HIV and AIDS is a new disease to Chinese medicine but immune system deficiencies are not new: they have existed for centuries and TCM doctors and clinics in Britain and America have been treating patients with some small success. In Chinese medicine, AIDs is considered a weakness of the kidney and the spleen, mainly caused by a self-indulgent lifestyle, especially drinking to excess.

Chinese Medicine is unequivocal on the topic of moderation. Any excess, emotional or physical, will harm the body. The jing energy, the very essence of life held by the kidney, is injured by excess. Lifestyle is therefore crucial to well-being, and sexual promiscuity, or drug abuse, will inevitably lead to health problems. Drug abuse weakens the system and causes kidney yin deficiency, with symptoms such as night fever and coughs. Damp heat then invades the body.

In Chinese Medicine treatment for HIV and AIDS is mainly given to nourish the kidneys and strengthen the spleen. Chinese Medicine practitioners in the Western world treat HIV and AIDS with a combination of herbs, among them astragalus, Chinese snake gourd and Six Rehmmania Pills or Return Spleen Pills. They are able to bolster the immune system to prevent complications and prolong life, delaying the progress from HIV to AIDS.

A chemical extract from the Chinese snake gourd, which looks rather like a cucumber, is perhaps the most promising drug produced so far in the race against the advance of this terrible disease. It is undergoing trials with the American Food and Drug Administration and if it fulfills its early promise, we may be nearing the day when a cure is discovered.

In ancient times, the Chinese snake gourd was used to procure abortions, although nobody knew how it worked. A Hong Kong scientist, Professor Yeung, carrying out research into its action, discovered that it selectively kills the trophoblast cell, which regulates activity of the placenta. The herb also targets cells in the body called macrophages (scavenger cells which clean up stray toxins).In America, Dr Michael McGrath, director of an AIDS research laboratory in San Francisco, found that some macrophages can be infected by the HIV virus. This was another step forward in understanding why none of the medicines so far produced had proved to be a cure. They killed infected T-cells, but not infected macrophages.

The extract trichosanthin, which Professor Yeung’s team at the Chinese University had isolated from the Chinese snake gourd, apparently kills infected cells in the body’s immune system, but leaves the healthy cells alone. He sent a small phial to Dr McGrath, who carried out trials on volunteers. Research is still going on into a number of individual herbs, but Chinese doctors strongly believe that the best approach is to continue to treat the whole system, and that the interaction between a combination of herbs will always prove more effective than extracts alone.
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