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Asthma plant: Common weed that holds great hope for curing Coronavirus symptoms

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Abdulfatah Oladeinde

Scientists around the world have been working round the clock to develop a cure for the Coronavirus disease, which has confined most of the human populations to their homes. 

Synthetic drug development is a complex time-consuming procedure of tests and approvals by regulatory authorities. It is, therefore, unlikely that a certified cure for the Coronavirus infection, which has caused more than 250,000 fatalities globally, will be in the pharmacies soon.

In the meantime, some scientists have been recommending herbal alternatives to alleviate symptoms associated with the Coronavirus.

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At the University of Ibadan in Nigeria, a group of 10 scientists recently announced that their study indicated that Asthma plant, with the scientific name, Euphorbia Hirta could mitigate some of the symptoms the Coronavirus patients experience.

The University of Ibadan group of lecturers led by Prof. Ademola Ladele (Agricultural Extensionist) include Prof. Rasheed Awodoyin (Weed Ecologist)

Prof. Olaniyi Babayemi (Animal Scientist), Prof. Olapeju Aiyelaagbe (Chemist), Dr Ahmed Abu (Animal Scientist), Dr. Adeoluwa (Organic Agriculturist), Dr. Olajumoke Fayinminnu (Toxicologist), Dr. Funmilayo Adebiyi (Animal Scientist), Dr. Idayat Gbadamosi (Ethnobotanist) and Dr J. Badejo (Drug Development Specialist).

Some of the diseases, which they identified the Asthma plant could cure, include dry cough, fever and breathing disorders.

A check online for more information revealed that Euphorbia Hirta has been used in traditional medicine in Asia for ages for the treatment of bronchitic asthma, upper respiratory catarrh and other respiratory illnesses as well as conjunctivitis.

It is also commonly used in the treatment of malaria and dengue fever, digestive disorders, diarrhoea and dysentery, jaundice, gonorrhoea, pimples and worm infestation in children. It is also used in some regions to induce vomiting.

While it is considered as anti-fertility and its use by pregnant women advised against, the plant is, however, recommended to improve lactation in breastfeeding mothers.

These multiple qualities of the Asthma plant convinced me to search for it. It didn’t take long to be found in the bush path that I drove to several kilometres away from home. I later realised that the plant is even right in my street! The Asthma plant is everywhere around us by the roadside, in gardens and compounds. It is one of the weeds we consider invasive and would waste no time in weeding out. One surprising feature of the plant that struck me when I found it is that its fruit resembles the Coronavirus symbol.

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The UI lecturers gave its local names as Asin Uloko in Edo, Nonon Kurciya in Hausa, Chamma Chamma in Kanuri, Endamyel in Fula-Fulfulde (Borno), Ba Ala in Owerri and Akun Esan in Yoruba. I, however, made further enquiries, which revealed that the Yoruba also call the plant ewé ègélè or emi ilè. (Pronounce with a dot under e in emi, ile and egele).

Explaining the use of the plant, Professor

Rasheed Awodoyin had told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that after being boiled, it could be taken as a tea and could serve as first aid treatment for Coronavirus victims.

“Asthma plant tea softens dry cough, releases the mucus as phlegm. It is a safe herb tea, though not recommended for pregnant women and should be taken for six consecutive days.

“Just get a handful of the plant, steep in boiling water for 15 minutes, drink freely, as the taste is pleasant. I use it at my family level. I don’t even use it for more than three days before getting immediate result.”

Speaking further on the health benefits of Euphorbia Hirta, the leader of the scientists, Prof. Ademola Ladele, said asthma plant could also be used in the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders (diarrhoea, dysentery, intestinal parasitosis) as well as bronchial and respiratory diseases (asthma, bronchitis, hay fever, flu).

“The aqueous extract from the plant exhibits anxiolytic, analgesic, antipyretic and anti-inflammatory activities; the root decoction of the plant is also beneficial for nursing mothers deficient in milk (galactagogue).

“The aqueous extract shows antioxidant effect and free radical scavenging activity. It is used to lower blood pressure, treat athletes foot, dengue fever and for production of blood platelets.

“It can also be used to relieve anxiety and stress. In South India, it is used as ear drops in the treatment of boils, sore and wounds; a decoction of the leaves induces milk flow and the leaf chewed with palm kernel for restoration of virility.

“It is also effective in treating ulcers, while the plant is also eaten as a vegetable; it is a powerful herb which should be used in moderation.

“In Benin City, the plant is pounded, mixed with palm oil and licked to treat any type of cough,” he said.

Prof. Ladele added that although the plant was reported to have anti-fertility activity, a report from Guinea revealed that the plant extract had practically no toxicity towards man and guinea pigs.

The Asthma plant appears to hold succour as first aid for victims of coronavirus in Nigeria, some of whom have been reported dying while waiting for test result or medical treatment.

It is not mere happenstance that Euphorbia Hirta grows in almost all regions of our country. As we use other herbs and spices in place of synthetic drugs for the treatment of regular ailments such as malaria, pile, etcetera, Asthma plant tea could also be used in this coronavirus emergency instead of watching victims die before getting to isolation centres or while awaiting conventional treatment.

The Nigerian Government should look inward for solutions to our problems. The efficacy of the Asthma plant and other local herbs suggested by our own scientists should be to test. That was the home-grown approach Madagascar adopted. If this pandemic doesn’t teach us the lesson to find local solutions to our challenges, then we wouldn’t have learnt anything.

Meanwhile, I drank small quantities of Asthma plant tea as a protective therapy for six days and found it beneficial. I was encouraged by its declaration by the UI scientists as non-toxic, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and anti-fungal qualities. This greenish, reddish or purplish annual hairy plant with a slender stem may well be the antidote to the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the world.