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S Africa test herbal AIDS remedy

4th September 2007

South African researchers are preparing to test the safety and effectiveness of a traditional herbal remedy which is said to delay the onset of AIDS in those living with HIV.

feetaids

The clinical trials, which have recruited 125 HIV-positive volunteers, will begin within weeks at Edendale Hospital, Pietermaritzburg, in KwaZulu-Natal province.

The herb in question, Sutherlandia frutescens, is a well-known South African traditional medicine.

The trial will test capsules of Sutherlandia in patients newly diagnosed with HIV.

Final regulatory checks are still needed from the South Afrian Medicines Control Council, then the trial can begin, with results expected by August 2009.

Researchers from the universities of KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape, together with the University of Missouri in the United States, and the Traditional Healers' Association of South Africa, will carry out the research.

Sutherlandia frutescens, also known as the 'cancer bush', is used in traditional medicine to treat illnesses ranging from weight loss to aches and pains.

Several active ingredients have already been idenfitied in the herb, including pinitol, which has anti-diabetic properties.

The plant also contains canavine, which is used by healers to treat wasting diseases, including tuberculosis, and the amino acid GABA, which produces a feeling of well-being.

Nceba Gqaleni, deputy dean of the University of KwaZulu-Natal's Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine, said this was the first collaboration between scientists and traditional healers to assess the effectiveness of indigenous practices in treating such a serious health issue.

He said the research would both further the cause of traditional medicine, and increase scientific knowledge.

Sazi Mhlongo, chairman of the Traditional Healers' Association of South Africa, said the plant was the most powerful of the herbs in their pharmacopia. It is usually mixed with other herbs to treat a wide range of problems.

Mhlongo, who has practised as a traditional healer in KwaZulu-Natal for 34 years, said traditional healers have become increasingly aware of the herb's success in treating HIV-positive patients. 

 

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