In Wuhan China, the first cluster of Covid-19 was reported in December 2019. Further, on a global level, World Health Organization (WHO) declared a Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020. In April 2021, a report highlighted that around 3 million people died due to this pandemic. Up till now, the pandemic has become a more frightening and terrifying issue affecting the high health impacts and huge economic loss around the world. But, the emergence of Covid-19 vaccines is effective against this virus and has given a ray of light towards normal life with preventive measures such as social distancing, sanitizers, face masks, contact tracing, and locked down policies have been applied to mitigate the surge of Covid-19. Furthermore, vaccines steroids are under consideration including dexamethasone, in the treatment of clinical trials and in terms of hospitalization and mortality, effectively. For good health, people are focusing on self-care in every corner of the world by including folk medicines and herbs in their diet to control the Covid-19 symptoms and prevention. Therefore, this pandemic has arisen the attention of the scientific community toward herbal medicines.
Plants are a vital source of compounds that are being used in making medicines. Chinese herbal medicines have been used in China against Covid-19 infection for the very first time. Since they have immense experience to use traditional medicines for the prevention and treatment of diseases. Although this new viral infection is more insidious than previous infections of flu and it is directly affecting the respiratory tract. To boost immunity, it has been suggested that ginger and ginger relatives are effective against Covid-19 and likewise it reduces inflammatory respiratory diseases. Many countries such as China, Nepal, Brazil, Peru, India, and Pakistan are practicing traditional medicines against Covid-19 infection. World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that 80% of the world population relies on traditional medicines as their main source of the cure.
There are many studies on ethnomedicinal uses during the Covid-19 pandemic that is used in different communities and cultures. Herbs containing antiviral, anti-inflammation, and antioxidant properties are considered candidates for the treatment of Covid-19. The most studied medicinal plants are eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus Labill.), garlic (Allium sativum L.), turmeric (Curcuma longa L.), and ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe.). The essential oil of Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus Labill.) has been reported to enhance the innate cell-mediated immune response and can be used in infectious diseases as an immunoregulatory agent. Ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe.) has been reported to be used to alleviate fever and other Covid-19 symptoms in Africa. Garlic (Allium sativum L.) has an inhibitory effect on SARS-CoV-2 replication which is considered a promising agent against Covid-19. It is reported that the use of herbal medicines in Nepal after 1995 is gaining more attention now. In Nepal, a total of 60 medicinal plants were examined for the treatment of Covid-19. Among them similar species were also used in other countries such as Morocco had reported 23 species, India had recorded 15 species, and China had recorded 26 medicinal species for the possible treatment of Covid-19. As well as Bangladesh recorded 149 plants from 71 families that have potential molecules for preparing the drug in the treatment of Covid-19. The most common plants that are used in Nepal are easily available in home gardens such as Zingiber officinale, Curcuma angustifolia, and Allium sativum which are considered immunity boosters. Similarly, plants like Cuminum cyminum, Terminalia bellirica, Piper nigrum, Vitis vinifera, and Citrus species were recommended by the Indian Government as an immune boosters but do not claim to cure and treat the Covid-19. The highest use of medicinal plants against Covid-19 in western Colombia was Zingiber officinale, Eucalyptus globulus, Gliricidia sepium, Citrus limon, and Matricaria recutitai. Furthermore, Ethiopia has a very long history of traditional medicine usage in different parts of the country due to its affordability, and active nature against many diseases. 56 herbal species have been used in Ethiopia to treat viral diseases due to their anti-viral properties. Few of them include Acacia abyssinica, A. ethbiaca, A. nigra, Acanthus polystachyus, Osyris quadripartite, Allium cepa, A. sativum, Azardirachta indica, Camellia sinensis, Capsicum annuum, Citrus limon, Curucma longa, Clematis hirsute, Eucalyptus globulus, Moringa borziana, Ocimum bacilicum, Olea europaea, Ricinus communis, and Zingiber officinale contain flavonoids. Ethiopians believe that those species contain flavonoid compounds all are suitable to fight against Covid-19.
While summing up it can be said that results from all the above traditional and cultural studies to treat the Covid-19 virus have ensured the society’s role in terms of counteracting the control of the disease to some extent. Commonly ginger, garlic, lemon, turmeric, and citrus species have been used in the 21st and 22nd centuries to control the Pandemic. Above plants mixture has been used in diverse conditions and considerable recovery has been seen in rural areas (during different pandemics) which are strongly based on cultural and ethnic values. However, it is recommended that ethnomedicinal values must be enhanced not only for popular species but for those species which are invisible in the scientific community. This would help us in the future to handle such types of Pandemics.
Seemab Akram (Ph.D.)
Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM)
I am a botanical researcher. My Ph.D. study was focused on the genetic study of the family Zingiberaceae from Ex-situ conservation of Peninsular Malaysia. It involved studying better biological data to improve the current taxonomic and molecular classification of the family Zingiberaceae. Further, I targeted CHS genes which are conserved genes and contribute to the biological diversity of life. I also developed new genic primers for endemic and Pharmaceutical valuable species of Zingiberaceae.