As the novel coronavirus takes a heavy toll on the world and definitive treatment remains underway, alternative treatment/therapy seems to have gained momentum. Lately, the internet has been flooded with viral videos, social media posts, infographics, etc., proposing alternative treatment and this has triggered a search for new, and potential sources of bioactive molecules that might be effective against COVID-19.
Alternative medicine is part of a medical specialty known as complementary and alternative therapy or CAM. It refers to the use of non-conventional practices that are not part of standard medical care. This includes herbal remedies, mind-body therapies (such as tai chi, yoga, acupuncture, etc.), massage therapy. Herbal medicine is the pivotal arm of alternative treatment/therapy.
No matter how effective, one can’t possibly assume every herb out there is free from side effects. Hence, the need for scrutiny with regards to its efficacy, toxicity, and possible interactions with other medications.
At this juncture, if you are skeptical about bogus information making rounds on the web, today’s post clarifies any doubt on some of the alternative treatments for coronavirus.
Can alternative medicine be of any good during the pandemic?
Anecdotally, there are claims that herbal medicines have kept people healthy or improved their symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the bulk of studies remain inconclusive. Consequently, medical experts would dare not approve its use and warn that there is not enough data to support the use of herbal remedies, especially for COVID-19.
As much as traditional medical practices predate conventional medicine, the knowledge, skill, and practices are oftentimes based on philosophies, beliefs or experiences of a particular culture. It, therefore, lacks scientific data meanwhile orthodox treatments are based on evidence, are technologically driven and therefore, widely acceptable.
In the succeeding segment, we’ll look at some of the natural remedies proposed as an alternative medicine for the novel coronavirus treatment.
What are the alternative treatments for coronavirus?
- Is colloidal silver effective as an alternative treatment for COVID-19?
Amidst waves of conspiracy theories holding sway during the pandemic, there lies a claim by Alex Jones. The Infowars radio host attempted to cash in on the coronavirus pandemic by selling toothpaste he claims will “kill” the virus. The paste contains an active ingredient known as Nanosilver also known as colloidal silver.
This popular alternative medicine is infamous for potentially causing agyria. Agyria is a condition that brings about permanent discoloration of the skin dyeing it a blue-gray color. Colloidal blue is “not safe or effective for treating any disease or condition,” according to the Food and Drug Administration.
Recently, The Missouri Attorney General’s office said they were suing a televangelist Jim Bakker for false advertising. Jim was sued for making claims that a product called the “Silver Solution” could be effective against the novel coronavirus.
- Can Shuanghuanglian (SHL) herbal remedy ‘inhibit’ SARS-Cov-2?
In the wake of the pandemic, China’s state press Xinhua published an article that bore claims that the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica (SIMM, under the Chinese Academy of Sciences) and the Wuhan Institute of Virology found that the Shuanghuanglian oral liquid could be used to “inhibit” the 2019-nCoV, later known as SARS-Cov-2.
However, the editorial hit a brick wall of skepticism from both the general public and doctors. Despite the fact that Shuanghuanglian is a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) used largely in Chinese hospitals, it’s worthy of note that there is no substantial evidence to demonstrate its clinical effect on COVID-19.
To address growing concerns, SIMM published a statement on Feb. 1 to verify the Xinhua report, while stating that the inference was drawn from “the results of a laboratory in vitro studies” and encourages further clinical studies to be conducted to confirm its efficacy in those infected.
Back in 2003, SIMM spearheaded research to confirm that Shuanghuanglian oral liquid indeed has an anti-SARS coronavirus effect. Following the SARS epidemic, a team from the institute led numerous researches and confirmed that SHL has been efficacious against influenza virus, SARS-CoV, and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS), and cited obvious antiviral effects.
The concoction has honeysuckle, Chinese skullcap and forsythia blend. Shuanghuanglian is said to be a robust solution with antiviral, antibacterial and immune boosting abilities. Thus, has been found to be effective in the treatment of acute upper respiratory tract infection. Similarly, it’s often used to relieve symptoms such as fever, cough and sore throat which are classic symptoms of COVID-19.
