Herbal cures for viral haemorrhagic fevers, hepatitis
*Pawpaw leaf juice, soursop, neem, Artemisia annua, Avocado, bamboo top list
The ongoing outbreak of Lassa fever that has gone unabated for more than thirteen months now has thrown fresh challenges for better and natural cures and prevention methods.
Lassa fever is a viral haemorrhagic fever (VHF). Others include: Ebola, yellow fever, dengue fever and Marburg virus.VHFs are a group of potentially life threatening infections, which are associated with fever and bleeding. All VHFs begin gradually with flu-like symptoms that include fever, muscular aches, and cough. If the disease progresses, abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea occur. The next stage involves sore throat, muscle pain, headache, chest pain, nausea and vomiting, facial swelling, conjunctivitis, or inflammation and swelling of the eyelids and portions of the eyeballs, and bleeding from the gums, intestinal tract, and other internal organs. If the disease progresses, individuals may develop temporary or permanent hearing loss, bleeding from the mouth and nose, blood in the urine, fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema), and brain inflammation (encephalitis). In late stages, shock, seizures, coma, and death can occur.
Following the high mortality and morbidity of haemorrhagic fevers, scientists have intensified search local sourced, easily available and natural cures. Indeed, re-emerging infectious diseases such as Lassa fever, yellow fever, Ebola, measles, chicken pox, small pox, Dengue fever, viral hepatitis, Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV), polio, cold and influenza virus, among others are posing fresh threat to human existence.
Unfortunately, conventional medicines are failing: the pathogens have developed resistance to the drugs-of-choice. But researchers have in experimental models treated these deadly bugs with combination of local herbs and spices.Scientists have validated local foods and spices such as pawpaw, turmeric, soursop, breadfruit, neem tree, ginger to be effective in managing viral haemorrhagic fevers and hepatitis C virus.Nigerian researchers had identified and validated local plants for the treatment of viral infections.
The plants include: Bambusa vulgaris (bamboo) and Aframomum melegueta (alligator pepper), Azadirachta indica (neem), Allium cepa (onion), Allium sativum (garlic), rhizomes of Curcuma longa (turmeric), and Aloe vera, Vernonia amygdalina (bitter leaf), Garcinia kola (bitter kola), Citrus medica (lemon), Cymbopogon citratus (lemon grass), Moringa, Phyllanthus amarus, avocado (Persea americana), and Gardonema mushroom.
Researchers had also identified asthma herb (Euphorbia hirta), pawpaw (Carica papaya), bitter melon (Momordica charantia) and guava (Psidium guajava) extracts as potential ‘cures’ for viral infections.Researchers from Ekiti State University, Ado Ekiti, and Kings University, Osun State had validated antiviral properties of two Nigerian plants- alligator pepper (grains of paradise) and bamboo.
The study was published in African Journal of Plant Science.However, a recent study published in the journal Medicinal & Aromatic Plants concluded that the juice of Carica papaya (pawpaw) leaves is an effective herbal therapy for curing the dengue fever.
The study is titled “Leaf Juice of Carica papaya L.: A Remedy of Dengue Fever.”The results of the study led by Chandra Prakash Kala from the Ecosystem & Environment Management, Indian Institute of Forest Management, Madhya Pradesh, India, showed Papaya leaf juice was effective in curing the dengue fever.
The researchers noted: “As per the medical report of patients the number of platelets had increased within the prescribed time (24 hours) of drinking leaf juice of papaya in all five patients of dengue. The increase in number of platelets varied from patients to patients that ranged from 8000 to 11000. The dengue patients had reiterated that there was a significant improvement in their health within 24 hours of taking papaya leaf juice.
“The traditional belief of curing dengue by papaya’s leaf juice had spread quickly in the highly infected city of New Delhi and suddenly there was a high demand of papaya leaves. A family in Prem Nagar area of New Delhi having four trees of papaya when asked pointed out that they were visited by approx. 110 people within four months from July to October 2010 for the papaya leaves to cure dengue fever.
