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astragalus and korean ginseng

Jun 26, 2002

Hi Doctor Young, Thank you for being such a caring and compassionate doctor! I have read in various sources and also on the internet that astragalus and korean ginseng may be beneficial to promoting healthy immune system in hiv individuals. I value your advice and wisdom, and I am certain that many of us such as myself who religiously visit the body for your advice are wondering if it is safe to take these two herbs in combination to promote a healthy immune system. I have not started treatment yet. Should these herbs only be taken if not using hiv medications. I currently am not taking any. I was hoping to perhaps use these herbs first to enhance my immune system, hoping that new, less toxic drugs will become available in the near future. Is it unwise to do so; i.e. take these herbs prior to starting medication and if when i do start medications, can i also take these herbs.

Thanks and god bless :-)

Concerned Herbman

Response from Dr. Young

Thanks for your comments and questions.

I'm personally not an expert on Asian herbals, though am aware of claims of immune enhancement by these extracts. Despite some publications of small clinical trials in hepatitis B, none, to my knowledge have been conducted for HIV. Perhaps as a warning; not much new has been presented about this combination since the late 1980's- early 1990's, leading me to believe that a once promising candidate botanical has not panned out after more careful scrutiny. (This is not to say that there aren't or may not be other compounds.)

Taken together, I can't become fully endorse their use with the expectation that your immune function will be preserved. Indeed, part of my concern with many of the herbal products is a lack of standardization of the quantity of active ingredient from preparation to preparation, as well as a general lack of information about potential drug-drug interactions (as was demonstrated, unexpectedly with St. John's wort, for example). Since you are not currently taking HIV medications, there won't be any risk of drug interactions and possible genesis of drug resistant HIV.

If you choose to use astragalus and korean ginseng; I'd certainly let your healthcare provider know. Maybe you could have monitoring of your CD4 count and percentage during the treatment.

Hope this is helpful. Let me know how it goes. -BY

Is there a middle ground?

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