Herbs covered in this section will include ethno botanicals used in  Ayurvedic, African, , Chinese and in the west. Many of these herbs have been used by people living with HIV.   


The section covers common herbs used in Ayurveda, Africa, Chinese Medicine, South America and in North America.  This is not an exhaustive list of all herbs from across the world.   . 

There is little information on the drug interactions between herbal medicine, detoxification therapies and medications.  Please consult with a qualified herbalist and/or naturopath before undertaking any remedies.  For information on drug interaction, Pharmacodynamics, Pharmacokinectics, please refer to A Pharmacokinectic Primer.

Ayurveda  herbs

Ashvagandha (Withania Somnifera) is an aphrodisiac and tonic. Ashvagandha is a time honored Ayurvedic herbal immune booster and known as Indian ginseng.  The active ingredient is withanolides, similar to ginsenosides of Asian ginseng.  It is an  aphrodisiac and tonic and is used mainly to combat debility due to old  age, nervous exhaustion and simple overwork.  It nurtures and clarifies the mind, calms and strengthens the nerves, and promotes restful sleep.  It rejuvenates flesh, marrow and reproductive fluid of male and female (impotence & infertility). It has also been used in Alzeimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis.  In HIV infection, it is used as rejuvenate of the immune system, increases testosterone, assists in building muscle mass and has adaptogenic properties. It is not recommended for long –term use, only seasonally example prescribed a month on and a month off, as needed. It is available in powdered, tea, tincture or capsule.
The suggested dose in powdered form is 2 teaspoons twice a day with a hot non-caffeinated drink.  As a tea or capsule, 1-2 grams once a day. Tincture is taken 2-4 ml three times per day.
Robert E. Svoboda, 1993. Ayurveda Life, Health and Longevity, p. 240

Amla or Amalaki (Emblica officinalis)
A very nutritious fruit, well known for it high vitamin C content (3,000 mg of vitamin C per fruit).  It rejuvenate properties work on the circulatory, digestive and excretory process. Helps to rebuild new tissue and maintain red blood cell. It improves appetite and digestion.  A large part of the tonic Chyavanprash contains Amla. Used in Triphala formula.
Reference: Drs. Frawley.D , Lad, V. 1992. The Yoga of Herbs : An Ayurvedic guide to Herbal Medicine, pp. 155-158

Bibhitaki (Terminalia belerica)
This fruit has strong tonic effects on the lungs (respiratory system), tones the stomach, digestive tract, increases appetite. Also administered for sore throats and has antiseptic properties.  Used in Triphala formula.
Reference: Drs. Frawley.D , Lad, V. 1992. The Yoga of Herbs : An Ayurvedic guide to Herbal Medicine, pp. 164
Chayavanprash. It is an Ayurvedic jelly. It contains 49 herbs plus the amla fruit (Indian gooseberry, Emblican officinalis). The amla is the main ingredient. Amla contains 3000 mg of vit c plus bioflavanoids, anti-oxidants, B complex, and carotenoids. It boost digestion , increases muscle mass, lowers blood pressure and blood cholesterol, and enhances healing of tissue.

Guggul ( Commiphora mukul)
It is a resin used in various Ayurvedic medicines called gugguls.  It increase white blood cell count, normalizes lipids, and appetite.  Has antiseptic properties, aids the respiratory system and nervous disorders.  Has been used in chronic conditions to help heal the skin and mucous membrane.
Reference: Drs. Frawley.D , Lad, V. 1992. The Yoga of Herbs : An Ayurvedic guide to Herbal Medicine, pp. 173-174.

Haritaki (Termina chebula)
The fruit is highly regarded in Tibetan medicine. It affects the digestive, excretory, nervous and respiratory system.  Used in Triphala formula.  Should not be used by pregnant women, or when fatigue or wasting is present.
Reference: Drs. Frawley.D , Lad, V. 1992. The Yoga of Herbs : An Ayurvedic guide to Herbal Medicine, pp. 174-175

Jeevani is made from fruit of Arogyapacha. Arogyapacha means ‘Green Herb for Freedom from Diseases’ from Agast-Hymalai, the Himalayas of Kerala. It is anti-fatigue, energy boosting and immune-enhancing herb.  It is used to build up vitality and vigor- has adaptogenic properties.  It is known to activate the cellular immune system.  It exhibits hepato-protective activities.  Not recommended for long-term use.  Dose: taken on empty stomach, (BID) with warm water and honey. The ingredients of Jeevani include: Trichopus Zylanicus, Withania Somnifera, Evolvus Alsinoides, Shankhpushpi 40% and Pippali 16%.

