Medicinal plants have been used for as long as we are aware, at least since the beginning of recorded history. There is evidence that medicinal plants can help against illnesses. Many pharmaceutical drugs have been developed following the results observed from the use of a range of medicinal plants.1
The progression of the pharmaceutical industry led to the development of more lab-based drugs, but an evolution of awareness of herbal medicine is staging a comeback. The World Health Organization reports 110 of 133 nations surveyed are currently using plant material to provide for health care needs.2
More than 53,000 species of plants have been identified with medicinal use. Unfortunately, over-use has created the threat of extinction for some. The practice of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapy is becoming more popular, including the use of herbal medicines.
In a 2007 survey,3 40% of adults reported they used CAM therapies. Other studies show the use is correlated with a higher level of education and with younger patients seeking care.4,5 The resurgence of herbal medicine may also be driven by increasing rates of death from viruses, including influenza6 and the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).7
Despite the fact that COVID-19 is acting like other SARS viruses and has a rate of severe illness close to that of flu, it is the uncertainty that many find fearful. Scientists have been studying the flu viruses for decades.
So, although the flu virus can also be deadly, we know more about what to expect each season. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, spoke in a White House press conference in January, during which he said:8
"I can start off by putting it into perspective by telling you I often get asked — we have an influenza outbreak here. We have about 8,000 deaths already. We have about 100,000 hospitalizations. Why are we paying such attention? And why are we doing the kinds of things we’re doing here right now?
Well, the reason is, despite the morbidity and mortality with influenza, there’s a certainty, for example, of seasonal flu. I can tell you all, guaranteed, that as we get into March and April, the flu cases are going to go down. You could predict pretty accurately what the range of the mortality is and the hospitalizations, as we’ve done over the years. The issue now with this is that there’s a lot of unknowns."
Popular Traditional Chinese Herb May Provide Viral Relief
Licorice was one of the first compounds researchers discovered was effective against the SARS-CoV in vitro.9 In China, licorice is called “gancao,” meaning sweet grass. As far back as 2100 BC, it was recorded as being used for medicinal purposes.
Licorice has remained a popular herb in traditional Chinese medicine for the treatment of pain, elimination of phlegm and relief from coughing. Researchers are currently considering how licorice may play a role in the treatment of COVID-19.10
Studies have shown that licorice has pharmacological activities including antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antitumor.11 Of these, the antiviral and antimicrobial activities have been studied more. Scientists have identified more than 20 triterpenoids and nearly 300 flavonoids in the licorice plant.
Among these is glycyrrhizin, known to be one of the active components in antiviral activities. Scientists have also found it has an effect against hepatitis C virus and may play a role in fighting human immunodeficiency virus. The authors of another study reported significant improvements in those with coxsackievirus B3, which suggests it may have a therapeutic effect against viral-induced myocarditis.
Findings from other studies have demonstrated licorice’s effectiveness against the influenza virus. In one animal study from the late 1990s,12 researchers found glycyrrhizin from the licorice plant was effective in protecting “mice exposed to a lethal amount of influenza virus through the stimulation of IFN-g production by T cells.”
Honeysuckle Is More Than a Pretty Flower
Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) is another traditional herbal medicine with antiviral activity demonstrated in the lab and in animal studies.13 The plant has been used for decades as an anti-inflammatory agent and for upper respiratory infections.14
Scientists are delving into the mechanism of action to find the compounds with the greatest antiviral capacity. However, as with other plant-based treatments, we may ultimately find it is the unique combination of compounds in the plant that offers the greatest relief.
Results from chemical analysis indicate the plant contains several triterpenoid saponins,15,16 complex compounds that have received more attention in recent years as technological improvements have led to an ability to isolate them from plants.
The diversity of the chemical structure made it challenging to isolate and test saponins in the past. The increased interest in triterpenoid saponins, the dominant saponin discovered, is related to the broad biological activity of the compound.17
The compound, known since at least 1999 to have antiviral activity,18 may be what honeysuckle uses to help fight viral infections. Another is chlorogenic acid, found naturally in the plant.19
Using computational chemistry and molecular docking, researchers looked at both chlorogenic acid and quercetin as viable options in the treatment of influenza A.20 In the search for treatments, the researchers acknowledged the "various subtypes of the virus made it difficult to develop drugs."
