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Immune - Garlic and AIDS

by Paul Bergner

Medical Herbalism 07-31-95 9(2/3): 17-18

Garlic appears to have a place in both in treating opportunistic infections and in improving the overall health of AIDS patients. Normally when a new AIDS therapy shows promise in a clinical trial, news spreads quickly in the media. This was unfortunately not the case after a dramatic, although small, trial of garlic for AIDS was reported at the International AIDS Conference in 1989. The researchers, who later published the information in Deutsche Zeitschrift Onkologie (German Journal of Oncology) gave an aged garlic preparation (Kyolic garlic) to ten patients with AIDS. All patients had severely low natural killer cell activity and abnormal helper-to-suppressor T-cell ratios — both of these are blood measurements of progressed AIDS, often indicating short life-expectancy. All patients also had opportunistic infections such as cryptosporidial diarrhea or herpes infections.

The patients received the equivalent of two cloves a day (5 grams) for the first six weeks, and then the equivalent of four cloves (10 grams) for another six weeks. Three of the patients were too severely ill to complete the trial. They could not complete the garlic regimen, and died before the trial ended.

The results were dramatic, and had it been a pharmaceutical drug involved instead of garlic, no doubt the news would have spread rapidly in the media. Six of the seven who completed the trial had normal natural-killer cell activity within six weeks, and all seven had normal activity by the end of the twelve weeks. Natural killer cell activity is considered one of the most important indicators of the progression of AIDS. The helper-to-suppressor T-cell ratios returned to normal in three of the patients, improved in two, remained the same in one, and lowered in one.

Just as important, the patients’ opportunistic infections also improved. Chronic diarrhea, candida infection, genital herpes, and a chronic sInus infection all improved. The patient with the chronic sinus infection had gained no relief from antibiotics during more than a year of treatment before the garlic trial.

Exactly why the garlic helped the patients so dramatically is not clearly understood. Garlic can affect the immune system in many ways. Garlic may have also strengthened immunity in these patients by helping to fight the opportunistic infections, and thus reducing the load on the immune system. Various trials have shown garlic to be effective against cryptococcus, cryptosporidia, herpes, mycobacteria, and pneumocystis — all common infectious agents in AIDS. Researchers have also recently found evidence that the garlic constituent ajoene may directly interfere with the spread of the HIV virus in AIDS patients.

This trial was small, with only seven patients completing it, and follow up studies are necessary to prove that garlic will really help AIDS patients. News of the trial spread like wildfire in the community of people with AIDS, however, and many patients now take garlic regularly. One study in 1993 found that nearly 10% of AIDS patients surveyed took garlic supplements in addition to the other medications they were taking.
Copyright 2001 Paul Bergner    203


    Medical Herbalism: Clinical Articles and Case Studies

Garlic is used routinely in the Healing Aids Research Project at Bastyr University in Seattle. This is one of the few medical centers doing formal research into natural treatments of AIDS. Dr. Jane Guiltinan, medical director of the clinic where the research is done, suggests that all AIDS patient who can tolerate garlic should take it. “I most often prescribe garlic in food form rather than capsules or extracts,” says Guiltinan. “I have them eat as much as possible, either raw or cooked.”

Garlic is also an important part of the AIDS protocol at the Immune Enhancement Project (IEP)in Portland, Oregon, a clinic that treats about 140 AIDS patients each month. Doctors at the clinic treat the patients with acupuncture, Chinese massage, diet, and modified Chinese herbal formulas in a protocol followed in AIDS clinics in three other cities in the U.S. The main herbal therapy at the clinics for opportunistic infections is garlic. Dr. Subhuti Dharmananda, director of the project, recently published a scientific review of garlic entitled “Garlic As The Central Herb Therapy for AIDS.” AIDS patients at the IEP are encouraged to take 3-5 cloves of garlic a day to prevent the secondary infections in AIDS. If they already have the infections, they take that dose three times a day. Garlic is also given in other forms, such as retention enemas and skin washes, for certain conditions. They take the cloves cut up with lemon juice and honey, or in any other carrier than makes it more palatable. Dharmananda says that garlic probably does not effect the HIV infection itself, but treats the secondary infections that cause the most serious symptoms of AIDS.

AIDS patients might take garlic in any of its oral forms, use garlic poultices, compresses, or oil for skin afflictions, enemas for anal infections, or steams or chest applications for sinus or bronchial problems.


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    Medical Herbalism: Clinical Articles and Case Studies    

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