Extracts from the bark of the Neem tree may treat coronavirus infections and stop new COVID variants according to recent studies. Neem is an Ayurvedic remedy used for thousands of years for a number of ailments.
(Note: The research illustrated in this article is not to be considered a substitute for medical treatments or vaccination against COVID-19. See your doctor if you have symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19.)
Neem studied in clinical trial against COVID-19
Researchers from India’s All India Institute of Ayurveda tested 190 hospital health workers and relatives of COVID-19 patients. In this double-blind randomized study, half were given a placebo. The other half of the group were given 50 milligrams of a Neem leaf extract twice a day for a four weeks.
The researchers then followed the subjects for 56 days. They tested for COVID-19 incidence and length of infection together with safety and quality of life.
During the study 11 of the subjects tested positive for COVID-19. Eight of these were in the placebo group and 3 were in the Neem group.
Thus the ability to prevent infection was calculated at a 55 percent effective rate.
The researchers concluded:
“The study found a reduced risk of COVID-19 infection in participants receiving Neem capsules, which demonstrates its potential as a prophylactic treatment for the prevention of COVID-19 infection.”
Neem shows treatment effects in lab research
Further evidence of Neem’s ability to combat COVID-19 comes from a 2022 study by scientists at the University of Colorado College of Medicine. The scientists partnered with researchers from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Kolkata.
This study tested extracts from Neem bark. They found that many compounds in the bark target a variety of COVID-19 proteins. These tests suggested that Neem extract is an antiviral agent against SARS-CoV-2.
Then the researchers used computer modeling and found Neem bark extract will bind to the COVID-19 spike protein at various locations. This will effectively allow Neem to prevent the coronavirus from entering cells.
Maria Nagel, MD, research professor in the department of neurology and ophthalmology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine stated:
“The goal of this research is to develop a Neem-based medication that can reduce the risk of serious illness when someone is infected with coronaviruses.”
Similar results were found by scientists at the University of Pennsylvania. The researchers, Dr. Das Sarma and Dr. Ken Shindler have been investigating the notion that Neem extract compounds bind to the coronavirus spike protein. This makes the coronavirus unable to bind within the body’s cells.
Neem may also prevent variants
The intriguing part of this research from the University of Colorado team was the discovery that Neem may prevent future variants of COVID-19.
The lab work tested Neem bark extract among COVID-19 infected human lung cells. The extract effectively halted infection as well as decreased virus replication. This means the potential for variants is decreased.
Dr. Nagal stated:
“We hope that scientists won’t have to continuously develop new therapies every time a new SARS-CoV-2 variant emerges. Just like how we take penicillin for strep throat, we envision taking the Neem-based drug for COVID, allowing us to resume our normal lives without fear of hospitalization and death.”
“The next step in our research is to identify the specific components in Neem bark extract that are antiviral,” Dr. Nagal continued. “Because these components bind to various regions of SARS-CoV-2, we believe that it will be effective on emerging variants with spike mutations. We will then determine the formulation of dosage for an antiviral drug to treat coronavirus infections.”
What is Neem?
The Neem tree (Azadirachta indica) is also called nimtree and Indian Lilac. The tree is a native to the parts of the Middle East, the African continent and the southern region of India. It is a tropical vine sometimes considered a weed, but it will grow into a large tree with heights over 100 foot.
The seeds of the tree are used to make Neem oil, and the bark of the Neem tree is also used therapeutically in traditional medicine. It is most known for the compound azadirachtin, often used as an insecticide. Other compounds include triterpenes, catechins, sitosterols, glycerides, carotenes, nimbolide, limonoids and quercetin.
Medicinal uses of Neem include being used to treat malaria, stomach ailments, ulcers, skin issues, scabies and others. It’s properties include being anti-parasitic, anti-bacterial and antiviral properties. The bark extract has helped treat malaria, stomach and intestinal ulcers, skin diseases and many other diseases.
Neem is often used externally, but internal uses should be short-term due to its affects on the liver and kidneys. For this reason, internal uses typically utilize extracts that are carefully tested for safety.
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Lucky Sarkar, Lauren Oko, Soham Gupta, Andrew N. Bubak, Bishnu Das, Parna Gupta, Abass Alao Safiriyu, Chirag Singhal, Ujjwal Neogi, David Bloom, Arup Banerjee, Ravi Mahalingam, Randall J. Cohrs, Michael Koval, Kenneth S. Shindler, Debnath Pal, Maria Nagel, Jayasri Das Sarma. Azadirachta indica A. Juss bark extract and its Nimbin isomers restrict β-coronaviral infection and replication. Virology, 2022; 569: 13 DOI: 10.1016/j.virol.2022.01.002
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