Nature's Arsenal: 7 Medicinal Plants for COVID-19 Prevention and Treatment

Research suggests that numerous naturally occurring plants with medicinal properties can play a role in preventing or mitigating its impact.
Nature's Arsenal: 7 Medicinal Plants for COVID-19 Prevention and Treatment
Turmeric can aid in the prevention and treatment of COVID-19. (Nungning20/Shutterstock)
Lisa Bian
Although the world has largely returned to normalcy after the COVID-19 pandemic, the virus has recently seen a rapid resurgence in countries like China and the United States, highlighting the need for safe and effective prevention and treatment methods. Research suggests that numerous naturally occurring plants with medicinal properties can play a role in preventing or mitigating its impact.

1. Turmeric (Curcuma Longa)

The spice curcumin has recently garnered attention for its potential role in treating COVID-19. Curcumin and curcuminoids are the primary bioactive components of turmeric (Curcuma longa). Due to its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidant, anti-diabetic, and neuroprotective properties, turmeric has been used in traditional medicine across multiple cultures for thousands of years. Additionally, curcuminoids have received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), demonstrating their excellent tolerability and safety.
Numerous academic journals have published research findings regarding the use of curcumin in COVID-19 treatment. A clinical trial published in Nutrients in 2022 revealed that curcumin supplementation effectively improved symptoms like coughing, difficulty breathing, and muscle soreness in both mild and severe COVID-19 patients. Moreover, it contributed to maintaining higher oxygen saturation levels in these patients.
 Turmeric can aid in the prevention and treatment of COVID-19. (Fotolia)
Turmeric can aid in the prevention and treatment of COVID-19. (Fotolia)
A clinical study published in Cureus in 2021 also revealed that patients diagnosed with COVID-19 and experiencing taste and smell disorders exhibited significant symptom improvement after receiving curcumin treatment. Researchers suggested using curcumin to treat anosmia (loss of smell) and ageusia (loss of taste) resulting from COVID-19 infection.
A clinical trial published in Frontiers in Pharmacology in 2021 found that patients who took curcumin and piperine recovered more quickly compared to the control group that received probiotics. This group experienced improvements in symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, and breathlessness. Furthermore, patients with severe symptoms saw reduced hospitalization time and a lower mortality rate. Curcumin is also beneficial in preventing blood clots after COVID-19 infection, while piperine significantly improves the absorption of curcumin when taken together.

2. Sanghuang

Sanghuangporus sanghuan, also known as Sanghuang mushroom, is highly popular in Asian countries and has been traditionally used as both food and medicine.

As a traditional Chinese medicine, Sanghuang has a long history in China, Japan, and Korea. Over the years, it has been used to treat various digestive, gynecological, and tumor-related diseases. It has been demonstrated to possess anti-tumor, antioxidant, anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, hepatoprotective, neuroprotective, and immunomodulatory properties.

As health supplements, processed Sanghuang products like Sanghuang tea, Sanghuang wine, and Sanghuang candy are widely popular among consumers and even considered supplementary foods during cancer treatment.
A cell and animal experiment conducted by a Taiwanese research team and published in Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy in September 2022 revealed that Sanghuang and its components effectively block the entry of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, into host cells, showing potential in the prevention of COVID-19 infections.
The same research team published another animal model study in the same journal in September. This study demonstrated that Sanghuang significantly reduces lung inflammatory factors and fibrosis-related molecules while increasing the concentration of lung antioxidative enzymes, thereby protecting the lungs and improving pulmonary fibrosis.

3. Platycodon Grandifloras

As a traditional Chinese medicine, Platycodon grandiflorus (balloon flower) is recognized for its ability to promote lung health, soothe the throat, alleviate phlegm, and assist in pus drainage. Modern pharmacological research has revealed that Platycodon grandiflorus offers various benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, reducing lipid levels, and suppressing cough while possessing anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. In addition to its medicinal applications, it is also widely used in culinary preparations, such as in cold salads and pickled vegetables.
A study published in the international journal Experimental & Molecular Medicine in 2021 found that Platycodin D, found in Platycodon grandiflorus, can prevent the entry of the COVID-19 virus into cells by redistributing membrane cholesterol. The research suggested that Platycodin D is a potent natural compound for preventing or treating COVID-19.

4. Codonopsis Lanceolata

Codonopsis lanceolata is traditionally used to treat bronchitis, coughs, psychoneurosis, cancer, lung injuries, and more. Research has also revealed its cognitive-enhancing effect, making it a potential treatment method for Alzheimer's disease.

Codonopsis lanceolata is not only utilized for its medicinal properties but is also a popular food in South Korea. It can be used as a salad ingredient, grilled, fried, or pickled to make kimchi.

A study published in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in 2022 revealed that the active compound Lancemaside A, found in Codonopsis lanceolata, can inhibit SARS-CoV-2 infection. It is effective against the original virus strain and demonstrates nearly the same level of infection resistance against variants like omicron. Lancemaside A can disrupt the fusion of the virus with cell receptors, thereby inhibiting the virus's entry pathway.

5. Ganoderma Lucidum

A Taiwanese study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in 2021 found, through cell and animal experiments, that components like Ganoderma lucidum (RF3) extract exhibited antiviral effects against the COVID-19 virus. The animal study involving hamsters further confirmed that these components can effectively reduce the viral load in the lungs.
Ganoderma lucidum, as a traditional Chinese medicine, can be used to treat prolonged illness, insomnia, coronary heart disease, hypertension, and other conditions. It can also be incorporated into the diet as a functional food, with preparation methods encompassing boiling in water, soaking in alcohol, and simmering in soups.

6. Mentha Haplocalyx

Mentha haplocalyx can be used to address various conditions, including colds with fever, headaches, sore throats, rashes, itchy skin, and more. The same Taiwanese study mentioned above also found it effective against the COVID-19 virus. It offers anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects when applied topically. Moreover, it is also a common spice and can be used as a flavoring agent for beverages like tea and alcohol.

7. Perilla Frutescens

Perilla frutescens is commonly used in traditional medicine to treat depression, anxiety, and headaches. Modern pharmacological research has shown it possesses antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-allergic, antidepressant, anti-cancer, and neuroprotective effects. It is also a popular spice in many countries and is used for grilling, stewing, and preparing various dishes. The aforementioned Taiwanese study also found it an effective antiviral against the COVID-19 virus.