In a new study from Columbia University, researchers found that extracts from the leaves of the Artemisia annua plant, a medicinal herb also known as sweet wormwood, inhibit the replication of the COVID-19 virus and two of its recent variants.
They also found that extracts of the plant were more effective against the virus when levels of a key compound in the plant, artemisinin, were low.
The findings suggest that one or more compounds in Artemisia annua, or A. annua, that have not yet been identified may point to a safe, low-cost therapeutic treatment for SARS-CoV-2.
Artemisia annua has been studied extensively, and it has been used safely for more than 2,000 years in traditional medicine to treat a variety of fever-related ailments.
In the study, the team soaked dried leaves of A. annua, obtained from four continents in hot water and tested the solutions against SARS-CoV-2 and two variants originating from the United Kingdom and South Africa.
Some leaf samples were 12 years old but still potent against the virus. Researchers also tested artemisinin alone against the viruses, but the plant extracts were more potent.
Artemisinin is a compound naturally produced by the plant, but is usually extracted, chemically modified, and developed in combination with other drugs to treat malaria.
Results showed that the extracts of A. annua did not block the virus from entering cells but interfered with the virus’ ability to replicate, thus killing it.
In addition, the anti-replication activity did not appear linked to artemisinin or flavonoids, which are natural substances in the plants.
These findings add to evidence that this plant possesses compounds that could help patients who are infected with COVID-19.
The plant possesses compounds that inhibit inflammation and the formation of scar-like tissues known as fibrosis, which also affect patients with COVID-19.
Together, these characteristics point to a plant that bears a lot more study.
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The study is published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology. One author of the study is Biology Professor Pamela Weathers.
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