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“The only thing necessary for these diseases to the triumph is for good people and governments to do nothing.”


The Use of Chinese Herbs for AIDS/HIV



Oriental 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

The medical 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 aspects.

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 health.



Herbal Treatment

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.

Principal Formulas

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 Therapy 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 respiratory infections.

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 tonic herbs.

Other Formulas

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.