There has been a scramble in the scientific community to find more natural medicines that can combat viruses. In particular, the influenza virus has become a significant threat to society. This virus is capable of mutating rapidly, so new strains of influenza that are resistant to conventional treatments are discovered each year. To address this threat, scientists are now exploring alternative ways of dealing with these microorganisms. In a recent study published in The American Journal of Chinese Medicine, researchers from The Ohio State University (OSU) reviewed the antiviral properties of some herbal medicines. They discussed how compounds present in these medicinal plants can target viral proteins and inhibit viral replication.
Herbal medicines found to have antiviral properties
Many studies have shown that herbal extracts are capable of preventing influenza from spreading. The active components of these plant extracts can target viral proteins like hemagglutinin, neuraminidase, and matrix protein that are required for viral replication. They have also shown efficacy in inhibiting viral strains of influenza that are resistant to current antiviral medications.
Herbal extracts contain compounds called pentacyclic triterpenes. These compounds are secondary plant metabolites that exhibit antiviral properties. In their review, the researchers compared pentacyclic triterpenes to a commercially available antiviral medication called oseltamivir and found that pentacyclic triterpenes have higher antiviral activities.
Herbal medicines are also believed to target host-cell signaling pathways as part of their antiviral activities. These pathways are crucial for the replication of the influenza virus. When there is an infection, viral proteins interact with host proteins to manipulate cellular pathways. The virus also inhibits the replication of host proteins to prioritize the replication of its own genetic material. The affected cell pathways are then hijacked by intracellular signaling cascades that facilitate viral replication.
Due to the amount of evidence provided by previous studies, the researchers believe that herbal medicines can inhibit the nuclear export of influenza vRNP, which carries the virus’ RNA. In turn, this inhibition can suppress the activation of signaling cascades that enable viral replication. (Related: CDC documents influenza outbreak among population that was 99% vaccinated with flu shots.)
Medicinal plants with antiviral properties
Elderberry, also known as European elderberry or black elder, is a flowering plant commonly used to treat cold and flu symptoms. The ancient Egyptians used this herb to treat burns and improve their complexion. Meanwhile, the Native Americans used elderberry to treat infections.
Elderberry is known for its ability to support heart health and fight inflammation. Black elderberry flowers and extracts can also decrease the severity of influenza symptoms. In addition, black elderberry extracts are capable of reducing the duration of viral infections.
In a study published in The Journal of Medical Research, researchers from The Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School investigated the effects of elderberry syrup on people with influenza. Participants were asked to take either a placebo or 15 milliliters (mL) of elderberry syrup. The researchers found that elderberry syrup helped reduce symptoms of influenza. Moreover, participants who took elderberry managed to recover in just four days. On the other hand, participants who received a placebo took seven to eight days to recover from the infection.
Another medicinal plant with antiviral properties is echinacea. This popular herb can treat certain illnesses like tonsillitis, septicemia, and urinary tract infection. Echinacea contains several substances that can boost the immune system. Because of this, echinacea is often used as an herbal treatment for colds and flu.
In a study published in Pharmaceuticals, researchers compared the efficacy of high and low doses of echinacea (450 mg and 900 mg) and found that high doses can reduce influenza symptoms within three days. In another study, researchers found that echinacea contains multiple compounds that possess potent antiviral properties.
Echinacea and elderberry are potent medicinal plants that can be used for many purposes. Researchers are beginning to understand the power and range of their therapeutic abilities. With the surge of scientific interest in these natural remedies, it’s only a matter of time before they are fully developed into effective yet natural-based medications that can fight any type of viral infection.
For more information about herbal medicines and their healing benefits, visit Herbs.news.