Covid-19, which is caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS- CoV-2), has become a worldwide emergency. We do not have any therapeutic options for its treatment. So an alternative way has to be found to control this deadly viral disease.
The immune system is an amazing and complex network and mechanism that can recognise millions of enemies and save our body from them. Evidences show that SARS-CoV-2 disrupts the normal immune responses, leading to an impaired immune system. Thus, modulating the immune system (boosting the immune defenses) can be the best way to prevent us from Covid-19.
Nutraceuticals are products with medicinal as well as general nutritional values while also having a broad spectrum of health benefits including immune system modulation. Several medicinal plants and phytochemicals are known to have immune-modulatory properties.
Nepal is rich in biodiversity, and we could identify and utilise them in the form of nutraceuticals and simple herbal products to modulate our immune system.
Nepal has many easily found medicinal plants and foods with medicinal value that could help in immune system modulation.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is the most used ingredient in the Nepali kitchen. It has tremendous medicinal value with immune system modulation property. Other common plants are Aloe vera, Azadirachta indica (neem), Zanthoxylum armatum (timur) and Ocimum sanctum (basil/Tulsi). Phytochemicals from these plants have antiviral, anti-inflammatory and immune-modulatory properties through different pathways.
If we can utilise these and other plants found in abundance in Nepal and formulate them into herbal medicines, we can boost our immune defences to protect ourselves from viral infections. Also, Nepal has tremendous possibility for exporting these products.
For utilising these nutraceuticals and herbal products, graduate students and researchers here can communicate with their counterparts abroad to study these medicinal plants having immune-modulatory function.
After finding the potent medicinal plants with immuno-modulatory capacity, cultivation of these plants should be done on a large scale. This will also create job opportunities and provide raw materials for nutraceuticals and herbal products.
These plants can be used to produce herbal products like tea and juice in the initial stage.
Later, the government can emphasise on establishing big manufacturing companies where phytochemicals can be isolated, and plant-derived nutraceuticals and herbal products can be manufactured.
The writer is a PhD Student of Kyungpook National University, Daegu South Korea.
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