TCM to Treat HIV/AIDS

The basic Traditional Chinese Medicine (TMC) treatment principle with HIV/AIDS is to support the body's energetic basis by nourishing the deficient Zang while eliminating the deeper underlying pathogens such as Toxic Heat, Phlegm, and Blood Stasis.

Traditional Chinese Medicine cannot cure HIV/AIDS. While there is some evidence that the use of TCM increases the overall quality of life for infected patients, this treatment is most appropriate as an adjuvant therapy. In fact, TCM's most important role in this regard is to promote immunity, to treat the side effects of conventional medications, and to provide adjuvant therapy to the conventional treatment of opportunistic infections and disorders that arise. TCM also may be used to reduce stress and anxiety in infected patients.

In treating patients with HIV/AIDS, it is common for treatment to focus on the typical Patterns of Disharmony while treating specific disorders. Symptoms are treated by making a differential diagnosis according to traditional principles. For example, an AIDS patient suffering from pain or anxiety has these symptoms differentiated into individual Patterns of Disharmony while being treated for underlying pathologies, such as a combination of Spleen Deficiency, Blood Stasis, and Toxic Heat. For an example of how such a diagnostic process works for individual symptoms, see the discussion of Pain or Anxiety under disease categories.

Traditional Chinese Medicine should not be used as a primary treatment modality for HIV/AIDS. However, it is an important adjuvant therapy used by many patients infected with the virus. Of the three modalities discussed, acupuncture and herbal medicine are the most important. It is also important for patients to talk with their TCM practitioners regarding health, diet, and lifestyle modifications to minimize aggravating Patterns of Disharmony and maintain energetic balance.

HIV/AIDS & Acupuncture

Acupuncture treatment for the most common Patterns of Disharmony associated with HIV/AIDS use some of the most powerful acupuncture points in the TCM treatment formulary.

  • Spleen Qi deficiency is treated with such points as Stomach 36 (Zu San Li), Spleen 4 (Gong Sun), and Ren 12 (Zhong Quan). Kidney Deficiency is treated with points such as Kidney 3 (Tai Xi), with Spleen 6 (San Yin Jiao) for Kidney Yin Deficiency and Du 4 (Ming Men) with moxa for Kidney Yang Deficiency.
  • Toxic Heat in the body is alleviated through techniques such as needling Du 14 (Du Zhui), Large Intestine 4 (He Gu), Large Intestine 11 (Qu Quan), Spleen 10 (Xue Hai), and Urinary Bladder 40 (Wei Zhong).

Other specific acupuncture points may be needled according to individual needs.

HIV/AIDS & Herbal Medicine

To treat the common underlying Patterns of Disharmony, to nourish deficiencies, and to eliminate pathogens, TCM creates formulas based on a variety of herbs.

  • Spleen Qi Deficiency may be treated with herbs such as Ren Shen (Radix Panacis Ginseng), Huang Qi (Radix Astragali Membranacei), and Dang Shen (Radix Codonopsis Pilosulae).
  • Kidney Yin Deficiency may be treated with herbs such as Shu Di Huang (Radix Rehmanniae), He Shou Wu (Radix Polygoni Multiflori), and Gui Ban (Plastrum Testudinis). Kidney Yang Deficiency may require herbs such as Shu Di Huang (Radix Rehmanniae), Yin Yang Huo (Herba Epimedii), and Xian Mao (Rhizoma Curculiginis).
  • Toxic Heat diagnoses employ powerful herbs such as Jin Yin Hua (Flos Lonicerae Japonicae), Ban Lan Gen (Radix Isatidis), and Lian Qiao (Fructus Forsythia Suspensae).
  • Blood Stasis is treated using herbs such as Chuan Xiong (Racis Ligustici Wallichii), Tao Ren (Semen Pruni Persicae), Hong Hua (Flos Carthgamni Tinctorii), and Dan Shen Radix Salviae Miltiorrhizae).
  • Phlegm may be treated with herbs such as Ban Xia (Rhizoma Pinelliae Ternatae) and Xia Ku Cao (Spica Prunella Vulgaris). Other herbs may be used as well, depending upon the individual Pattern of Disharmony and the manifested signs and symptoms.

HIV/AIDS Qi Gong

Qi Gong has repeatedly demonstrated a role in strengthening the immune system, fighting fatigue, and inducing a sense of well-being. It is therefore an important adjuvant modality for patients diagnosed with HIV /AIDS. Exercises such as the Spleen and Kidney Organ sounds should be emphasized. Because HIV ultimately can affect any organ or system in the body, it is useful for a full routine of Qi Gong or Tai Qi Quan to be learned and practiced within the limits recommended by a physician.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 01 Jan 2001

Last Modified: 22 Sep 2015