The results showed both molecules had strong binding abilities against H1N1 flu and experiments in vitro and in vivo validated the effect both compounds had against the flu. In a later animal study21 scientists also evaluated the mechanism of action of chlorogenic acid, which:
“is used for viral upper respiratory tract infection treatment caused by influenza virus, parainfluenza virus, and respiratory syncytial virus, ect in China."
The results revealed chlorogenic acid "inhibited influenza virus during the late stage of infectious cycle." It also effectively reduced inflammation in the lungs and reduced viral titers during the study.
Phytonutrients in Honeysuckle Offer Additional Benefits
You can harvest berries from honeysuckle that are high in anthocyanin, a potent chemoprotective agent.22 There are many species of honeysuckle but the Lonicera japonica has historically been used in Chinese medicine. It has fragrant yellow to white flowers and produces black berries.23
The plants are heat-tolerant and require little care to produce beautiful flowers and bee-friendly nectar.24 During flu season and while sheltering in place to deal with COVID-19, consider adding honeysuckle essential oil to your routine for its antiviral and antibacterial benefits.
As I've written before, the combination of phytonutrients and compounds in the plant can be used in your beauty routines. The same germ-inhibiting and antioxidant-promoting properties researchers are evaluating for internal health, may also be enjoyed in skin and hair care.25
• Skin — Honeysuckle oil helps improve skin irritations from poison oak, infections, cuts and abrasions. Its anti-inflammatory effects may also help soothe rosacea, while its antioxidants protect your skin from signs of aging.26 Consider adding some to your homemade soap.
• Hair — Compounds in honeysuckle oil help improve dry hair and stop split ends. Add a couple of drops to your shampoo bottle to moisturize and improve the appearance of your locks.
If you don't use shampoo, add two drops to one-half teaspoon of coconut oil and smooth it over your hair. Avoid the roots. If this makes your hair too oily, consider adding it to your hair about one hour before you shower.
• Stress — If you need to destress, add four to five drops of honeysuckle essential oil to your bathwater. The antibacterial properties help remove harmful bacteria on your skin and the scent helps you relax.
• Room freshener — If you're looking for a room freshener that does double duty without the chemical toxins, then honeysuckle is what you want. Consider adding the essential oil to a diffuser; you can also use several drops as you're making a soy candle or place a couple of drops on your dust rag. Add three drops to 6 ounces of water in a spray bottle and you have an instant room deodorizer.
Licorice Root Is Versatile in Correct Doses
In addition to the anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiviral properties of licorice, it has a few more uses you may find helpful at home. While it has benefits, too much can lead to headaches, fatigue and even a heart attack.27
• Expectorant — One of the most well-known uses is to ease congestion from coughs.28 Loosening and expelling phlegm buildup in viral illnesses helps reduce areas where bacteria may breed and trigger pneumonia. Licorice also has a soothing effect on irritated membranes.29
• Digestive health — The antibacterial properties in licorice have been helpful in relieving stomach ulcers, many of which are caused by the bacteria Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori).30 Licorice extract was found to help symptoms of an upset stomach,31 and a combination of herbs could relieve indigestion and mild gastrointestinal complaints, including vomiting.32
Licorice promotes peristalsis (contractions in the colon that help move waste). The authors of one study showed in combination with other herbs, it significantly improved chronic constipation.33
• Hormonal support — Licorice has been found to reduce the number and duration of hot flashes in postmenopausal women.34 Drinking licorice tea may help alleviate infertility in women triggered by hormone imbalances.35 It may normalize menstruation and restore ovulation.
• Adrenal support — Licorice is an adaptogenic herb, which means it helps your body deal with stress. It does this by helping to regulate the stress hormone cortisol, which takes a load off your adrenal glands.36
Prevent the Transmission of Viral Infections
Your best defense against infection is supporting your immune health. Your second step is to wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds and keep your hands away from your face. Your mouth, nose and eyes are often touched without even being aware of it, which is a primary method by which infectious diseases are spread.
The rapid spread of viral infections, including COVID-19, brings to light the importance and effectiveness of frequent handwashing. It's important you also get in the habit of cleaning your cell phone, which may be contaminated by germs on everything you touch.
For information on how to clean your cell phone without damaging it, the right soap to use on your hands and the proper technique to use, see "Which Soap is Best for Preventing Outbreaks?"
Source: mercola rss