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E for Energy
Mar 8, 2002

You Rock! Your responses on this forum are best -- witty, informative and compassionate. OK here's my question Voulez vous choucher avec moi-- ce soir? (Sorry about that -- we just finished watching Moulin Rouge and I couldn't resist!) OK here's the real question. My boyfriend is positive and doing well on his current cocktail. He likes to visit this health food store and is always coming home with new herbs and weird stuff. Recently he took echinacea for a cold (that he probably didn't even have) and he thought it made him feel better. The guy at the health food store told him to stay on it permamently because it's an immune booster and will help his HIV. Sounds like bullshit to me. What do you think? Any harm in my dear hypochondriac taking echinacea for an extended period of time? My lover reads your forum all the time...so I'll just let him find this question all by himself. Yes dearie it's really me and I'll talking about you!!! Thanks Dr. Bob Stay Kwel! We love you!

Response from Dr. Frascino

Vous me demandez si je coucherai avec vous? Zut alors! Vous avez un amant. Est-ce que vous avez besoin de deux ? Vous etes un garcon tres vilain!

OK, enough of my fractured French. Hello to both of you. The definition of IBT (immune-based therapies) is a bit blurry. Cytokines, therapeutic vaccines, immune stimulants and suppressants, thymus-derived therapies, cell-transfer therapies, antibody-based therapies all qualify as IBT and have been tried in various clinical trials. Hormonal and herbal therapies, as well as other alternative or complementary therapies, might fall into the IBT category, but much less is known about these agents. Various Chinese herbal compounds have been described rather loosely as "immune boosters," but have never been thoroughly studied. From my perspective as an immunologist, I can tell you that many of these compounds contain immune stimulants known as polysaccharides, which might, at least theoretically, have an effect on the immune system. The effect, unfortunately, would be immune activation, which could, again theoretically, promote HIV replication rather than help block it! Echinacea is one of these polysaccharide-containing herbs. It appears to increase levels of the inflammation-associated cytokine TNF-alpha. Most of us would agree that short-term use of herbs like Echinacea (for instance, when treating a cold) is unlikely to be harmful. However, these types of broad immune stimulant s are certainly not considered helpful for combating HIV and I would not recommend them for long-term use!

Bottom line: Why take more "stuff" than you really need, especially if there is a theoretical downside and no evidence that it's helpful? Better you should get hooked on Starbucks or Jamba Juice smoothies. They taste much better than Echinacea.

A bientot boys!

Dr. Bob


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