Weeping Wattle

Image by JMK, used under CC 3.0

For people living without access to HAART, herbal therapies with anti-viral properties can be a big help in controlling HIV. Many traditional herbs have not been tested for use in treating HIV, which creates a situation where people take herbs with sometimes dangerous side effects that may or may not actually help. Luckily, scientists are making good progress in testing herbs for anti-viral properties and safety.

One herb which is especially promising is the weeping wattle of Peltophorum africanum. The weeping wattle is native to southern Africa. It has been used for centuries to treat a variety of diseases. In recent years, is has also been used to treat HIV/AIDS.

The bark of the weeping wattle acts as a reverse transcriptase inhibitor, resisting HIV in a similar fashion to several prescription ARVs. The effects of the bark aren’t as strong as prescription ARVs, and anyone who has access to HAART is better off taking the medication. However, for people who do not have access to HAART, the weeping wattle offers a possible alternative. Because weeping wattle acts as reverse transciptase inhibitor, it should not be combined with ARVs without speaking with a medical professional.

Tests of an extract of weeping wattle bark found that the extract is not toxic to human cells at any reasonable concentration. This doesn’t mean that there are no side effects to taking weeping wattle, but it does mean any side effects should mild and that weeping wattle extract would make a good drug candidate.

The active ingredient in weeping wattle appears to be betulinic acid. Betulinic acid is an anti-HIV compound which has been found in other herbal medicines. While not well known, betulinic acid is a potentially good therapeutic for treating HIV-1 infection.

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