- Can the licorice root be used as an antivirus for COVID-19?
The Licorice root has been popular amongst the Egyptian, Indian Ayurvedic medicine and traditional Chinese medicine for ages. Its antiviral potency has been documented before now. During the SARS outbreak, researchers noticed that certain groups of people who took the concoction that contained it did not get infected with the virus despite having been exposed to it.
Since then, numerous researches have been carried out to ascertain the effectiveness of various phytochemicals contained in Licorice Roots against the SARS virus. Unluckily, many of the researches were during the Post–SARS period and interest in the herb waned in about 2012. In the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic, it would be great if research institutes and pharmaceutical companies around the world conduct more detailed research.
Licorice can be used for herpes as it’s been observed that the paste, when applied to a sore, has the ability to prevent the virus from replicating and halt its proliferation. The downside remains that it can activate aldosterone which is a hormone that causes fluid retention. This can adversely increase the risk of high blood pressure.
In the case of COVID-19, hypertension is a huge risk factor especially for the elderly. Therefore, a generous intake of the licorice concoction could be fatal.
- COVID-Organics – Madagascar’s Herbal Drink against COVID-19
The President of Madagascar, Andry Rajoelina on Monday, April 20, 2020, announced the launch of supposed “preventive and curative” artemisia-based remedy christened COVID-Organics (CVO) for COVID-19 patients.
The concoction – a form of herbal tea – was developed by the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research (IMRA) which specializes in the study of medicinal plants. The organization is reputable for researching traditional medicine for more than 30 years. Though the label on the bottle does not list its content, the regimen is said to contain artemisinin as an active ingredient.
Artemisinin and its semisynthetic derivatives are a group of drugs discovered by Tu Youyou in 1972 and employed in the treatment of malaria due to Plasmodium falciparum.
During the launch of the COVID-Organics regimen, President Rajoelina maintained that “all trials and tests have been conducted and its effectiveness in reducing the elimination of symptoms has been proven for the treatment of patients with COVID-19 in Madagascar.”
Medical experts are critical of the concoction, pointing out that elaborate scientific tests have not been carried out. The president of Madagascar’s Academy of Medicine, Marcel Razanamparany, in a statement said ‘’It’s likely that it could actually harm the health of the population, particularly that of children.”
- Pax CVD PLUS
In a statement released on Wednesday, 29th April 2020, Pax Herbal Clinic and Research Laboratories, Nigeria, announced the launch of one of its products named CVD PLUS. The drug is specifically formulated for the treatment of COVID-19. It is said to contain herbs and active Phyto-constituents that “are potential antiviral agents and immune-modulatory agents that can stimulate antibody production against coronavirus related diseases”.
According to the statement, Paxherbals in the past 25 years has contributed to the treatment of hepatitis C, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, bronchitis, pneumonia, and malaria.
However, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and the Nigeria Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), currently have not approved of this regimen as a treatment for COVID-19. NIMR, however, alleged that it is currently studying the efficacy of CDV PLUS as an alternative treatment for coronavirus.
The biggest problem associated with alternative medicine is that many herbal and natural remedies are of low quality. Secondly, herbal medicines are easily adulterated, which means the product could easily be contaminated with other botanicals or even lack any of the supposed active ingredients that are indicated on the label. More so, certain herbs, if misused, could cause the immune system to overreact even more and lead to a cytokine storm, or a fatal overactive immune response.
Lastly, if you’re still curious about herbal remedies, it’s best to consult a physician or naturopathic doctor who is well versed in various herbs as well as their properties.
For those herbs that have been found to be effective, more should be done to curb toxicity or ascertain side effects that may be associated with them. Truly, with proper funding and research, alternative treatment/medicine may be of great help to the mainstream pharmaceutical industry.
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