Medicinal plant extracts may help into treatments of epidemic diseases like COVID-19
Nowadays it is everyone’s concern about what’s COVID-19 doing to society and what are the chances to fight against it. On March 13th, Nature Plants high-impact international journal came out with an interesting article showing how some well recognized botanical extracts may help to slow down epidemic diseases like COVID-19 (Nature Plants, VOL 6, 177, March 2020).
Through this article, they highlighted the fact that medicinal plant molecules and their analogues have been employed as an early line of defence against epidemic diseases. Indeed, the Chinese State Council announced that the properties of chloroquine phosphate, a structural analogue of quinine, which is a metabolite used to treat malaria and originally extracted from the bark of cinchona trees, could be a promising source for fighting COVID-19.
In words of the epidemiologist Nanshan Zhong, credited with SARS coronavirus discovery and actually advising on the COVID-19 outbreak management, chloroquine phosphate due to its antiviral and immune regulatory effects deserve attention. Clinical evaluation of chloroquine phosphate shows that even is not a highly effective cure, however, alleviates the symptoms for most patients infected by COVID-19 as well as induce virus seroconversion. Diammonium glycyrrhizinate, an extract of liquorice roots (Glycyrrhiza glabra) has arised a other herbal approach to control COVID-19, together with vitamin C. Indeed, clinical trials have recently been approved.
Back in the past, antiviral herbal based medicines have been used in other historic epidemics. In the past two previous coronavirus outbreaks: MERS-CoV (2012) and SARS-CoV (2013), extracts from other well-known medicinal plants as Lycoris radiate, Artemisia annua and Lindera aggregate showed anti-coronavirus effects.
Despite the pharmaceutical mechanisms of herbal medicines being less understood compared to chemical drugs, their safe usage and potential side effects are well established. In addition, once a herbal metabolite is found to be effective, it can be immediately used; considering this timeliness an extra advantage, especially during emergencies as the one we are living. Therefore, we should trust in the rich tradition of herbal medicine that has been used for centuries. Even if these medicinal plant extracts could not be considered as a cure; nevertheless, these medicinal plants could be used as a promising complementary treatment for elevating recovery rates when combined with other treatments.
Resource: Redeploying plant defences. Nat. Plants 6, 177 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41477-020-0628-0