Alternative Medicines for AIDS

Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a disease that severely weakens the immune system, making the body vulnerable to certain infections or cancers, which usually prove fatal. AIDS is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which can be passed along by sexual contact, by contact with infected blood, and from mother to fetus.



The goal of many alternative treatments is to treat HIV infection or AIDS as a chronic disease with which one may live for a long time. Patients often combine alternative medicine with conventional HIV and AIDS drugs in the hope that fewer allopathic drugs will be necessary and to minimize the drugs’ toxic side effects.


A Seattle study combined several alternative therapies into one naturopathic treatment program for HIV infection. The men who followed the program for one year experienced a decline in their HIV-related complications and an improved sense of well-being. Their treatments included:

  • nutritional therapy
  • herbal medicine
  • hyperthermia therapy
  • mind/body medicine
  • homeopathy



Nutritional Therapy for AIDS

In nutritional therapy, a certain diet and nutritional supplements are used to strengthen a frail immune system. Supplements can also make up for the frequent nutrient deficiencies found in people with HIV infection and AIDS, which are often caused by chronic diarrhea, the body's reduced ability to absorb nutrients, or an eating disorder.



Naturopathic physicians, in particular, recommend a diet with plenty of fresh and organic vegetables, beans, and whole grains, and low in sugar, animal fats, alcohol, and caffeine. This diet doesn't tax the body's defense system. More nutrients may be absorbed by the body if meals are small and eaten frequently. Nutritional supplements, many with antioxidant properties, that can be helpful to people with HIV infection and AIDS include:

  • vitamin A (beta-carotene)
  • vitamin C
  • vitamin B6
  • vitamin B12
  • folate
  • selenium and vitamin E
  • zinc
  • N-acetyl-l-cysteine (NAC)
  • quercetin
  • L-carnitine



There are many dietary suggestions that people with HIV infection and AIDS can follow to minimize contact with food additives, preservatives, pesticides, bacteria, and parasites. Here are some tips concerning fruits and vegetables:

  • Buy fresh instead of frozen and canned.
  • Choose organic whenever possible.
  • Thoroughly wash and scrub foods.
  • At the minimum, lightly steam all vegetables.


Herbal Medicine for AIDS

Herbs can provide several benefits for people with HIV infection and AIDS. Some may improve the performance of the immune system. Others can weaken the AIDS virus and prevent its spread. Still others offer relief from the symptoms associated with AIDS.



Those herbs commonly prescribed include:

  • astragalus (often taken as part of a combination from traditional Chinese medicine)
  • goldenseal
  • isatis (often taken as part of a combination from traditional Chinese medicine)
  • licorice root
  • St. John's wort
  • curcumin (a constituent of turmeric)


For patients using conventional drugs, herbs may also lessen some of the negative side effects. For example, antibiotics can severely disrupt the healthy balance of flora (bacteria) in the intestines. Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillis bifidus bacteria (found in live-culture yogurt) and garlic can offset these effects.


Acemannan (from aloe vera), in addition to being a potent immune-system stimulator and antiviral substance, also seems to boost the effects of the conventional anti-AIDS drug zidovudine. The effects can be so dramatic that some researchers say the dosage of zidovudine can be reduced by as much as 90 percent when acemannan is used as an adjunct. Zidovudine has serious side effects, so anything that allows for a decrease in the dosage is welcome.


Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is thought to assist the workings of the immune system. It also has antiviral properties, which can be useful against herpes virus (a common problem for AIDS patients). A word of caution, though: People with high blood pressure should not use this herb.



Hyperthermia Therapy for AIDS

Because the AIDS virus is unstable when exposed to heat, hyperthermia therapy offers some promise. The treatment aims to raise the body temperature, creating an artificial fever. This is thought to weaken HIV and affect the makeup of the blood, in particular increasing the number of white blood cells (which fight off invading organisms).



Hyperthermia treatments commonly consist of submerging the body (up to the head) in heated water. Layers of clothes and blankets also may be applied to keep the body temperature high for a specific period of time.



Other AIDS Therapies

  • Traditional Chinese Medicine for AIDS -- Acupuncture, acupressure, and Chinese herbal therapy may help restore the flow of energy in the body and boost the immune system. A person whose energy flow is in harmony has a better chance of warding off infections.


  • Osteopathy for AIDS -- This treatment manipulates parts of the body to remove built-up tension in an effort to strengthen the overall health of someone with AIDS. Osteopathic physicians are also qualified to give conventional treatments.



  • Bodywork for AIDS -- Massage, in particular, relieves muscle tightness and tension, leaving the body free to focus on healing other AIDS-related ailments.


  • Mind/Body Medicine for AIDS -- Techniques such as guided imagery, support groups, spirituality, and neurolinguistic programming may reduce stress, enhance the immune system, and perhaps slow the progression of AIDS.



For more information on AIDS and alternative medicine, see:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.