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Herbs and Modern Medicine

Jul 26, 1999

For years my family and I have been interested in herbs and their effects on the body. Most of the responses I have read on this web site regarding the use of herbs as an alternative treatment indicate that no one does research on herbs, and that the use of herbs is really not helpful. Where could a person obtain data and/or information regarding the usefulness of herbs in a clinical study?

Response from Dr. Cohen

So far there has only been a little research on the potential for herbal medicines to assist in controlling HIV. In test tubes there are many herbs identified that have at least some ability to control HIV growth. However - only a few of them have undergone study - and of those, none has shown much if any activity. Sad to say. For example, we presented a study done on an herb called "curcumin" - which is from the plant tumeric. And in test tubes it is quite active in stopping HIV. But in people it didn't work. At least at the doses we can take via capsules of the powder. And that has been the case for the other herbs that have actually undergone study - so far despite test tube evidence, they have not shown results in people. Including St. Johns Wort (hypericin), shitake mushroom, and others. Which does not mean that all herbs are useless in controlling HIV - it may be that the current preparations of herbs just don't get enough of the medicinal properties into our system in their current form to do the job.

There are several sites on the Web that are focussed on herbal medicines. With a good search engine you should have little trouble finding several of them. But as someone who is rooting for (no pun intended...) at least some plant sometime to show benefit - and have helped designed studies to find some evidence - so far we are still in search of one to recommend for controlling HIV.

Of course - the other properties of herbs can be of benefit for persons with HIV. Like St Johns Wort for depression. Saw Palmetto to control prostate growth. And so on. And for the list of what does show evidence - there are several books and references. One trusted author is Varro Tyler - you might find his name on a few books that are well researched.

Hope that helps. CC

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