Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page

Herbal treatments and remedies

The advice presented here is based on knowledge gained from people living with HIV/AIDS about useful herbal treatments and remedies. It does not claim that all herbs and remedies have the same effect on all people.

Many communities have their own knowledge of health and nutrition, based on local traditions and culture. It is important to understand and be sensitive to these traditional beliefs and the many kinds of traditional care available. They represent alternatives to formal general medicine and for many people will be the only options they have. Any external medical recommendations that people receive will be compared with their cultural practices and the recommendations of their traditional healers. People will only take action if the recommendations they receive appear to make sense and provide some benefit.

Some traditional beliefs and food practices may not be useful. It will be important to find out about local practices and explain both to people with HIV/AIDS and to traditional healers whenever and why such practices should not be followed. However, beneficial traditional practices that provide readily accessible, effective and low-cost remedies should be identified and promoted.


Traditional treatments differ greatly from region to region and are often very specific to a location. Therefore, locally known and available treatments need to be included here and their advantages and disadvantages discussed. Information can be obtained from clinics, health offices and local HIV/AIDS information and support organizations. In some countries, associations of traditional healers may also have additional information.

People with HIV/AIDS often become frustrated with management of the disease. Many are willing to try anything in the hope of staying healthy and living longer.

HIV/AIDS is not a traditional illness and so far there is no hard evidence to believe that traditional medicines can treat HIV and cure AIDS. However, certain traditional medicines may help to treat many of the symptoms of opportunistic infections that are part of AIDS. While some of these medicines may be undoubtedly helpful, others may be dangerous because they may do more harm than good, they are expensive and therefore reduce money available for buying food, and they may require avoidance of certain foods. It is therefore recommended always to discuss treatments with a health worker or nutritionist and avoid any treatment or practice, such as fasting, that could possibly reduce food intake and cause weight loss.


Herbs and spices can improve digestion, stimulate appetite and preserve foods. A list of herbs and the beneficial effects claimed by people living with HIV/AIDS are given in the table opposite. The effects may not be the same for all people. People can try these herbs and decide for themselves whether they are helpful. They may also know of other remedies used in their country that they want to add.

Remember that all herbs and spices should be used in moderate amounts. Exceeding these amounts may cause problems and have a toxic effect; moreover, the function of the herbs and spices will not be increased. They cannot replace healthy eating and should not be used in place of a healthy and balanced diet.


Benefits found by some people living with HIV/AIDS

How to use


Helps to relieve constipation

Use as extract; boil and drink the concentrated water. To be used in limited amounts; stop immediately if it causes cramps or diarrhoea


Helps to relieve nausea and aid digestion; has an antiseptic function for mouth sores

Add to food to treat nausea and digestive problems. Use as gargle for mouth sores


Flower heads have antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and healing function. Helps with infections of the upper digestive tract

Use as a compress to treat infected wounds. Prepare as tea to help digestion


Helps with digestive problems, pain, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite

Add to food during cooking or prepare as tea


Stimulates appetite, helps fight infection, heals ulcers and intestina inflammation

Add a pinch to cooked or raw foods. For an energizing drink add to fruit juice or water


Helps digestion and provides relief for nausea

Prepare tea from the leaves and flowers and drink several cups throughout the day


Good for colds and for weakness after colds or flu. Also used when feeling cold, for diarrhoea and nausea. Stimulates appetite. Gently stimulates digestive juices, encouraging bowel movements

Either add to meals or in tea, particularly ginger cinnamon tea for chesty colds or tuberculosis (see recipe in Annex 1)


Stimulate appetite, help weak digestion, diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting

Use in soups, stews, warmed fruit juice and tea


Helps to increase appetite and reduce flatulence. Controls bacteria and fungi

Add herb to meals


Has an antibacterial function, particularly for lungs and during bronchitis. Eucalyptus oil from leaves increases the blood flow and reduces the symptoms of inflammation

Prepare tea from the leaves or extract (see recipe in Annex 1)


Helps to increase appetite, combat flatulence and expel gas

Add as spice to foods or prepare tea from the seeds. Use in limited amounts


Has antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal function, particularly in the gut, intestines, lungs and vagina. Helps digestion and feeling of weakness. Also good for thrush, throat infections, herpes and diarrhoea

Prepare tea or energy drink (see recipe in Annex 1), or use in food


Improves digestion, energizes, relieves diarrhoea and stimulates appetite. Used for treating common colds, flu and nausea

Use either as a spice in meals or prepare a ginger tea (see recipe in Annex 1)


Is antibacterial and helps digestion

Add lemon juice to food or drinks

Lemon grass

Has a calming effect as well as soothing digestion and alleviating stress

Use as tea


Has an anti-inflammatory effect and helps digestion

Use as tea or gargle for mouth sores. Chew mint leaves to aid digestion


Brings down fever

Cut a fresh twig, remove the leaves and boil the bark in water; drink as tea. The bark can also be chewed


Reduces intestinal colic. Stimulates stomach secretions and activities and produces a feeling of hunger. The seed is used to remove excess water from the body

Add raw or cooked to food


May help nausea. Reduces colic (abdominal pain and cramps), helps to control diarrhoea and stop vomiting. Used for relieving tension and sleeplessness

Prepare as tea, by boiling the leaves for about ten minutes. Add to food. (Peppermint can easily be grown in the garden and or in a pot near the house)


Has antiseptic and antifungal function. Relaxes nervous coughing and increases mucosal secretions. (particularly effective in the gut) Stimulates digestion and the growth of the good intestinal flora in the gut

Use as gargle or mouthwash, as a vaginal douche or as tea

Turmeric/ yellow root

Digestive aid, antiseptic and antioxidant

Use powdered in rice, cereals, etc.

Previous PageTop Of PageNext Page