May #35 : Plant Primer - by Nicholas Mulcahy

POZ - Health, Life and HIV
Subscribe to:
POZ magazine
E-newsletters
Join POZ: Facebook MySpace Twitter Pinterest
Tumblr Google+ Flickr MySpace
POZ Personals
Sign In / Join
Username:
Password:

Back to home » Archives » POZ Magazine issues




Table of Contents

Just His Imagination

Down On the Pharm

From Unsafe to Ill

Power Plants

Take a Letter, Shalala

Sherri on Top

Jibe Talk

AIDS and the Single Girl

Lazarus: Love Among the Ruins

Survey: A Council Resigned

Plant Primer

S.O.S.

Garden Variety

Spit Tune

Life: Good Pill Hunting

Last Laugh: Impossible Dream

What's The Point?

Read This: Heroic Measures

Number's Up

Mother's Little Helpers

A Yale Tale

The Big Sleep

Bearback

Say What

More Life: Even Tough Guys Get HIV

Tribute: My Brother, My Self

HIV Naysayers Find Their Achilles' HEAL



Most Popular Lessons

The HIV Life Cycle

Shingles

Herpes Simplex Virus

Syphilis & Neurosyphilis

Treatments for Opportunistic Infections (OIs)

What is AIDS & HIV?

Hepatitis & HIV


email print

May 1998

Plant Primer

by Nicholas Mulcahy

The dirt on choosing and using herbs

In 1992, when I was first introduced to herbs at an HIV seminar, I was skeptical in a way that most Americans are," says Phoenix PWA Mark Hoffman, health educator for AIDS Project Arizona and coordinator of the Being Alive Buyers Club in Phoenix. "I didn't want to get ripped off and I didn't know anything about how they worked. My knowledge base was zero."

Although Hoffman experimented with a Chinese herbal formula for the next year, the expense and apparent lack of results prompted him to stop when he went on 3TC. but in 1995, with his CD4 cells down to 66 despite being on what he viewed as his best-shot regimen (ddI and d4T), he decided to stop by the Southwest Botanical Conference. It was an eye-opener. "Learning about the active ingredients of herbs, I said, 'Wow, maybe there's something to this.'" Since 1995, the Yale-educated Hoffman has schooled himself in herbal medicine and done further experimenting. He tried SPV-30 (boxwood extract) as an antiretroviral and began using herbs to detoxify his liver. The results? "My liver function tests improved, and my health didn't deteriorate. But I also didn't have any increase in T-cells."

A year ago, with his viral load at 40,000, Hoffman changed his antiretroviral therapy (from three to five drugs) and added glycyrrhizin (licorice extract), bitter melon and SPV-30. His viral load dropped to 3,000, and his CD4s climbed to 522. Is it the herbs? "No," he says. "I think their antiviral effect is too weak for HIV in someone like me. But with antiretrovirals, they might tip the balance."

Hoffman's five-year odyssey from an herbal know-nothing to "the most knowledgeable man in the Southwest" (as a buyers club client dubbed him) is exceptional. but his path is typical: Many herb users are self-educated and experiment along the way to see what works.

Rick Elion, MD, is a Washington, DC physician and acupuncturist with extensive herbal training. In his large HIV practice, he recommends herbs as treatments for drug side effects and common infections. "I use Chinese formulas such as Clear Heat for chronic hepatitis, Marrow Plus for AZT-related anemia, and Asra-isatis (containing astragalus and isatis) for chronic herpes," he says. He also finds silymarin useful for elevated liver enzymes and garlic for sinus infections.

As to dosing, Elion says, "It's part art and part science. Just as with drugs, some herbs can be used chronically, while others should only be used intermittently."

Such herb-friendly HIV docs as Elion are hard to find. And if you want to try herbs, expert guidance on dosage, side effects, contraindications and drug interactions is highly recommended (see "Garden Variety" below). The most reliable info source for PWAs is licensed health-care practitioners -- including naturopathic physicians and acupuncturists -- with training in herbal medicine and knowledge of HIV disease.

Unfortunately, herbal advisers ignorant of HIV's effects have inappropriately recommended certain herbs because of their supposed antiviral properties. And although some, such as echinacea, might work well for your average cold or flu, there is a possibility of adverse effects in some PWAs (see "Power Plants" in this issue). The bottom line: Herbs that are useful for other viral illness may not be safe for HIV.

Would-be herb users are well advised to read up on the subject (see below). With basic grounding in botanicals, you'll be in a better position to evaluate any advice you get and the quality of the herbs you buy.

When selecting herb products, look for quality indicators: A list of active ingredients and their percentage of content (the higher, the better), glass bottles (these preserve herbs better than plastic) and a manufacturing lot number and expiration date (sign of careful production).

It's trite but true: An educated consumer gets better results. And remember, herbs may come from nature, but they pack a punch -- for good or for ill.

Herbal fact sheets can be obtained from Direct AIDS Alternative Information Resources (DAAIR), a New York City buyers club, at 888.951.5433 (or click on their website at www.immunet.org/daair). You can also call the Boston Buyers Club at 800.435.5586, or AIDS Project Los Angeles at 213.993.1612. Useful reference books include Herbs That Heal by Janet and Michael Weiner (Quantum Books/Cambridge, MA), Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health Care Professionals by Newall, Anderson and Phillipson (Pharmaceutical Press/ London), and Herbal Prescriptions for Better Health by Don Brown (Prima Publishing/Rocklin, CA).




[Go to top]

Join POZ Facebook Twitter Google+ MySpace YouTube Tumblr Flickr
Quick Links
Current Issue

HIV Testing
Safer Sex
Find a Date
Newly Diagnosed
HIV 101
Disclosing Your Status
Starting Treatment
Help Paying for Meds
Search for the Cure
POZ Stories
POZ Opinion
POZ Exclusives
Read the Blogs
Visit the Forums
Job Listings
Events Calendar


    acousticmat
    Tucson
    Arizona


    Loveladyd
    Washington
    DC


    cortaza100
    Chicago
    Illinois


    robert12
    Queens
    New York
Click here to join POZ Personals!
Ask POZ Pharmacist

Talk to Us
Poll
Will decriminalizing injection drug use help end the global HIV epidemic?
Yes
No

Survey
PrEP Course

more surveys
Contact Us
We welcome your comments!
[ about Smart + Strong | about POZ | POZ advisory board | partner links | advertising policy | advertise/contact us | site map]
© 2014 Smart + Strong. All Rights Reserved. Terms of use and Your privacy.
Smart + Strong® is a registered trademark of CDM Publishing, LLC.