Can Essential Oils Combat Coronavirus?

beneficial Essential oil in Corona

Coronavirus and Its Spread

Everyone knows that coronavirus developed in December 2019 in China and spread to different regions and countries worldwide. People who get sick COVID 19 pandemic develop respiratory issues and show symptoms of fever, cough, and pneumonia.  Coronavirus is an enveloped virus containing non-segmented positive-stranded genomic RNA (RiboNucleic Acid) in the Coronaviridae family. The viruses possess large viral genomes and form incomplete spheres with pleomorphic particles. They can use the diversity of cellular membranes at several steps of the virus’s life cycle and cause multiple illnesses including severe acute and the Middle East respiratory syndrome, gastroenteritis, bronchitis, and hepatitis in humans and animals. They are different from the SARS coronavirus identified in 2003.

Coronavirus spreads by coming in contact with the respiratory droplets produced during sneezing, coughing, or saliva discharge by infected humans. They also spread by sharing a drink or food utensils, telephones, door handles, taxis, pens or pencils, and other such surface objects. Therefore, it is important to maintain cleanliness and hygiene by covering the mouth & nose and by washing hands and immunity by taking steam. According to the Consumer Health Information Center (UK), an airless gathering place or atmosphere dries the mucous membrane in the respiratory system and changes body temperature, and reduces resistance against catching flu and colds.

COVISHILD and COVACCINE have come into the market and they have not reached as many people as required. Till the time the whole world population is vaccinated, the essential oils with antiviral activities can alleviate the situation for a human benefit at large. More than 70% of the post genomically produced drugs and medications have a natural origin or are based on natural product chemistry. The pharmaceutical industry is researching more and more medicinal plants to identify lead compounds by focusing on suitable alternative antiviral molecules.

Coronavirus and Essential Oils

Diverse herbal plants and their parts produce multiple secondary metabolites and chemical compounds that inhibit viral replication and infection. Such plants have been traditionally used for the treatment of infectious and non-infectious ailments. They contain plant essence & properties in the form of bio-active molecules beneficial in different health conditions. The bio-active molecules are flavonoids, terpenes, polysaccharides, phenols, alkaloids, amino acids, and essential oils derived from plant parts. 

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The essential oils are employed in phytomedicine meant for virus replication in hepatitis B, herpes simplex, immunodeficiency, and SARS, as they possess contain phytochemical compounds such as monoterpenes, oxygenated sesquiterpenes, and phenylpropanoids besides alcohols, aldehydes, ketones, ethers, and alcohols. These compounds provide medicinal plant-based essential oils their fragrance and biological properties such as antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, wound-healing, antifungal, and anti-cancer. They enable pharmacological activities 

Studies on Effect of EOs on COVID-19

Multiple Vivo and Vitro research studies have been conducted in vivo and in vitro for finding out the effect of essential oils and oleoresins on coronavirus. In vivo studies, the research is carried out within a living organism with human or animal clinical trials. Whereas, Vitro study is conducted outside of a living organism by studying cells in culture or techniques of testing antibiotic sensitivity of bacteria.

A vitro study was conducted for the treatment of avian (related to birds) Infectious Bronchitis Virus in chickens and birds for two host systems – Vero E6 cells and the embryonated eggs. A spray with 1:20 EO dilution was an excellent cure and it protected them after 3-4 days of clinical signs of disease and decreased transmission of the said virus for two weeks. The antiviral effect of EOs was more before the virus attack, indicating EOs are virucidal. 

A vitro study conducted by Wen et al.on 221 phytochemical compounds and Constituents of EOs tested antiviral effect against coronavirus-caused severe acute respiratory syndrome. In this, a cell-based assay measuring SARS-CoV-induced cytopathogenic effect was used on Vero E6 cells. The study revealed that ten diterpenoids, two sesquiterpenoids, and two triterpenoids were strongly active against the virus and its growth with a concentration between 3.3 and 10uM. It was observed that the concentration of 22 compounds inhibits Vero E6 proliferation (CC50) and viral replication (EC50) by 50%. These phytochemical constituents in EOs display specific and significant anti-SARS CoV effects and thus offer an innovative way to make more effective drugs against SARS covid, avian influenza virus, and Newcastle disease virus.

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The Individual EOs and Their Effects

Eucalyptus Essential Oil – This essential oil has been traditionally used to treat various respiratory disorders such as sinusitis, bronchitis, and pharyngitis. Its eucalyptol and 1, 8 cineole content relaxes muscles and broadens the airways of the respiratory system. 

The lungs of the COVID-19 positive patients are abnormally affected due to uncommon and overactive inflammatory responses. The increased inflammation enhances the levels of circulating cytokines (one kind of immunity regulator whose higher level indicates lower immunity), profound lymphopenia (one kind of white blood cells whose lower level indicates low immunity), and major mononuclear cell infiltration in the lungs, heart, spleen, lymph nodes, and kidneys.

The studies have shown that the immunomodulatory properties of eucalyptus oil and eucalyptol reduced the pro-inflammatory cytokines. The oil also displays alleviating inhalation properties for nasal and throat problems and disinfectant properties for inhibiting viruses on utensils and filter devices. Thus, eucalyptus oil has the potential to play a critical role in the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 with the validation of further studies.

Garlic Oil – Garlic oil has been used as a herbal and folk medicine in the treatment of the common cold, influenza, and other kinds of infections traditionally. 18 compounds are identified, the major compounds are allyl disulfide (28.4%), allyl trisulfide (22.8%), allyl (E)-1-propenyl disulfide (8.2%), allyl methyl trisulfide (6.7%), and diallyl tetrasulfide (6.5%). Virus-induced oxidative stress plays an important role in the viral life cycle and pathogenesis of viral ailments. All the compounds in garlic oil interact with host protein and viral proteases that act as a facilitator or a barrier for the SARS CoV-2 virus. Thus, garlic oil can prevent the entry of viruses into host cells and activate molecular antioxidant pathways that reduce the release of more cytokines.

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The Antiviral Compounds In Other Essential Oils

Out of 171 studied phytochemical compounds, (E, E)-alpha-farnesene,  (E, E)-farnesol, and (E) nerolidol compounds demonstrate inhibiting activities for SARS-CoV-2 viral replication. They are present in varying quantities in essential oils, but studies and usage require the validation of experts. Carvacrol, menthol, and eugenol compounds also help prevent coronavirus infliction in some or other way. Menthol compounds help reduce the levels of proinflammatory cytokines and tumor necrosis factors. Eugenol compounds safeguard the lungs against leukocytes and cytokines.

Conclusion

Though Eucalyptus and Garlic oils have been recommended for prevention or cure of COVID-19. Their intake and dosage should be guided by experts and the essential oils should be used as an alternative or complementary medicine not as a single cure. Essential oils with linalool and pinene compounds should be avoided to prevent respiratory complications and allergies.

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