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Can Ashwagandha Help People with HIV

Ashwagandha may help reduce viral levels in HIV patients.

Ashwagandha's immune-boosting properties may help reduce some of the symptoms (e.g., diarrhea, fatigue, fever, and weight loss) that may affect people with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).10 HIV is an incurable infection, typically transmitted via unprotected sex with an infected person from a contaminated intravenous needle.49 As the name suggests, HIV attacks the body's immune system—specifically the CD4 immune cell—and increases the risk of illness.49

Most people with HIV will eventually develop acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), but this can take many years. AIDS is diagnosed when CD4 levels reach a very low level (less than 200) or the person has certain infections or cancers associated with HIV.49

Evidence of Benefit

In clinical studies, herbal formulas containing ashwagandha have been shown to improve the symptoms of HIV, including reducing the levels of the virus in the body. One such herbal preparation (IMMU-21, with holy basil, and two other herbs) safely helped improve symptoms in HIV-infected patients within six months.10 Another polyherbal formula, Immu-25, was administered to 36 HIV patients twice a day over 18 months. Frequency and severity of symptoms such as diarrhea, fatigue, cough, and fever were reduced during treatment, as well as viral load. Conversely, the levels of CD4 immune cells rose from a baseline average of 253 to over 600 by the 18th month.50

Although the specific role of ashwagandha in these multi-herbal preparations have not been determined, the herb's known immune-boosting effects are presumed to be useful in helping to manage and counter HIV's damaging effects on the immune system.10,50

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