By Dana Ullman MPH
(Excepted from Consumer's Guide to Homeopathy, Tarcher/Putnam, 1995)
[Although this article was written in 1995, it is still full of useful and insightful information and perspectives on AIDS and the immune system and homeopathy's role in dealing with them. People who want more up-to-date information on homeopathy and AIDS will benefit from reading Dana Ullman's ebook, Homeopathic Family Medicine: Evidence Based Homeopathy.
also see Dana Ullman's article which was published in a peer-review medical journal:
As horrific as the AIDS epidemic is, it has had one silver lining: it has implanted into the awareness of the medical community and the general public the importance of the body's immune system. Prior to the emergence of AIDS, few people were familiar with or cared about the immune system.
Now more than ever, the general public is interested in exploring ways to bolster immune response to prevent the progression of AIDS, as well as to reduce the number and intensity of opportunistic infections and to improve the overall state of their health. The medical community, however, has focused its AIDS resources on creating antiviral medications, which despite great hope and expectation have not achieved the results anticipated. In fact, the leading AIDS drug, AZT, has been found to prolong the lives of people with AIDS by only seven or eight months,1 but due to its side effects, the quality of life during this time is not high.
What is yet to be understood by the medical community is that they need to direct more attention and research to ways to augment immune response, rather than ways to inhibit viral replication. By strengthening a person's own defenses, the body is best enabled to defend itself.
Homeopathy is one way to do this. Although no therapy can or will help every HIV+ person or everyone with AIDS, homeopathy is beginning to develop a reputation for helping people at varying stages of this disease. To understand what homeopathy has to offer, it is necessary to learn something about a different approach to infectious disease than simply attacking a pathogen.
Louis Pasteur, who initially suggested that bacteria cause disease, later realized that bacteria may not necessarily be the "cause" of disease as much as the "results" of disease.2 Like Claude Bernard,3 the father of experimental physiology, Pasteur came to realize that the susceptibility of the individual, the "host resistance," was a greater determinant of the development of disease than the infective agent itself.
Despite the later recanting by Pasteur, he had already set in motion a medical mind set that focused entirely on eliminating pathogens and that ignored exploring ways to augment immune and defense response. Just as physicians and scientists are finally realizing the limitations and problems inherent in antibiotics as antimicrobial agents, antiviral drugs will inevitably suffer a similar fate. While physicians tend to know this both rationally and intuitively, they ignore these obvious problems in their clinical practice, in part because they don't know what else to do and in part because their biomedical paradigm limits their vision of alternatives to antimicrobial therapy.
As increasing numbers of physicians learn about homeopathic medicine, they will be exposed to viable alternative treatments which can play an integral role in the care and treatment of people with HIV and AIDS. A recent survey of physicians in the Netherlands verified this possibility. The survey showed that 50% of Dutch physicians instigated and supported the use of homeopathic and natural therapies in the treatment of people with AIDS.4
The best and most certain way to prevent AIDS is to avoid exchanging bodily fluids with people who are HIV+. Exposure to these bodily fluids most commonly occurs through sexual activity, sharing needles, or receiving blood transfusions. However, just because an individual is exposed to a person with HIV does not necessarily mean that the individual will get the virus. And further, just because an individual becomes infected with HIV does not necessarily mean that he or she will get AIDS.
The various factors that influence whether exposure leads to infection and whether infection leads to disease remain unknown. However, as with many infectious conditions, a stronger immune system reduces the chances of getting the disease or at least decreases the chances of complications from the infection. It therefore seems prudent to avoid the factors that inhibit immune response and to utilize those that augment it. The factors that inhibit immune response include an unhealthy lifestyle (i.e., smoking, poor diet, significant stress, sedentary habits) and the use of therapeutic and recreational drugs, while those that augment immune response tend to be a healthy lifestyle and utilizing natural therapeutics, including homeopathic medicines.
While the precise mechanism of action that leads to AIDS isn't known, a new and significant study suggests that homeopathic medicines may have a dramatic effect on some people with HIV. A study performed by a government research center in India with 129 asymptomatic HIV+ patients (120 male and 9 female) showed that during homeopathic treatment over a period of 3 to 16 months, 11 patients changed from HIV+ to HIV-.5 No conventional drugs of any type were prescribed to these patients.
The medical literature has on rare occasions reported individual patients who for unknown reasons converted from being HIV+ to being HIV-. This study is the first to report more than one.
