Idayat Gbadamosi, an associate professor at the University of Ibadan, has written a yet-to-be-published paper on possible herbal ways of preventing the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Gbadamosi, a well-published expert in ethnobotany and medicinal plants, says her publication is “targeted towards boosting the immune system to help fight the coronavirus,” clearly stating that it is “not by any means a cure for COVID-19 infection”.
The reader, who has been published in the New York Science Journal and the European Journal of Medicinal Plants, argues that “while countries such as the USA and Europe are battling with insufficient testing equipment and space, Nigerians should turn to nature and explore the benefits of medicinal plants as immune boosters and anti-infectives with a view to mitigating the spread of COVID-19 infection”.
Based on her expertise, Gbadamosi says “the prevention of infectious diseases relies on the use of botanical detoxifiers, immune-boosting remedies, natural antioxidants, plant haematinics, and spices”.
“Based on the fact that COVID-19 is a viral infection, the use of antiviral medicinal plants might be useful in its prevention and management.”
Working with the symptoms of COVID-19 infection, which includes fever, cough, body pain, flu, cold and shortness of breath, Gbadamosi proposed “plants with antimalarial effect, cough remedy, herbal analgesic, and medicinal plants” that could be useful in the prevention of the COVID-19 infection.
Botanical detoxifiers: Two botanicals that are valuable detoxifiers are Neem (Azadirachta indica) and Turmeric (Curcuma domestica). Neem is a plant best known for its ability to cleanse the skin, the liver and controls blood sugar. It is readily available in Nigeria and it has a vast array of healing properties. It gently purifies the blood and promotes healthy blood circulation.
Turmeric is the king of all spices with powerful antioxidant properties. It has an array of pharmacological effects in the treatment of arthritis, rheumatism, cancer, obesity, infections, etc. It contains curcuminoids and it is a free-radicals fighter. Daily consumption of turmeric could prevent many degenerative diseases. Turmeric could be made bioavailable if prepared as a powder in combination with Aframomum melegueta (Guinea pepper).
Herbal immune boosters: Guava (Psidium guajava) leaf, mango (Mangifera indica) stem bark and leaf, lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus) leaf, ginger (Zingiber officinale) rhizome, garlic (Allium sativum) bulb and cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) stem bark are immune-boosting herbs that can be prepared in powdered form or as a decoction for oral administration. Generally, spices other than pepper are rich in antioxidants, antimicrobials; they also have anticancer properties.
Research has confirmed that eating a small amount of ginger (Zingiber officinale) daily for 11 days or more can reduce muscle pain and inflammation; ginger also aids digestion. Generally spicing food up a little adds more than just flavour. Other useful spices are onions (Allium species), black pepper (Piper guineense), guinea pepper, clove (Syzygium aromaticum) and green onions (Allium ascalonicum).
As an example, an immune-boosting recipe is as follows: Prepare a decoction of powdered turmeric (125 g), ginger (20 g), garlic (2 g), guinea pepper (a pinch), clove (a pinch), black pepper (a pinch) and coconut water (5 cups) by boiling for 20 minutes. Allow the extract to cool and filter using a fine sieve. Then add lemon (4 teaspoons) and honey (teaspoons) to the extract. Drink ½ teacup of the extract before breakfast or in between meals once daily. One preparation can last for a week if refrigerated.
Natural antioxidants: Fruits and vegetables have antioxidant properties. In addition to vitamins A and C, they contain a polyphenol (quercetin) that have strong H+ donating activity. Phenolic acids generally act as antioxidants by trapping free radicals and some plant-derived compounds are better antioxidants than BHA (Butylated Hydroxyl Anisole).
Consequently, natural antioxidants may be useful in the treatment and prevention of chronic infections and diseases. Some Nigerian vegetables are bitter leaf (Vernonia amygdalina), jute mallow (Corchorus olitorius), spinach (Senecio biafrae), African lettuce (Launnaea taraxacifolia), and pumpkin plant (Telfaria occidentalis). The message is let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.
Plant haematinics: Sorghum bicolor leaf (red guinea corn) and Theobroma cacao stem bark (Cacao tree) are used in combination as haematinics for the treatment of anaemia, menstrual disorder and other blood-related infections and diseases. The tonic is prepared in the form of decoction, in which the two plant materials are washed thoroughly and boiled in clean water for 20 minutes. The extract can be taken orally after food.
Antiviral botanicals: The indigenous people of Nigeria are knowledgeable in the management of viral infections. Cassia fistula (purging cassia), Phyllanthus amarus (stonebreaker), Lagenaria breviflorus (wild colocynth), Citrullus colocynthis (bitter apple) and Syzygium aromatic (clove) are used for the management and treatment of viral diseases.
Although there is a scarcity of information on scientific validation of antiviral activity of medicinal plants, information on the antiviral activity of some of the above named is available in literature. The plants are prepared as powder, decoction and infusion for therapeutic purposes.
Antimalaria and analgesic herbs: Chincona officinalis (red cinchona) stem bark, Nauclea latifolia (African peach) root, Alstonia boonei (stoolwood) root, and Morinda lucida (brimstone tree) root and leaf are used as antimalaria remedy. Chincona officinalis and other Chincona species contain quinine (hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine) and other alkaloids that are effective for the treatment of malaria fever.
The remedy is usually prepared as decoction or tincture for oral administration. Microdesmis puberula and Calliandra portoricensis (powderpuff) are used as analgesic in malaria, arthritis and rheumatism.
Herbal cough remedy: Garcinia kola (bitter kola) and Bryophyllum pinnatum (miracle leaf) are used traditionally for the treatment of cough. G. kola seeds are soaked in lemon juice in a bottle. One teaspoonful of the remedy is taken three times daily after food.
The leaves of B. pinnatum are put in hot water to make tender and squeezed. Add honey to the leaf juice and drink 100ml of the remedy two times daily after food.
Herbs for respiratory tract infections: Spondias mombin (yellow mombin), Garcinia kola, Calotropis procera (apple of Sodom), Nymphaea lotus (water lily) and Abrus precatorius (water lily) are used for the management and treatment of respiratory tract infections.
The remedies are prepared as leaf juice, infusion, decoction and traditional soup for therapeutic purposes. As an example, an infusion of bitter kola and garlic in clean water is used for the management of respiratory tract infections.