Neem (Azadiracta indica)
All parts of this tree has medicinal properties. Neem is a potent blood purifier, detoxifier with anti bacterial and anti fungal properties.  Mostly used in as disinfectant in skin diseases and anti -inflammatory for muscle and joint aches. Should not be used when fatigue and wasting is evident.
Reference: Drs. Frawley.D , Lad, V. 1992. The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic guide to Herbal Medicine, pp. 179-180

Pippali (piper longum)
A strong stimulant for the digestive and the respiratory system, it has strong warming properties, improves. It is taken to get rid of colds, congestion and lung ailments.  Pippali is used in numerous Ayurvedic formulations such as Trikatu and with Ashwanghanda to improve its tonic effect.
Reference: Drs. Frawley.D , Lad, V. 1992. The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic guide to Herbal Medicine, pp. 181-182.
Kerry Bone.  Clinical Applications of Ayurvedic and Chinese Herbs: Monographs for the Western Herbal Practitioner.1997:141
http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/duke/ethnobot.pl?piper %20longum

Shilajit is a tarry blackish or brownish substance that is exuded from rocks, especially in the Himalaya Mountains. There is some speculation that it may represent the action of time and the elements on the latex of various species of Euphorbia.  It is a complex mixture of naturally occurring organic compounds along with mixed in-organic minerals.   Shilajit acts mainly to purify, and strengthen the genitals and urinary tract. It is a powerful   aphrodisiac and stimulant.  It is given as a rejuvenator to people suffering from consumption, chronic bronchitis, asthma, chronic digestive, disease of the nerves and fractures.  It is supposed to maintain the body's natural immune system.  Note: shilajit is very powerful, it should be taken in gradual increasing dose so your system becomes used to it. No known studies with HAART.

Shatvari (Asparagus racemosus)
This Ayurvedic herb is a tonic and rejuvenative. The herb works on all tissues of the body by enhancing circulation, strengthening reproductive system, respiratory and digestive system. It has strong rejuvenate properties for the female system as Ashwagandha is to the male system.  It is usually taken with warm milk
sweetened with raw sugar.
Reference: Drs. Frawley.D , Lad, V. 1992. The Yoga of Herbs : An Ayurvedic guide to Herbal Medicine, pp. 183-184
Kerry Bone. Clinical Applications of Ayurvedic and Chinese Herbs:
Monographs for the Western Herbal Practitioner. 1996: 138

Triphala is a combination of three fruits, haritaki, amalaki and bibhitaki.  It is used strictly for maintaining a healthy digestive system. It tones and cleans the intestinal tract, improves digestion has laxative properties.
Reference: Drs. Frawley. D, Lad.D.  1992. The Yoga of Herbs:An Ayurvedic guide to Herbal Medicine. P. 175
Trikatu is mixture of dried fruit of black pepper, dry ginger, and long pepper. These are digestive herbs that have strong properties in cleansing the stomach and colon.  These herbs are sometimes added to other Ayurvedic herbal combination to increase synergistic effect. Not recommended if you have diarrhoea.  . 
Reference: Dr. David Frawley.  1992.  Ayurvedic Healing: A Comprehensive Guide. p. 99

A very common tonic used in Ayurvedic medicine for health maintenance of a healthy digestive system.  It is a combination of three fruits, haritaki, amalaki and bibhitaki.  Always take half an hour after a meal with warm or hot water. Triphala tones and cleans the intestinal tract, improves digestion, has laxative properties
No known studies with anti HIV medications, available in powder or capsules.