It should be noted that this writer acknowledges that it does not initially make sense that people can turn from HIV+ to HIV-, because the tests that determine this status are simply evaluating a person's antibodies, not the disease itself. It is generally assumed that people who become HIV+ will remain that way throughout their lives. It therefore seems obvious that the work by the Indian researchers should be more carefully studied to evaluate this potentially significant clinical result. It should also be noted that these researchers have elsewhere published more up-to-date data which shows significant improvement in immune panels and blood work in HIV+ and AIDS patients as the result of homeopathic treatment.6
These same researchers also conducted a study on the immunological status of 34 HIV+ patients.7 After six months of individualized homeopathic treatment, 23 (67%) of the 34 subjects' immune profiles improved. Thirteen patients experienced a 0-10% increase in CD4 lymphocytes (a higher number of CD4 lymphocytes suggests a stronger immune response) and 10 patients experienced a greater than 10% increase. Because there is a tendency for people with HIV to have continually decreasing CD4 lymphocytes, this study suggests that homeopathic medicines provided a benefit to the subjects.
A San Francisco Bay Area homeopath, Lawrence Badgley, MD, reported on a six month study of 36 patients with AIDS or HIV whom he treated with homeopathic and other natural medicines. He observed a 13% increase in T4 helper cells and an average weight gain of two pounds.8 AIDS tends to have increasingly degenerating effects on the body, and improvement in the immune profile and weight gain seem to be rarely experienced under conventional medical treatment.
In addition to what homeopathy offers in the prevention of AIDS, other natural therapies that strengthen the body's own defense should also be considered. For instance, a recent study of HIV+ patients who were given only a multivitamin/mineral supplement were found to develop AIDS at a substantially slower rate than those who did not supplement their diet. If this simple addition to one's prevention program is so effective, it isn't hard to imagine what more individualized nutritional and natural medicine programs can do to slow down onset of this dreaded disease.
Treatment of Acute Illnesses During AIDS
Because of the seriousness of this disease, the treatment of people with HIV or AIDS requires professional health care, even when their ailments are seemingly minor. Ideally, they should receive treatment from a homeopath who is an M.D. or a D.O., but otherwise the best care is one that integrates homeopathic treatment with appropriate medical diagnosis and, in emergency situations, with appropriate medical treatment.
People with AIDS are prone to opportunistic infections due to their immunodeficient state, ranging from fungal infections in the mouth to respiratory infections. The use of conventional drugs can provide valuable temporary relief; however, occasional or repeated use of these drugs takes its own toll on their health and immune system, and thus provides short-term relief but longer-term immune complications. Safer therapies that are not as physiologically disruptive as conventional drugs are necessary for the long-term improvement of people with AIDS. Homeopathic medicines can play an important role in the treatment of these opportunistic infections.
One of the advantages of using homeopathy in treating people with AIDS is that they tend to get various unusual symptoms, diseases, and syndromes which evade immediate diagnosis. A homeopath, however, can prescribe a remedy before a definitive conventional diagnosis is made. Because homeopathic medicines are prescribed on the basis of a person's unique pattern of symptoms, a conventional diagnosis is not necessary for a curative remedy to be prescribed.
Treatment of People with AIDS
Despite the seemingly positive results that homeopathic medicines provide for people who are HIV+, for those with early onset of AIDS, and for those with nonextreme cases of AIDS, most homeopaths do not observe significant improvement in treating people who have advanced stages of AIDS. That said, it should also be noted that there are exceptions to this general rule, and numerous homeopaths find that select patients with advanced stages of AIDS experience dramatic improvement in their quality of life.
The experience of Bill Gray, MD, a homeopath in Davis, California, is typical of many homeopaths. He has had 33 AIDS patients, only three of whom have survived. The remaining three patients were the only ones who insisted on avoiding AZT and ddI (another popular AIDS drug). Dr. Gray has also had 30 HIV+ patients for an average of five years, only one of whom developed AIDS. Although this one patient has suffered from two bouts of pneumocystis pneumonia, he is actually doing quite well under homeopathic treatment.
Dr. Gray and most homeopaths utilize classical homeopathy in the treatment of people with AIDS, using a single remedy prescribed individually to the unique pattern of symptoms experienced by the patient. This highly individualized treatment generally includes the use of homeopathic medicines which are highly potentized (usually higher than the 200th potency).
