Study: Therapeutic Plants with Immunoregulatory Activity and Their Applications: A Scientific Vision of Traditional Medicine in Times of COVID-19. Image Credit: cfsmady / Shutterstock

Plants and plant-derived preparations as concurrent treatment for COVID-19

Recent Journal of Medicinal Food study proposed comprehensive guidelines for the application of plants and plant-derived preparations for the co-treatment of coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) and other viral infections.

Study: Therapeutic plants with immunoregulatory activity and their applications: A scientific vision of traditional medicine in the time of COVID-19. Image credit: cfsmady / Shutterstock


The recent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 has highlighted the importance of a well-regulated immune system to prevent severe infections and reduce viral transmission. SARS-CoV-2 infection was categorized into three groups, i.e., asymptomatic, mild symptoms, and severe symptoms.

Severe infection was characterized as an uncontrolled inflammatory response due to a dysfunctional immune response or tissue damage. In addition, a decrease in B and T lymphocytes, especially CD4+ and CD8+, and an increase in inflammatory factors (eg, cytokines) have been reported.

The complex pathogenesis of SARS-CoV-2 has challenged the development of effective therapeutic drugs. To date, COVID-19 is considered a multi-drug treatment. Extracts of plant origin could serve as alternative strategies to prevent and treat viral infections and immune-related diseases. Herbal formulations have many properties, including immunoregulatory activity.

About the Studio

The current study reviewed the literature available in Mendeley, Elsevier, Google Scholar, Scopus, and SpringerLink through the Tecnologico de Monterrey library system and PubMed Central. Studies have used various databases related to herbal therapeutics based on their anti-inflammatory and immunoregulatory properties.

Plant species and genera were selected based on availability, price and information. Plants were also selected based on their effect on inflammatory cytokines and NF-TOB.

In this review, the immunoregulatory activity based on biochemical and biochemical perspectives of plants and plant-derived preparations for the treatment of bacterial and viral infection was evaluated. Plant species such as Taraxacum officinale, Aloe vera, Upload papaya, sage rosmarinus, Allium sativum, Mullein sp, Plantago sp. and Echinacea sp., were used to determine the underlying physiological mechanism associated with immunoregulatory activity. This approach would provide a scientific vision for the effective application of traditional herbal medicine.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale).  Image Credit: Orest lyzhechka/ShutterstockDandelion (Taraxacum officinale). Image Credit: Orest lyzhechka/Shutterstock

Innate immune response after infection

The immune response is divided into innate and adaptive. Different organisms share mechanisms of innate immunity; however, adaptive immunity is shared only among vertebrates. The innate response is associated with being the first line of defense against pathogenic infection. Non-hematopoietic cells (eg, epithelial cells) and myeloid and lymphoid cells participate in the complex innate response. Understanding how different immune pathways are activated and regulated at the molecular level is essential. This information would help formulate an effective strategy to manage the inflammatory response to infection.

The innate immune response is triggered by pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) that are present in membranes and endosome antigen-presenting cells (APCs). Immune cells detect pathogens as pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) and damage-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs), which induce inflammation-related genes that lead to the release of cytokines and chemokines. IFN-CTNF-ANDand NF-TOB are cytokine factors associated with various immune response-related pathways.

Immunoregulatory therapeutic substances based on medicinal plants

Preparations based on medicinal plants with immunoregulatory activity are used to treat various diseases, including skin and respiratory infections caused by bacteria, viruses and fungi. These formulations directly interact with chemokines, cytokines, hormones and neurotransmitters.

Truth the extract can upregulate and downregulate most cytokines. Therefore, A. vera established formulations are associated with an immunoregulatory function. In vivo studies using rat and mouse models and in vitro experiments revealed that immunoregulatory functions associated with Truth were due to the presence of high concentrations of phytoconstituents such as polysaccharides (e.g. acemannan and aloeride) and glycoproteins.

A similar immunoregulatory pattern was observed between Truth and Echinacea sp. Echinacea extracts have an improved immune response due to the synthesis and release of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Human clinical studies have revealed this E. purpurea extract could effect a slight reduction of IL-1β, TNFα, IL-8 and COX-2 cytokines. Importantly, no adverse effects were detected.

Echinacea flower.  Image credit: Maslovainspiration / ShutterstockEchinacea flower. ​​​​​​​Image credit: Maslovainspiration / Shutterstock

Plantago main, important extracts showed dual effects, i.e. reduction of cytokines and factor synthesis. A. sativum it also has an immunoregulatory effect, i.e. increasing and decreasing various cytokines. A clinical study on fresh garlic revealed significant antiviral properties with the presence of type I IFN and IFN-AND genes. S. Rosmarinus is commonly used as an anti-inflammatory agent that substantially reduces various cytokines.

C. papaya showed an anti-inflammatory effect with a significant reduction in TNF-ANDIFN-Cand IL-6 levels in in vivo rat and mouse models and in vitro experiments. Taken together, medicinal plant formulations have a significant immunoregulatory effect based on the pharmacodynamics of bioactive compounds.

COVID-19 and herbal treatment

The authors strongly recommend a synergistic treatment of COVID-19 based on herbal formulations and available treatments. Plant extracts that improve the immune response can be implemented in the early phase of SARS-CoV-2 infection. These formulations can also be used as preventive agents. Plantago sp., A. sativum, T. officinaleand Truth extracts could be effective against COVID-19. Rosemaryn a C. papayaBased preparations could be administered to chronically infected COVID-19 patients.

Although plant-based preparations have been used for hundreds of years without showing any adverse toxicological effects, it is essential to determine the appropriate dose for each patient. Dosage usually depends on health status, weight, medical history and concentration of bioactive compounds used for medical purposes.

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