Can Garlic Treat HIV/AIDS?

Sometimes it seems like garlic is the world’s new wonder drug. It can be used to cure everything – even warts and the common cold! And the great thing is a lot of it may be true. (Certainly the warts part seems to be!)

Why is garlic so great at treating so much? Garlic includes a compound called allicin, which is a: antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and antiprotozoal. It has also been shown to boost the immune system and reduce blood pressure. Unfortunately, relatively little research has been done on the impact of garlic on HIV/AIDS. At one point, there are a great deal of interest in the effect garlic might have on HIV/AIDS, but one very big problem pretty much killed most scientific interest.

Garlic has been used as a medical herb for thousands of years.

Garlic interferes with antiretroviral treatments (ART). So far, it is proven that garlic interferes for several NNRTI drugs and at least one type of protease inhibitor. It may also interfere with other ART medications. In one study, taking garlic with an AR medication reduced the amount of the medication in the body by over 50%.

At this point, the one thing that can be conclusively said about garlic and HIV/AIDS is that when a person starts ART treatment, they should not take garlic supplements. In fact, it might be a good idea to cut back in the garlic in your diet, as well. Especially if you eat a lot of Italian food.

For people with HIV/AIDS who are not yet taking ART, it is hard to say exactly what impact garlic will have. While no studies have been done specifically on any effect garlic may have on HIV, garlic is an antiviral and an immune booster. It is possible that taking a garlic supplement before needing to start ART will help keep viral loads down and CD4 counts up. It is also possible garlic will have no effect at all.

Garlic can definitely help treat other problems that a person with HIV/AIDS may have. It does improve cardiovascular function and lower blood pressure. It may reduce minor viral infections like the common cold, if taken regularly. It may lower cholesterol, though there is some evidence saying that it doesn’t.

People on medications that interfere with blood clotting should not take garlic, which also interferes with blood clotting. Having two treatments that interfere with blood clotting may lead to dangerous bleeding problems.

Allicin, the active compound in garlic, is also what causes the smell. Many garlic supplements use aged garlic because it does not have as strong an odor, but they are also less effective because of the loss of allicin during aging. A better option is to take coated tablets that dissolve in the intestines, rather than the stomach.

People with HIV/AIDS who do not yet need ART may benefit from taking garlic supplements. Those already taking ART should definitely not take garlic supplements. Any possible benefits of garlic are not worth such an extreme interference with the ART. As always, talk with your doctor before starting any new supplement.

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