Because of the urgency of some AIDS patients' situations, some homeopaths experiment with new homeopathic remedies and with nonclassical approaches to homeopathy. For instance, Dr. Elliot Blackman, an osteopathic physician in San Francisco, occasionally prescribes Cyclosporin in homeopathic doses as an intercurrent medicine (an intercurrent medicine is one that is prescribed after another medicine which is individually determined). In conventional doses, Cyclosporin is an immunosuppressing drug, thus suggesting that it can be effective in homeopathic doses for treating people who have an immunosuppressed condition (this prescription is not "classical homeopathy" because each immunosuppressing drug creates its own unique pattern of symptoms, and the classical use of this drug would be more individualized).
In addition to the nonclassical approach, some homeopaths have been experimenting with giving AIDS patients homeopathically potentized doses of their own blood. The clinical benefit of this approach, however, has not yet been systematically tested.
Alan Levine, MD, a San Francisco physician who integrates homeopathic and other natural medicines with occasional prescription of conventional drugs, has one patient who was so sick with AIDS that he developed dementia, a state of mental deterioration that tends to occur in late stages of AIDS. This patient refused all conventional drugs from Dr. Levine and from all other physicians. Using homeopathic medicines, acupuncture, and herbs, the patient is now very healthy, has no signs of dementia, and has not had a single opportunistic infection in several years.
This case is mentioned because, despite the small chances of surviving late stages of AIDS and despite the generally accepted experience that dementia represents an irreversible neurological change, it is inspiring to know that significant and even substantial improvement is sometimes possible.
It should be noted that people with AIDS occasionally develop a fever shortly after taking the correct homeopathic medicine. This fever is considered a beneficial response of the body to the remedy and should not be suppressed. Physiologists recognize the therapeutic value of fever as a response to infection, and homeopathic medicine seems to be one way to augment this healing response.
Homeopathic Treatment of Infectious Diseases and Immunological Disorders
In order to fully appreciate the potential of homeopathic medicine in the treatment of AIDS, it is useful to get some historical perspective as well as to investigate what homeopathy has to offer in the treatment of viral and immunological disorders.
Homeopathy has an impressive history of successes in treating infectious disease, including many of the most serious and potentially fatal infectious diseases known to humankind. The significant successes of homeopathic treatment of the infectious diseases that raged during the 1800s in the United States and Europe created tremendous support for this natural therapy. Death rates in homeopathic hospitals from cholera, typhoid, yellow fever, scarlet fever, and pneumonia were commonly one half to as little as one eighth those in conventional medical hospitals. Besides hospitals, prisons and insane asylums that employed physicians who specialized in homeopathy experienced a similar success rate compared to other institutions under the care of conventional physicians.
Just as homeopathy became known in the 19th century for its successful treatment of infectious diseases of that era, based on growing clinical and laboratory evidence, it is likely that it will become known in this era for its results in treating contemporary viral infections.
Although homeopathic medicines are not considered to have traditional antiviral action, their ability to augment the body's own defenses suggests that they have antiviral effects. One study on chicken embryo viruses showed that eight of ten homeopathic medicines tested inhibited the growth of the viruses by 50 to 100%.9 A similar study done by the same researchers did find, however, that none of the four homeopathic medicines tested for their effects on a mouse virus had any effect.10 Taken together, these studies suggest that homeopathic medicines can have significant antiviral effects, but it is necessary to find the individualized remedy for each situation.
Despite this preliminary work, it is conjectured that homeopathic medicines do not have traditional antiviral effects but have immunomodulatory effects ("immunomodulatory effects"
refers to a tonification of the body's immune system--that is, an ability to augment immune response when it needs to be stimulated and to depress an already overstimulated immune system). One laboratory study showed that the homeopathic medicine Silicea had dramatic effects on stimulating macrophages, an important part of the body's immune system, by 55.5% to 67.5%11. On the othe hand, another clinical trial showed the efficacy of individualized homeopathic medicines on the treatment of people with rheumatoid arthritis,12 an autoimmune disease, which is when a person's immune system is overly active, leading the body to attack itself. This study suggests that homeopathic medicines decreased the overly active immune system.
Other studies have shown the immunomodulatory effects of homeopathic medicines,13 though their description is too technical for this book (See P. Bellavite and A. Signorini, Homeopathy: A Frontier in Medical Science. Berkeley: North Atlantic, 1995).
The history of homeopathy's successes in treating infectious disease epidemics, the research that suggests the immunomodulatory effects of homeopathic medicines, and the clinical research on HIV+ and AIDS patients that indicates beneficial response to homeopathic medicines should command attention by physicians, scientists, and public health officials. Despite this body of work, it is both surprising and depressing that homeopathic medicine has been consistently ignored as a viable part of a comprehensive program in treating HIV+ and AIDS patients.
