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Furore over black seed, honey cure for HIV

By Chukwuma Muanya, Assistant Editor (Head Insight Team, Science and Technology)
28 July 2016   |   1:40 am
Can herbal mixture made predominantly with black seed (Nigella sativa) and honey provide the much sought after cure for the Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)?
Black seeds (Nigella sativa) PHOTO CREDIT: google.com/search

Black seeds (Nigella sativa) PHOTO CREDIT: google.com/search

Can herbal mixture made predominantly with black seed (Nigella sativa) and honey provide the much sought after cure for the Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)?

A study by researchers from the University of Ibadan (UI)/University College Hospital (UCH), published in Journal of Herbal Medicine concluded: “This study concluded that the herbal remedy (α-Zam/Nigella Sativa and honey) is effective in the treatment of HIV infection based on a significant improvement in both the clinical features and laboratory results of HIV infection. However, a longer follow-up is suggested to ensure that the observed improvement is sustained. In addition, a large population study is needed to confirm our observation in this cohort of people.”

The study is titled “Effectiveness of a herbal remedy in six HIV patients in Nigeria.”The team of researchers include: Dr. Onifade Abdulfattah Adekunle, of the Immunology unit, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan; Jewell AP from India, and Dr. Adedeji WA.

Commonly called black seed, Nigella sativa belongs to the plant family Ranunculaceae. It is a widely used medicinal plant throughout the world. It is very popular in various traditional systems of medicine like Unani and Tibb, Ayurveda and Siddha. Seeds and oil have a long history of folklore usage in various systems of medicines and food. The seeds of N. sativa have been widely used in the treatment of different diseases and ailments. In Islamic literature, it is considered as one of the greatest forms of healing medicine. It has been recommended for using on regular basis in Tibb-e-Nabwi (Prophetic Medicine).

According to a study published in Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine titled “A review on therapeutic potential of Nigella sativa: A miracle herb”, the plant has been widely used as antihypertensive, liver tonics, diuretics, digestive, anti-diarrheal, appetite stimulant, analgesics, anti-bacterial and in skin disorders.

The study noted: “Extensive studies on Nigella sativa have been carried out by various researchers and a wide spectrum of its pharmacological actions have been explored which may include anti-diabetic, anticancer, immune-modulator, analgesic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, spasmolytic, bronchodilator, hepato-protective, renal protective, gastro-protective, antioxidant properties. Due to its miraculous power of healing, N. sativa has got the place among the top ranked evidence based herbal medicines. This is also revealed that most of the therapeutic properties of this plant are due to the presence of thymoquinone, which is major bioactive component of the essential oil.”

Meanwhile, according to the UI/UCH researchers, the failure of conventional medicine to cure HIV infection compels many people living with the virus to seek alternative therapy.

This pilot study determined the effectiveness (clinical and laboratory responses) of α-Zam (defined by the herbal therapist as Nigella sativa and honey), which is used by patients seeking herbal remedies for HIV infection in Nigeria.

According to the study, six patients taking this herbal concoction as an alternative therapy for HIV infection were recruited into the study and monitored for four months. All six patients were infected by HIV, as confirmed by Western blot analysis in the nearest teaching hospital, that is Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) teaching hospital or Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, before commencing preliminary clinical and laboratory examinations using World Health Organization (WHO) and Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) criteria.

The researchers noted: “The patients were contacted daily and visited regularly after commencement of herbal medications to assess the efficacy (disappearance of presenting signs and symptoms associated with HIV infection), side-effects, drug toxicity, and compliance. The symptoms and signs associated with HIV infection disappeared within 20 days of commencement of herbal therapy with significant difference (p < 0.05) before treatment and at periodic intervals on α-Zam therapy. Body weight increased from an average of 53 ± 2 kg to 63 ± 2 kg, viral load (HIV-RNA) decreased from 42,300 ± 1500 copies/ml to an undetectable level (≤50 copies/ml), and CD4+ count (a marker for the immune system) increased from an average of 227 ± 9 to 680 ± 12 mm3/μL at four months post-therapy. This study concluded that the herbal remedy (α-Zam) is effective in the treatment of HIV infection based on a significant improvement in both the clinical features and laboratory results of HIV infection. However, a longer follow-up is suggested to ensure that the observed improvement is sustained. In addition, a large population study is needed to confirm our observation in this cohort of people.”

