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Turning to natural alternatives for COVID-19 treatment

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A medical expert shares how people are increasingly falling back on natural immunity boosting methods in these uncertain times

ByDr Vijay Kamat

November 11, 2020 (IANSlifeWith the novel coronavirus infecting over five crore people globally, boosting immunity is the biggest concern today. A body's immune system is its defense system. When a cold or flu virus, or the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 gets into your body, your immune system mounts an attack. However, this attack needs to be balanced as an overactive immune system can cause a cytokine storm. 

While there is no one specific treatment or cure which could kill the COVID causing virus, a number of anti-viral, antimalarial and inflammation-fighting medicines like HCQ (Hydroxychloroquine), Remdesivir, Favipiravir and dexamethasone are being used in the hospitals. 

While these drugs were initially stated to be effective in treating COVID-19, several studies emerged which did not support their touted efficacy and safety rates. A report appeared in the 'New England Journal of Medicine' (NEJM), underlined that HCQ (Hydroxychloroquine) did not work for critically ill patients. Further, another study done in New York, stated that using HCQ did not show extensive results and even induced certain side-effects that were not seen before. Based on clinical data, doctors using Favipiravir in the trials for Covid-19 observed that the drug suppressed the symptoms in people suffering from mild attacks of corona. However, Favipiravir does not offer total safety and the disease may recur in the patient. Additionally, the Solidarity Trial conducted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) showed that Remdesivir appeared to have little or no effect on mortality or length of hospital stays among patients with the respiratory disease.

Of all the potential therapies, Vitamins A, C, D, Zinc and Iron are most known for their roles in the immune system. Recently, a meta-analysis of a clinical trial stated that these supplements do not protect against Covid-19. It says having too much vitamins and minerals can impact overall immunity. 

Thus, instead of taking additional supplements, one should focus on other aspects of supporting your immune system such as exercising, hydrating, getting enough sleep and eating fruit and vegetables. Studies suggest that all these supplements had little or no effect on overall mortality, initiation of ventilation and duration of hospital stay in hospitalised patients. This leads us to ancient herbal medicine as numerous places including China, Madagascar, Ghana, Central African Republic, Kerala and Goa seem to be keeping mortality rates low by using herbs. 


How Alternative Treatments Are Helping? 

As the scientists and medical experts across the globe are working tirelessly to procure a treatment to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. A groundbreaking interim result of a clinical trial of COVID-19 patients has given rise to new hopes. The patients underwent natural treatment for COVID-19 in three hospitals and it was found that the combination treatment of Ayurvedic remedy known as “‘Immunofree” by the Corival Life Sciences, and ‘Reginmune’ by Biogetica which is a Nutraceutical produced better results when compared to the conventional treatment approved by the government for COVID-19. It should be noted that none of the patients who were given the natural treatment progressed into developing severe symptoms or needed life support. 

However, Ayurveda TCM and African traditional medicine focuses on lifestyle practices and immunity for cure and prevention of diseases. For instance, herbs like - Pushkarmool (Inula Racemosa), Dhamanaka (Artemisia Nilagirica), Pippali (Piper Longum), Kalmegh (Andrographis Paniculata), Bhumamalaki (Phyllanthus amarus), Ocimum Sanctum (Tulsi) and Glycyrrhzia Glabra (Liquorice), which have been used extensively in many countries and have found significant inhibition of the virus. They work on improving the body's capabilities like the body's T-cells and natural killer cells, which will greatly improve the chances of recovery when the virus catches you. 

Apart from this, the Ministry of AYUSH, in its latest guidance, issued an advisory to states across the country recommending the use of traditional homeopathic drugs, Arsenicum Album 30 as a form of preventive medicine against COVID-19. Its prophylactic use has been suggested to battle some of the other symptoms associated with a flu-like infection, which have also been observed in COVID positive patients. In fact, numerous countries and states that have adopted or mandated natural treatment for Novel Coronavirus have shown mortality rates less than 1/10 of their neighbours. However, Arsenicum Album does not have data supporting it like these herbs above do from in silica, in vitro and in vivo studies. 

With the anxiety around the disease, people are seeking “back to roots” or “traditional” remedies, such as immunity boosters to seek comfort. It seems like the aforementioned herbs can possibly do the body more good than harm and therefore should be taken by all during this pandemic. 


(The author Dr Vijay Kamat, is Medical Director, Biogetica)