Homeopathy is not the only alternative that is being ignored by the AIDS medical community. Even though a large number of people with AIDS, especially long-term survivors, are using one or more alternative treatments, there is little data on their use or success. The leading AIDS organizations are likewise ignoring any serious investigation of their use. Until AIDS activists, the concerned general public, and open-minded health professionals start insisting that research on alternatives be performed, the potentially valuable therapies will continue to be ignored, and the AIDS epidemic will continue to devastate our society. When these alternative therapies are integrated within a comprehensive program which includes public health measures that seek to prevent infection, the AIDS epidemic will finally begin to recede.
1G.F. Lemp, S. Payne, N. Dennese, et al., "Survival Trends for Patients with AIDS," JAMA, January 19, 1990, 263, 3:402-6. (One important benefit of AZT is that it seems to prevent the transfer of HIV to infants of infected mothers.)
2Rene Dubos, The Mirage of Health. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1959, 93-4.
3Claude Bernard, Principles de Medecine Experimentale. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1947, 160-61.
4I. Wolffers and S. de Moree, "Use of Alternative Treatments by HIV+ and AIDS Patients in the Netherlands, Ned Tijdschr Geneeskd., February 5, 1994, 138(6):307-10.
5D.P. Rastogi, V.P Singh, V. Singh, et al., "Evaluation of Homoeopathic Treatment in 129 Asymptomatic HIV Carriers," British Homoeopathic Journal, January 1993, 82:4-8. The diagnoses of all patients in this study were initially confirmed by the two accepted laboratory analyses, ELIZA and the Western Blot, which were performed by a World Health Organization-recognized center in India. After homeopathic treatment, 12 patients who initially tested HIV+ from the ELIZA test were found to be HIV- later. The initial report on this study showed that only 2 of these 12 patients were tested again through the Western Blot, which opened the study up to criticism because the ELIZA test is known to have errors and requires a confirmatory test with the Western Blot. Because of the extremely atypical result of this study, the editor of the homeopathic journal in which it was published was so startled that he wrote an editorial questioning its authenticity. (P. Fisher, "When to Believe the Unbelievable," British Homoeopathic Journal, January, 1993, 82:2-3.) However, since this editorial, the authors have confirmed that 9 of the original 12 patients tested negative according to the Western Blot, and an additional two people changed from HIV+ to HIV-. (D.P. Rastogi, "Asymptomatic HIV Carriers," British Homoeopathic Journal, January 1994, 83:54.)
6D.P. Rastogi, V. Singh, S.K. Dey, et al., "Research Studies in HIV Infection with Homoeopathic Treatment," CCRH (The Indian Government's Central Council for Research in Homoeopathy) Quarterly Bulletin, 1993, 15, 3/4:1-6.
7V. Singh, D.P. Rastogi, S.K. Dey, et al., "Homoeopathic Drugs as Immunomodulators: A Study of 34 HIV Subjects," International Conference on AIDS, August 7-12, 1994:10(1):218 (abstract PB0301).
8Laurence Badgley, Journal of the American Institute of Homeopathy, March 1987, 80:8-14.
9L.M. Singh and G. Gupta, "Antiviral Efficacy of Homoeopathic Drugs Against Animal Viruses," British Homoeopathic Journal, July 1985, 74:168-74.
11E. Davenas, B. Poitevin, and J. Benveniste, "Effect on Mouse Peritoneal Macrophages of Orally Administered Very High Dilutions of Silica," European Journal of Pharmacology, 1987, 135:313-19.
12R. G. Gibson, et al., "Homoeopathic Therapy in Rheumatoid Arthritis: Evaluation by Double-Blind Clinical Therapeutic Trial," British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, September, 1980, 9:453-9.
13M. Bastide, et al., "Immunomodulatory Activity of Very Low Doses of Thymulin in Mice," International Journal of Immunotherapy, 1987, 3:191-200. See also V. Daurat, P. Dorfman, and M. Bastide, "Immunomodulatory Actvity of Low Doses of Interferon in Mice," Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapeutics, 1988, 42:197-206
Dana Ullman, Discovering Homeopathy, Berkeley: North Atlantic, 1991.
A reader of many of the above listed difficult-to-obtain articles are available from Homeopathic Educational Services for $10.00 (plus California tax of 7.75%).
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