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Discussion Paper

Alternative and Complementary Therapies

May, 1999

Curcumin

Curcumin is one of the elements in tumeric. Along with several other compounds, it slows HIV replication in test tubes. Results of trials in humans are pending, but the appeal is great because of curcumin's low price and easy availability.


Shark Cartilage

The soft bones of sharks contain natural antibiotics and other substances that may slow the growth of a tumor's new blood-vessel formation. Because shark cartilage is difficult to take orally, causes nausea, and is poorly absorbed in the stomach, it is usually administered as a retention enema. It has been studied in small numbers of people and was shown to be effective in a few cases.

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Blue-Green Algae

Blue-green algae grows on the surface of an Oregon lake and is sold as an amino acid and mineral-rich nutrient. It is claimed that it can energize both the body and the mind. People report increased energy on this supplement, and in the early days of high AZT doses it seemed to help some people avoid AZT-induced anemia. Researchers at the National Cancer Institute found certain substances (sulfolipids) from other algae species that inhibit HIV in the test tube, but this result has not been found with blue-green algae.


Kombucha

Kombucha is a living, growing colony of fungal and bacterial elements also known as the Manchurian mushroom. Rapid growth in kombucha's popularity resulted from early positive press and because it is readily available. It is brewed and taken as a tea, with supposed immune-enhancing and antibiotic properties. There are a few dramatic stories of improvement in HIV illness, and frequent reports of increased energy and mental clarity. A concern of some specialists is that other potentially disease causing germs, such as the mold aspergillus, may also be growing in the brew. In addition, if it does contain antibiotic substances, the development of resistance is a concern. Individuals with low CD4+ cell counts should be wary and discuss taking this treatment with their physician.


Licorice

Licorice root has long been used as an anti-inflammatory treatment, and also as a tonic and treatment for low blood pressure. It is used in many Chinese herbal mixtures. In Japan, glycyrrhizin, the extract from the root, is used as an intravenous pharmaceutical with documented effectiveness against hepatitis B. Most of the research done with licorice has come from Japan. In a handful of small studies it has shown benefit in HIV infection with decreases in fatigue and light-headedness and small lab improvements. It showed value for people with liver problems. Side effects include high blood pressure, fluid retention and cardiac problems.





  
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