacological and clinical research,
have inhibitory effects against many viruses, bacteria and fungi and
work specifically on the respiratory, digestive, urinary, lymphatic and
circulatory systems. In the years that this formula was tested
clinically, we have noticed much success in its ability to clear
While these formulas are recommended to be used together, in our
experience we have found to be advantageous to not merge the two
treatment strategies (Tonifying and Heat Clearing) into one tablet. With
the use of two separate formulas, one can vary the dosage of each
formula to focus the treatment strategy on what seems appropriate for
the patient at any particular time. In many instances patients will be
experiencing an acute infection or a greater intensity of Heat Toxin.
Then, it is necessary to increase the frequency of dosage of Viola Clear
Fire Formula (can be taken as often as every hour in very severe cases).
At these times, it is counterproductive to increase the dosage of the
Rehmannia and Scrophularia Formula
(Zhi Bai Di Huang Wan) is an excellent formula to use in cases of
more extreme Yin Deficiency Fire. Very often HIV positive patients will
have night sweats and tidal fevers or other symptoms that respond very
well to this formula.
I have used Minor Bupleurum Formula
when people first start treatment after first receiving a HIV positive
diagnosis. Minor Bupleurum Formula (Xiao Chai Hu Tang) originates
from the Shang Han Lun. It is used when there is a latent pathogenic
factor or when the pathogenic factor is lodged halfway exterior and
halfway interior in the body. HIV is said to remain dormant within the
lymph system until it has reached the next stage in its progression.
Minor Bupleurum Formula has been traditionally used to clear the lymph
system. I have not seen enough individuals myself to make any conclusive
statements but the few people I did have the opportunity to use this
formula with definitely showed improvement. This formula seemed to
really widen the "thin" pulse these patients typically have.
At this stage it is also important to address the predominant Deficiency
Pattern in the individual.
The Symptom Index in the Golden Flower
Chinese Herbs Product Guide has more information about
specific formulas to deal with and more individual patterns of
Deficiency, and other symptoms which may arise.