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Question on the article

Aug 29, 2014

One of the articles here states that: "Ginseng should not be taken for prolonged periods of time. High doses or long-term use of Siberian and panax ginseng may elevate blood pressure as well as cause anxiety and insomnia."

A question: What about ARVs? From what I know for sure, liver damage and the toxicity of these drugs are a lot higher than ginseng itself. Comparing between the side effects of these drugs, why don't we have further studies on how to utilize this innate ability of ginseng to control HIV? I mean, studies pertaining to the right dosage that would yield optimal results and how significant the side effects are compared to the good things it can do. If it can control HIV as much as ARVs can, why don't you people from conventional medicine promote it? Korean Ginseng is a lot cheaper. Why not drug companies start manufacturing pharma standard ginseng based HIV drugs?

Response from Dr. Young

Hello and thanks for posting.

I'm no expert in ginseng (and can't speak to why there are are are not studies on it), but I do know a little about ARVs.

The community and pharmaceutical industry alike spent decades hoping and searching for effective treatments for HIV. Many died waiting and hoping for them. These drugs now exist. It's an insult to the tens of thousands who HIV-infected people who volunteered their health and bodies to ignore their contributions and the drugs they helped discover.

Antiretroviral medications (ARVs) should be individually selected based on viral characteristics and the individual patient's health (and health risks). If done thoughtfully, and monitored appropriately, long-term treatment for HIV is incredibly safe, and not associated with any accumulating risk of liver disease or other toxicity. There are decades of studies in peer-reviewed scientific publications to support their use, and expert clinician and scientist panels from around the world give us guidance about which drugs and doses to use.

Similar data generally doesn't exist for "alternative medicines" like ginseng- and while they might have antiviral activity (they generally don't), I do not recommend their use until such a time that the safe degree of confidence in their benefit and safety exist.

We do have effective therapies for HIV today. Meaningful deployment of HIV testing, linkage to care and access to these therapies could prevent the vast majority of the nearly 6000 new cases and 4000 AIDS-related deaths every day. Ginseng won't.


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