HIV infection is a medical condition characterized by a progressive deficiency in the immune system of the human body, caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. Currently there is no cure for this condition. However, anti-retroviral therapy has succeeded in reducing the virus count to a bare minimum, and has helped the immune system to improve. This therapy has multiple side-effects, and over time, the virus starts multiplying, while the immune system fails gradually.
Some Ayurvedic physicians compare the symptoms of HIV/AIDS to those of “Kshaya” or “Oja-Kshaya” mentioned in Ayurveda. While Ayurvedic treatment may not show the initial dramatic improvement seen with modern drugs, this treatment still has a significant role to play in the long term management of HIV infection. Ayurvedic medicines reduce the virus count and improve the CD4/CD8 count, which are indicative of the modulated immune status of the body. Judicious use of Ayurvedic medicines may also increase the innate (basic) immunity of the body, improve weight and cause excretion of the HIV virus from the body.
Traditional Ayurvedic formulations can be effectively used to treat the opportunistic infections which are a hallmark of advanced HIV infection. Kutaj Ghana Vati, Sanjeevani Vati, Panchamrut Parpati and Kutaj Parpati are used to treat recurrent diarrhea. Arogya Vardhini, Triphala Guggulu, Mahamanjishthadi Ghan Vati, Praval and Kamdudha are useful in Herpes Zoster infection and also in other skin infections. Laxmi Narayan Rasa, Samshamani Vati and Laghu Sutshekhar are used in chronic fever. Chandanadi Vati, Shatadhout Ghrut,Yashtimadhuk Ghrut, Triphala and Chandan (Sandalwood ) powders are useful in recurrent oral and genital ulcers. Laghu Malini Vasant, Madhu Malini Vasant, Suvarna Malini Vasant, Suvarna Bhasma and Heerak Bhasma are used as “general tonics”.
Herbal medicines which are useful in HIV infection are: Amalaki (Emblica officinalis), Bhumiamalaki (Phyllanthus niruri), Yashtimadhuk (Glycerrhiza glabra), Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus), Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum), Mandukparni (Centella asiatica), Kutki (Picrorrhiza kurroa), Saariva (Hemidesmus indicus), Manjishtha (Rubia cordifolia), Haridra (Curcuma longa), Punarnava (Boerhaavia diffusa), Pippali (Piper longum) and Chitrak (Plumbago zeylanica). These medicines have anti-viral, immunomodulating and adaptogenic properties. Some of these increase body weight, yet others increase the “agni” of the body and therefore maintain cellular metabolism at an optimum level.
Patients with HIV infection need long-term or life-long treatment. Herbal medicines have the advantage of an impressive safety profile, and can therefore, be given for long periods without any significant side effects. Herbal medicines can be given independently, or as additional therapy to modern medicines. The current goal in HIV management of prolonging a healthy life at minimum risk and cost, can thus, be achieved admirably with herbal medicines.