African Herbs
African Potato Plant (Hypoxis rooperi)
It is an immune enhancer contains sterols and sterolins which have been shown to be beneficial at enhancing an under-active immune system or decreasing an overactive system.  Also increases the number and action of natural killer cells (NK) and increase DHEA levels. Has been shown to reeduce the stress hormone cortisol and the proinflammatory immune factor, interleukin 6 (IL 6) while increasing IL 2.  
Caution: in vitro clinical data on drug interactions-decreased levels of antiHIV drugs (NNRTIs and PIs)

Sutherlandia (S. Frutescens
Sutherlandia has been used as anti-depressant, to treat wasting, STIs, cancer, TB, diabetes and schizophrenia.  Some of the benefits include weight gain, energy booster and increase in appetite. Caution: in vitro clinical data on drug interactions-decreased levels of NNRTIs & PIs 


Chinese Herbs

Used in Traditional Chinese Medicine.  A non-specific immune enhancer with activity on T cells, antibodies and cytokines. Also used with other herbs
Caution: May enhance rather than suppress HIV replication with long-term use  

Ginseng derived from the root or leaf. There are three types of ginseng; Korean or Asian ginseng (panax ginseng); North American ginseng (panax quinquefolium); Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus).  Ginseng is used by PHAs to modulate immune system, prevent stress and fatigue (adaptogen), improve alertness & cognitive function.     
Not recommended for long-term use

Golden Seal
Golden seal has anti-bacterial and anti-viral. It has the ability to soothe inflamed or infected mucous membranes (cold, flu and sinus).  Available as tincture, teas, capsules

Mushrooms: Shitake, Reishi, Maitake 
These three mushrooms used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and used with other herbs.
It stimulates antibody response, can cause increase of HIV replication as it may stimulate humeral arm of the immune system.  Not recommended on long-term basis.


South America
Cats Claw (Uncaria tomentosa)
Cats Claw has antiviral and anti-tumor properties.  It is not recommended as it stimulates the humeral arm (antibodies) of the immune system which can increase HIV replication.


Western Herbs

An excellent excellent medicine for the stomach.  Commonly used in foods and to boost/balance cooling property foods, and to boost digestion and blood circulation.
Ginger's range of benefits are to assist in preventing motion sickness, nausea, indigestion, stomach upset,  increase blood circulation, etc. Ginger is perfect in winter as tea to warm up the body. In cases of lack of digestion add ginger to food or consume ginger tea before meals. 

Garlic (allium sativum)
Garlic contains up to 200 sulphur compounds. Also has anti- fungal, anti-bacterial and anti- parasitic benefits and used to prevent and treat infections. Garlic used to strengthen immune system, increase natural killer cells, lowers cholesterol and triglycerides.  The research on garlic’s benefits on cholesterol and triglycerides are contradictory.  Additionally, too much garlic taken immediately with HAART can increase blood levels and intensifying side effects of PIs and NNRTIs or lower levels of PIs.  It may reduce anti-coagulation effect of Warfarin and aspirin and may cause gastro-intestinal

St.John’s Wort
Commonly, used to relieve mild to moderate depression. St. John’s Wort must not be used along with prescription anti depression. It is not recommended for PHAs on HAART as it lowers levels of indinavir and other PIs and NNRTIs.   

The active ingredient in marijuana is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol).  Commonly used by PHAs to, stimulate appetite, reduce nausea, elevate mood, and manage mild depression and pain.
Cautions: Chronic use of marijuana may cause more serious depression or may actually lower pain threshold. Marijuana can adversely affect complex thinking processes; problem solving, decision making. Additionally, marijuana can cause immune-suppression and respiratory problems similar to tobacco products. 

Milk Thistle
Milk thisltle is derived from the seeds of the plant silybum marinum.  It contains the active compound silymarin.  As a potent antioxidant, the milk thistle extract helps prevent highly reactive oxygen molecules called free radicals from damaging cells throughout the body, especially in the liver, stomach, and intestines. The herb partly accomplishes this task by preventing a reduction in concentrations of glutathione, an amino-acid like compound that is critical to neutralizing toxins. Some studies indicate that milk thistle can actually increase glutathione levels by as much as 35%. In addition, silymarin alters the outer membrane of liver cells in such a way that toxins are barred from entering. It even encourages the formation of new, healthier liver cells to replace old, damaged ones. Used by PHAs to protect liver and kidneys and lessen effects of co-morbid Hepatitis B or C and liver diseases. There is a possible interaction with PIs or NNRTIs
Caution: may interact with the blood levels of some cardiac drugs, antibiotics, anti-seizure drugs, anti-depressants, anti-fungal, sedatives, lipid lowering drugs, methadone, etc.