Nigella Sativa, also known as black seed, is experiencing a boom in popularity as the number of scientific studies affirming its long-supposed benefits are coming to light.Earlier study published in the African Journal of Traditional, Complementary, and Alternative Medicine, by the team of researchers, told the story of an HIV patient who went into complete remission after black seed treatment.

As published in the first study, the patient was treated with Nigella sativa for a period of six months, after which there was no detectable HIV virus or antibodies against HIV in his bloodstream. Further, the HIV stayed gone.

The study abstract explains that the patient, who saw an herbalist, was suffering with symptoms common in HIV, including chronic fever, weight loss, lesions, and diarrhoea. But the black seed treatment had impressive and near-immediate results.

The researchers wrote: “The patient was commenced on Nigella sativa concoction 10 mls twice daily for 6 months. He was contacted daily to monitor side-effects and drug efficacy. Fever, diarrhoea and multiple pruritic lesions disappeared on 5th, 7th and 20th day respectively on Nigella sativa therapy. “On the 187th day, HIV tests came back negative. Further, 24 months after the therapy was stopped, the tests remained negative for HIV and HIV antibodies.”

Researchers have also shown that the natural raw honey has effect on HIV.According to a study published in International Journal of Pharmaceutical Research and Bio-Science by researchers from School of Medicine, Qom University of Medical Sciences, Qom, Iran, “Honey stimulates B and T lymphocyte cell cultures and is an old medicine in has an important role in progression of HIV/AIDS. The aim of this study was assessment of the natural honey on CD4 count in a 30 year-Old Iranian HIV man. In this study he treated with 80g natural honey every day for three months. The CD4 counted in day zero and 30 days after consumption of honey.

“Results revealed that honey elevated CD4, CD8, platelet, lymphocyte, Neutrophil, Red Blood Cell (RBC) and White Blood Cell (WBC) counts and level in HIV positive patient. Also CD25 was decreasedafter consumption of honey. It seems that natural honey may improve the immune system function in positive patients.”

Also, scientists from Washington University School of Medicine, United States, reported in the journal Antiviral Therapy that nanoparticles containing bee venom toxin melittin can destroy human HIV while at the same time leaving surrounding cells unharmed.

The researchers said that their finding is a major step toward creating a vaginal gel that can prevent HIV spread. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.Melittin destroys some viruses and malignant tumor cells Melittin is a powerful toxin found in bee venom. It can poke holes in the protective viral envelope that surrounds the human immunodeficiency virus, as well as other viruses. Free melittin in large-enough quantities can cause considerable damage.

Senior author, Samuel A. Wickline, MD, the J. Russell Hornsby Professor of Biomedical Sciences, has demonstrated that nanoparticles loaded with melittin have anti-cancer properties and have the capacity to kill tumor cells. Linking bee venom with anticancer therapies is not new, in 2004 Croatian scientists reported in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture that honey-bee products, including venom, could well have applications in cancer treatment and prevention.

Melittin nanoparticles may prevent and treat existing HIV infections Hood believes that the melittin-loaded nanoparticles have the potential for two types of therapies: A vaginal gel to prevent the spread of HIV infection; and Therapy for existing HIV infections, particularly drug-resistant ones.

In theory, if the nanoparticles were injected into the patient’s bloodstream, they should be able to clear the blood of HIV.Melittin attacks double-layered membranes indiscriminately, making it a potential for drug therapies beyond HIV infections. The hepatitis B and C viruses, among several others, rely on the same type of protective envelope and could be targeted and destroyed by administering melittin-loaded nanoparticles.

The gel also has the potential to target sperm, the researchers explained, making it a possible contraceptive medication. The study, however, did not look at contraception.This study was carried out in cells in a laboratory environment. However, the nanoparticles are easy to produce – enough of them could easily be supplied for future human studies.

Quote; “Extensive studies on Nigella sativa have been carried out by various researchers and a wide spectrum of its pharmacological actions have been explored which may include anti-diabetic, anticancer, immune-modulator, analgesic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, spasmolytic, bronchodilator, hepato-protective, renal protective, gastro-protective, antioxidant properties. Due to its miraculous power of healing, N. sativa has got the place among the top ranked evidence based herbal medicines. This is also revealed that most of the therapeutic properties of this plant are due to the presence of thymoquinone, which is major bioactive component of the essential oil.”