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HIV/AIDS

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Complementary Therapies for HIV/AIDS: Herbal Medicine

for Veterans and the Public

Herbal medicine

Herbal medicines are substances that come from plants, and they work like standard medicine. They can be taken from all parts of a plant, including the roots, leaves, berries, and flowers.

People with HIV sometimes take these medicines to help deal with side effects from anti-HIV medicines or with symptoms from the illness.

An important note about St. John's wort: St. John's wort has become a popular herbal medicine for treating depression. It interacts with the liver and can change how some drugs work in your body, including some anti-HIV drugs (protease inhibitors and NNRTIs). If you are taking antiviral drugs for your HIV, you should NOT take St. John's wort. Be sure you tell you doctor if you are using St. John's wort. You should also not take St. John's wort if you are taking other antidepressants.

  • It is important to remember to always use herbs carefully. Learn the proper dosage and use. Don't take too much of anything.
  • Always ask your doctor before taking anything new. Just because something is "natural" or "non-drug" doesn't mean that it is safe.
  • Finally, learn about the possible side effects of an herbal therapy. Remember: Some herbs can interfere with your HIV medications.

To learn more about herbs, see the links in the Resources section at the end of this lesson.