Potential of Malawi’s medicinal plants in Covid-19 disease management: A review

Ibrahim Chikowe 1*, Andrew G. Mtewa 2, David Tembo 3, Dallas Smith 1, Edna Ibrahim 3, BonfaceMwamatope 4, Justin Nkhungulu 1, Peter Kumpalume 1, Alfred Maroyi 5

  1. Pharmacy Department, College of Medicine, University of Malawi, Blantyre, Malawi/Kamuzu University of Health Sciences
  2. Chemistry Section, Malawi Institute of Technology, Malawi University of Science and Technology, Thyolo, Malawi.
  3. The Polytechnic, University of Malawi, Blantyre, Malawi/Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences
    4 University of Livingstonia, Rumphi, Malawi.
  4. University of Fort Hare, Alice, South Africa.

*Correspondance: chikoweib@yahoo.co.uk; ichikowe@medcol.mw.


The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has triggered an international pandemic that has led to significant public health problems. To date, limited evidence exists to suggest that drugs are effective against the disease. As possible treatments are being investigated, herbal medicines have shown potential for producing novel antiviral agents for the COVID-19 disease.
This review explored the potential of Malawi’s traditional medicinal plants for the management of COVID-19.
The authors searched on PubMed and Google scholar for medicinal plants that are used in Malawi and published in openly available peer reviewed journals. Plants linked with antiviral treatment, anti-COVID-19 activity or COVID-19 symptoms management were targeted. These included activity against pneumonia, inflammation, cough, difficulty in breathing, pain/aches, fever, diarrhoea, rheumatism, fatigue, asthma, immunocompromised and cardiovascular diseases.
11 studies were found with 306 plant species. 127 plant species had at least one COVID-19 related pharmacological activity. Of these plant species, the number of herbal entities used for each indication was: pain/aches (87), fever (2), pneumonia (9), breathing/asthma problems (5), coughing (11), diarrhoea (1), immunosuppression (8), blood issues (10), fatigue (2), heart problems (11), inflammation (8), rheumatism (10) and viral diseases (12). Thirty (30) species were used for more than one disease and Azedarachta indica topped the list (6 of the 13 COVID-19 related diseases). The majority of the species had phytochemicals known to have antiviral activity or mechanisms of actions linked to COVID-19 and consequent diseases’ treatment pathways.
Medicinal plants are a promising source of compounds that can be used for drug development of COVID-19 related diseases. This review highlights potential targets for the World Health Organization and other research entities to explore in order to assist in controlling the pandemic.
Key Words: traditional medicine, herbal products, corona virus, drug development, screening.

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