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Home > Research > HIV / AIDS

Meta-Survey of Plant and Herb Materials as a Treat for HIV

By Chang, Raymond Y, Kong XB  


Chang, Raymond Y*, Kong XB**. *Cornell Medical College, New York, NY, USA;**New York University, New York, NY USA

Objective: To identify the current scope and nature of plant and herbal compounds and extracts potentially useful in anti-HIV treatment, and their state of research and development.

Methods: A comprehensive search of the published literature since 1982 on all plant and herbal compounds or extracts screened for anti-HIV activity and applied to AIDS therapy, with particular attention to 1) chemical class of bioactive compounds identified, 2) ethnomedicine background, 3) mechanisms of anti-HIV actions, and 4) state of research of the compounds or extracts.

Results: Tens of thousands of crude natural extracts have been screened for anti-HIV activity. Of plants and herbs screened, 70 compounds and 76 crude extracts from 123 species ranging from common food and drink (e.g. soy) to tropical rainforest specimens (e.g. Callophylum lanigerum) reportedly exhibited HIV inhibitory activity in vitro. Amongst the bioactive materials, there were 29 terpenes (15 diterpenes, 14 triterpenes), 29 flavonoids, 15 polysaccharides, 8 coumarins, 6 tannins, 4 lectins, 4 quinolones, 2 peptides, and 7 other alkaloids. Mechanisms of action elucidated included competitive and non-competitive reverse transcriptase inhibition, protease inhibition, and interference of infection at the viral cell entry level. Of bioactive species, 63 are found in the Chinese materia medica and at least another 8 are derived from other ethnomedicines. However, only a handful of such active extracts* and compounds (e.g. ganoderma*, momordica*, viscum ablbum*, curcumin, acemannan, glycyrrhizin, Lentinan, hypericin, GLQ233, PCK-4,) have been formally assessed in clinical studies of HIV patients, and most trials were observational and uncontrolled.

Conclusion: Many compounds and extracts have been demonstrated to harbor HIV inhibitory activity and their elucidated mechanisms may provide valuable leads for further investigations. Only HIV inhibitory compounds or plant materials are reported here, although many more natural materials inhibit HIV and other plants or herbs may attenuate the course of HIV infection via immune enhancement, cytokine or other pathways, or act synergistically in herbal formulas and not as single species or pure componds. In all, plants and herbs offer excellent prospects in the search for potential treatment for HIV.

RY Chang, 1275 York Avenue, New York, New York 10021, USA
Telephone: 212-639-8137
Fax 212-717-3367


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