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COVID-19: WHO Promotes Coronavirus Herbal Medicine Trials

As of today, there are no specific antiviral treatment, vaccines or medicines for COVID-19. Around the globe, medical facilities, organisations, hospitals and scientists are working around the clock in hopes of developing an effective medicine or vaccine for the coronavirus infection.

Covid-19 can affect anyone, causing symptoms ranging from mild to very severe, where some people may be more likely to have severe illness than others because they have characteristics or medical conditions that increase their risk.

Ayurvedic Herbs Such As Aswagandha To Be Tested For Treating COVID-19

A recent report from the WHO states that the health organisation has permitted the trial of herbal treatments for Cvodi-19 treatment [1].

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WHO Endorses COVID-19 Herbal Medicine Trials

In recent Covid-19 vaccine and medicine development, the World Health Organization has endorsed testing African herbal medicines as potential treatments for the coronavirus and other epidemics [2].

The regional director for WHO said, "If a traditional medicine product is found to be safe, efficacious and quality-assured, WHO will recommend (it) for a fast-tracked, large-scale local manufacturing," [3].

Endorsement for the use of herbal medicine for Covid-19 by WHO was done in association with the Regional Expert Committee on Traditional Medicine for COVID-19 (formed by the World Health Organization (WHO)), the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and the African Union Commission for Social Affairs.

The WHO has given the green light has now been issued for phase three clinical trials using African traditional medicines, which is due to the reason that in April, Madagascar's President Andry Rajoelina launched Covid-Organics, which is produced by the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research from the artemisia plant, the source of an ingredient used in malaria treatment, and other Malagasy plants.

The health organisations also assured that while the study is done on an urgent basis, the medicines for the treatment of Covid-19 will be generated without compromising the safety of the (trial) participants.

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Herbal Medicine For COVID-19 Treatment: What Previous Studies Had To Say

Since the advent of the novel coronavirus disease, health experts and scientists are arduously working towards developing a cure that could prevent or eradicate the coronavirus. Although there had been doubts regarding the efficacy of herbal medicines in the treatment of Covid-19, the current reports suggest otherwise [4].

• One study result showed significant effects for combined therapy of herbal medicine with Western medicine, which helped manage the symptoms of coronavirus infection [5].

• Another study pointed out that patent herbal drugs (Lianhuaqingwen capsules, Jinhuaqinggan granules and Xuebijing (injectable)) can effectively relieve symptoms, such as fever, cough, and fatigue, and reduce the probability of patients developing severe conditions [6].

• A study published by the Lancet raised the concern that the public can easily purchase herbal drugs without a doctor's prescription, triggering health risks [7].

• Another study asserted that there is a need to call for more attention to testing traditional herbal medicine for the treatment of Covid-19; however, a rushed judgment without sufficient scientific evidence should be cautioned against [8].

• A study published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine concluded that dietary therapy and herbal medicine could be a complementary preventive therapy for Covid-19. Still, the findings require validation in SARS-Cov-2 infection models and Covid-19 patients [9].

• The Ministry of AYUSH studied the effectiveness of ayurvedic herbs - ashwagandha, Guduchi, mulethi and an ayurvedic anti-malaria medicine AYUSH-64 [10].

• The National Research Development Corporation studied the ayurvedic drug named Fifatrol as it can help improve the immune system and also combat bacterial infections, unlike other herbal medicines. The research is underway [11].

Immunity-boosting Ayurvedic Drug Fifatrol May Fight Against Coronavirus

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The Challenges Faced In The Development Of Herbal Medicines

Studies and surveys point out that traditional medicine has been globally appreciated due to its safe, economical and holistic approach. While they are safer with lesser side effects in comparison to Western medication [12], there are certain challenges that could hinder the timely development of medicine for coronavirus infection.

Quality issues such as adulteration, faulty preparation and collection of herbs/plants, wrong identification of the plants and incorrect formulation which can reduce the effectiveness of the herbal medicine, resulting in inefficacy and adverse effects [13].

• Validation through controlled clinical trials can be comparatively time-consuming.

Poor agricultural practices, indiscriminate harvesting and lack of proper processing techniques.

Biopiracy (a practice in which indigenous knowledge of nature, originating with indigenous peoples, is used by others for profit) is another major issue that hinders the production of herbal medicines, and this again is a time-consuming practice [14][15].

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On A Final Note…

The WHO has appointed a 25-members team with the task of enhancing research and development of "traditional medicine-based therapies against the virus and guide the implementation of the approved protocols to generate scientific evidence on the quality, safety and efficacy of herbal medicines for Covid-19."

Story first published: Tuesday, September 22, 2020, 17:30 [IST]