Nigella sativa could be used to treat COVID-19

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A flowering plant native to North Africa and Western Asia could be utilized in the future treatment of COVID-19 infection.

The seeds of the plant, Nigella sativa, have been used for centuries as a traditional remedy for multiple medical conditions, including inflammation and infections. Now, an Australian-first research review article has found it could be used to treat COVID-19.

“There is growing evidence from modeling studies that thymoquinone, an active ingredient of Nigella sativa, more commonly known as the fennel flower, can stick to the COVID- 19 virus spike protein and stop the virus from causing a lung infection.

“It may also block the ‘cytokine’ storm that affects seriously ill patients who are hospitalized with COVID-19,” said Professor Kaneez Fatima Shad, lead author of a recently published comprehensive review article in Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology.

Thymoquinone has been extensively studied in laboratories, including animal studies. These studies have shown that thymoquinone can moderate our immune system in a good way, by preventing pro-inflammation chemicals such as interleukins from been released.

This gives thymoquinone a potential role as a treatment for allergic conditions such as asthma, eczema, arthritis conditions including rheumatoid and osteoarthritis and even possibly multiple sclerosis.

The review paper details the mechanisms of action of Nigella sativa and thymoquinone and how they are a promising future treatment of COVID-19 infection. There have been many barriers to the development of Nigella sativa as a therapeutic agent in large part due to its poor natural gastrointestinal absorption.

“Advances in pharmacological development such as nanotechnology have seen the chance to overcome this barrier to enable for its use as an effective oral medication.

“Furthermore, the drug has recently been successfully given to patients as a nasal spray and topical paste,” said Dr. Wissam Soubra, co-author.

Nigella sativa has been shown to be helpful in treating high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes mellitus. As an anti-inflammatory treatment, Nigella sativa has also been found to help patients with allergic rhinitis and sinusitis, eczema, osteoarthritis and childhood epilepsy.

Nigella sativa has also been proven to be effective in a laboratory environment in killing bacteria such as staphylococcus aureus that can cause a range of mild to severe infections if they enter the skin, and viruses including influenza.

“The review paper provides insight into a natural product that has been used as a traditional remedy for over thousand years and may be finally receiving the recognition it deserves,” said Associate Professor Dennis Cordato, co-author.

The study, “The role of thymoquinone, a major constituent of Nigella sativa, in the treatment of inflammatory and infectious diseases,” was recently published in the journal Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology.


The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has infected more than forty million people and has resulted in more than a million deaths worldwide. In the absence of an effective prophylactic vaccine, there is a dire need for finding effective treatments for COVID-19 patients. At a minimum, an ideal treatment should expedite symptomatic recovery, decrease viral transmission in the community with earlier viral clearance in the infected patients, and reduce mortality.

In this context, treatments including hydroxychloroquine/azithromycin, lopinavir-ritonavir, remdesivir, dexamethasone, convalescent plasma and antibody therapies have shown some efficacy.1-4 However, there is still a long way to go before we have an effective treatment regimen for COVID-19.

To this end, we have conducted a clinical trial in which we have investigated the potential efficacy of a combination of honey and Nigella sativa (HNS) in treating COVID-19 patients.

Both components of HNS have anti-viral, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory and immune-modulatory effects with proven safety profiles. 5-8 The beneficial effects of honey against different viruses including rubella virus, Herpes Simplex virus, Hepatitis virus, and Varicella-Zoster virus have been reported earlier.6

Moreover, in-silico molecular docking studies have shown that six flavonoid compounds from honey might inhibit severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) replication by binding to the viral 3-chymotrypsin-like-cysteine protease.9 Honey also has strong antibacterial activity against clinically important gram-positive bacteria (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and gram-negative bacteria (Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Enterobacter spp, and Klebsiella).

Additionally, honey has shown synergism with other antibiotics like oxacillin, tetracycline, imipenem and meropenem.6 The use of honey not only improves the proliferation of T and B lymphocytes, but also their phagocytic activity. It additionally inhibits the expression of vital pro-inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin (IL) 1 beta and IL-6.

Lymphocyte-mediated antiviral activity has proven to be poorly effective against COVID-19, especially considering the exaggerated release of pro-inflammatory mediators despite lymphocytopenia. Thus, honey is postulated to play a pivotal role in fighting COVID-19.10 Its’ use has shown to be more beneficial in upper respiratory tract infections than usual care especially in the context of cough frequency and severity.11

Nigella sativa (NS), a widely used medicinal plant of the family Ranunculaceae and commonly known as Black Cumin/Kalonji, has shown to exert antiviral effects against various viruses such as human immunodeficiency virus and hepatitis C virus.12

It has also shown to decrease the replication of SARS-CoV in-vitro in cell cultures.13 Molecular docking studies have shown that some of its’ components such as nigelledine, α-hederin and thymoquinone have high affinity with several SARS-CoV-2 enzymes and proteins.

In fact, they exhibit an energy complex score better than that of chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine and favipiravir – the drugs that have shown some anti-SARS-CoV-2 activity. NS has shown antibacterial properties against many bacteria including drug sensitive and resistant S. aureus, P. aeruginosa, Helicobacter pylori, and Escherichia coli. Moreover, NS has shown synergism with streptomycin and gentamycin.

It also demodulates the secretion of a number of pro-inflammatory mediators and improves helper-T cell (T4) and suppressor-T-cell (T8) ratio with increased natural killer (NK) cell activity. It also manifests potential radical scavenging.14, 15

As honey and Nigella sativa exhibit overlapping pharmacological profiles, we reasoned that the combination could be more effective in mitigating severity of the disease, controlling viral replication and curing COVID-19 patients.

The combination has been used successfully in various disease conditions.16-18 We report here that the HNS treatment results in earlier recovery and viral clearance in COVID-19 patients.

reference link :https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.10.30.20217364v4.full


More information: Kaneez Fatima Shad et al, The role of thymoquinone, a major constituent of Nigella sativa, in the treatment of inflammatory and infectious diseases, Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology (2021). DOI: 10.1111/1440-1681.13553

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