What’s the evidence for using essential oils to treat HIV/AIDS?
Very little. This may be because there has been little funding available for research on using essential oils for treating HIV/AIDS.
Dr. Jeffrey T. Kirchener, the chief medical officer of the American Academy of HIV Medicine acknowledges the fact about little funding for research using essential oils and states that, “It is known that essential oils have anti-microbial, antioxidant, and immunomodulatory properties, which would suggest some possible benefit for persons with chronic infections and cancer.”
Although there is little evidence, to date, for using essential oils to treat AIDS or the HIV virus, there is research available supporting use of essential oils for alleviating the symptoms of the HIV virus and AIDS.
What is HIV/AIDS?
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a “chronic, potentially life-threatening condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).” By damaging the body’s immune system, the HIV virus disrupts your body’s ability to fight destructive organisms that cause infectious disease.
How do you get the HIV virus?
HIV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and spread by contact with infected blood. A mother with the HIV virus, can infect her unborn child during pregnancy, during childbirth or while breast-feeing. HIV/AIDS is not spread by saliva or kissing.
It can take years for the HIV virus to weaken your immune system enough to develop into AIDS.
Cure for HIV/AIDS
Though research to develop pharmaceutical drugs is ongoing there is still no cure for HIV/AIDS. However, medications have been developed that manage the progression of HIV and reduce AIDS deaths worldwide.
There are a wide array of symptoms that can develop with the HIV virus and AIDS, depending on the stage of the infection, as well as other factors.
4 Stages of HIV/AIDS Progression
1 - Primary Symptoms of HIV
Symptoms of acute HIV infection can develop two weeks after contracting the virus and can last for several weeks until the body produces antibodies against the disease.
Most people infected by HIV develop flu-like symptoms within two to four weeks after being infected by the HIV virus. This stage of the illness is known as the primary or acute phase of the HIV infection. It can last for a few days, or a couple of months.
Symptoms of HIV Infection:
- Muscle aches and joint pain
- Sore throat and painful mouth sores
- Swollen lymph glands
Symptoms can be mild and barely noticeable. However, during this initial phase is when the HIV virus is most virulent and spreads rapidly throughout the body.
2 - Chronic HIV Infection.
This is considered the latent stage of the HIV infection and occurs between the initial acute phase of the infection and early onset of AIDS. During this phase of the disease your levels of the HIV virus continue to steadily increase while your T-cells, or T-lymphocytes (white blood cells) decrease.
Your T-cell count is an indication of the health of your immune system and can prevent HIV from destroying your immune system and stop the virus from developing into AIDS.
During this phase some people may experience persistent swollen lymph nodes, or remain completely asymptomatic with no symptoms of the disease. However, the HIV remains virulent and destructive to the body’s immune system.
This chronic phase of HIV usually lasts around 10-15 years, if you’re not undergoing treatment to manage its development into AIDS. However, everyone is different and, even with managed care, how the disease progresses differs from person to person.
3 - Symptomatic HIV Infection
At this stage of the disease the virus has multiplied and destroyed your immune system to a point where you develop mild infections or chronic symptoms of the illness, including:
- Swollen lymph nodes (one of the first signs)
- Weight loss
- Candidiasis (a yeast infection)
Herpes commonly causes ulcerative skin. It can be caused by either HSV type 1 (HSV-1) or oral herpes (cold sores), or HSV type 2 (HSV-2), or genital herpes (herpes).
4 - HIV Progression to AIDS
With proper managed antiviral treatment, most people infected with HIV in the U.S. today don’t develop AIDS. However, without treatment HIV turns into AIDS usually within 10-15 years.
Opportunistic infections begin to occur with the progression of HIV into full blown AIDS.
Symptoms of AIDS:
- Night sweats
- Chronic recurring fevers
- Ulcerative mouth sores
- Weight loss
- Skin rashes or bumps
- Chronic diarrhea
Check the Center fo Disease Control (CDC) to find out more about AIDS and Opportunistic Infections.
Today, clinical aromatherapy, and the use of essential oils as a comfort care measure and for the treatment of disease, is used as part of skilled nursing care in Switzerland, Germany, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Essential oils have been used by French hospitals against airborne bacteria and fungi for many years.
As antimicrobial agents, essential oils may be appropriate in HIV/AIDS for specific opportunistic infections. Aromatherapy can alleviate symptoms of HIV/AIDS, such as chronic pain and fatigue, help maintain healthy skin, and is useful for stress management.
Complementary Therapy for People Living with HIV/AIDS
A case study in London on complementary therapy for people living with HIV/AIDS was conducted. It was shown that the most common concerns among infected individuals were, “Pain (48%), stress (15%) and insomnia (13%), few had heard of or used complementary therapy before.” The study showed, “Perceived mental and emotional benefits, including relaxation, stress relief, and relieving musculoskeletal aches and pains.” The staff at the London community clinic where the study was conducted, “Felt complementary therapy may be cost-effective,” and concluded, “Complementary therapy may provide important support and treatment options for HIV disease, but requires further evaluation."
A research study, focusing on four opportunistic infections, was conducted on the potential use of essential oils in HIV/AIDS and published in Research Gate.
The study cited that, “Treatment of HIV/AIDS and some non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is becoming increasingly difficult due to microbial resistance and opportunistic infections like Candida and Cryptococcus spp., methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus and Herpes Simplex Virus I and II." The study reported, "Although invasive fungal infections are considered difficult to manage, the use of essential oils, including citral based oils, is offering increased therapeutic outcomes and strategies."
The study also cited, "The physicochemical properties of essential oils are perceived advantageous to increasing cell permeability and eventually cell death.”
The study stated, “The strongest evidence is for children (either with HIV disease or children of mothers with HIV disease), where massage can improve parental mental health, child growth, T-lymphocyte (white blood cell) count. Aromatherapy specifically may be useful in treating opportunistic infections in HIV and for children with HIV.”
The study concluded that although, “Available evidence, on the impact of complementary therapy (CT) on anti-retroviral therapy (ART) is unclear,” it is suggested that, “Further research on the benefits of complementary therapies, i.e. essential oils, for specific conditions, in particular mental, emotional, insomnia and musculoskeletal,” be conducted.
The Four Opportunistic Infections:
- Cryptococcus neoformans - a type of fungi which can cause Meningitis, an infection and inflammation of the meninges, which are the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord.
- Candida albicans - the most prevalent cause of fungal infections in people. The yeast appear white when cultured on a plate and can create white patches on the skin and in the mouth (thrush).
- Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA or Staph) - a bacterium that causes infections in the body that’s resistant to commonly used antibiotics
- Herpes Simplex Virus types I & II - HSV-1 usually causes sores on or around your mouth, while HSV-2 generally causes sores on your genitals. HSV-1 is often referred to as oral herpes, while HSV-2 is referred to as genital herpes. Additionally, having genital HSV makes it easier to get and/or transmit the HIV virus that can cause AIDS.