“Besides leaf juice of papaya, there are reports indicating that the extract of some other flowering plant species, such as Vitex negundo, Azadirachta indica (neem) and Artemisia annua (Chinese salad plant used in making malaria drug-of-choice Artemisinin Combination Therapy/ACT) contains properties to work against the viruses. Some lower plant species including lichens and algae exhibit inhibitory activity against some type of viruses. It is suggested that all such plant species need to be scrutinized for their antiviral properties.”
According to the researchers, out of twenty-two plants reported against dengue, only four have been studied scientifically. Azadirachta indica, Carica papaya, Hippophae rhamnoides and Cissampelos pareira extracts were found effective and demonstrated improvement in clinical symptoms and direct inhibitory effect on dengue virus.
Carica papaya clinical trial showed increase in platelet count and faster recovery. These plants may be explored further as probable candidates for drug discovery against dengue. There is a need to search more such herbal formulations, which are being practiced at local level, document properly and validate them scientifically to confirm efficacy, mechanistic action and safety, before use. The herbal formulations being used by communities are the low hanging fruits which may provide alternative or adjuvant therapy if proper validation, value addition and product development steps are followed.
Interestingly, a researcher, Amaka Ubani, in her presentation on medicinal plants for treating Lassa fever said documented natural therapies for hepatitis C virus have been demonstrated to be effective in treating Lassa fever.
Also, the same conventional drug, ribavirin, is used for the treatment of Lassa fever and hepatitis C virus. Intravenous ribavirin drastically reduces deaths from Lassa fever. Ribavirin is a powerful antiviral drug used to treat chronic hepatitis C infection.
However, avocado and soursop have shown promise as possible treatments for hepatitis C virus (HCV).Nigerian researchers in collaboration with their American and German counterparts investigated extracts and fractions from five different traditional Nigerian medicinal plants (Jatropha podagrica, Persea americana (avocado), Annona muricata (soursop), Jatropha multifida, and Picralima nitida), which are used in Nigerian folk medicine for the treatment of parasitic infections, cancer and hepatitis.
The study published in African Journal of Pharmaceutical Research & Development found: “In this preliminary study, it is obvious that A. muricata is a good candidate for anti HCV agents. “Annona muricata, J. podagrica and P. americana class has never been evaluated for there anti HCV activity, interesting activity profile of these extracts and fractions, opens up a new class of anti HCV metabolites.
“Further purification of these herbal extracts and isolation of the active metabolites may identify new lead molecules, which could be developed into anti HCV drugs.” The study is titled “Anti-hepatitis C Virus Activity of five Selected Endemic Medicinal Plants of Nigeria.”
The researchers from the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, University of Benin, Nigeria; Institute of Chemistry, University of Rostock, Albert Einstein, Rostock, Germany; Department of Pharmacognosy, School of Pharmacy, University of Mississippi, Oxford, Mississippi, United States (U.S.); Department of Crop Science, University of Benin, Nigeria; and Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Faculty of Pharmacy, Delta State University, Abraka, Delta State, Nigeria, concluded: “In conclusion, we have demonstrated that the extracts of A. murcata stem and P. americana root possess a significant inhibitory effect on HCV replication. These results, showing in particular an interesting anti HCV activity, confirm the relevance of the investigation on the therapeutic potential of plants used by rural communities.”
According to the researchers, it is worthy to note that traditional medical practitioners have achieved success with the use of these plants as remedies against hepatitis. Jatropha podagrica is known locally in southwestern Nigeria as lapalapa funfun. It is widely distributed in different parts of Nigeria, and is used in folk medicine to treat various diseases including parasitic skin infections and hepatitis. Different parts of the plant have been investigated chemically and many compounds including flavonoids, steroids, alkaloids and diterpenoids have been isolated from this plant and related species.
Picralima nitida has widely varied applications in Nigerian folk medicine as antipyretic, antimalarial, anti-trypanocidal, anti-lesishmanial and anti-parasitic. Jatropha multifida otherwise known as coral bush is a fast growing evergreen shrub or small tree. The roots, stems, leaves, seeds and oil of the plant have been widely used in African folk medicine for the treatment of oral candidiasis, viral diseases, gonorrhea, fever, as purgative and for wounds and skin infections.
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