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The Role of Adaptogens in Prophylaxis and Treatment of Viral Respiratory Infections

Written by Thomas Brendler and Alexander Panossian
first published in The role of adaptogens in prophylaxis and treatment of viral respiratory infections

Introduction

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought new challenges to biomedical sciences, specifically, the development of effective therapeutics for prevention and treatment of acute viral and stress-induced diseases. Adaptogens are a class of botanicals that offer promise in the prevention and adjunctive treatment of acute viral infections, such as SARS-CoV-2.

Adaptogens are natural stress-protective plants or plant compounds that increase adaptability, resilience, survival and “the state of non-specific resistance” to harmful factors, including bacterial and viral pathogens. Over 100 species of botanicals have been reported to have adaptogenic activity, however, only few, have been shown to exhibit multitarget effects on the neuroendocrine-immune system by triggering adaptive stress response, including stimulating cellular and organismal defense systems, activating intracellular and extracellular adaptive signaling pathways, expression of stress-activated proteins resulting in transient change of the protection or repair capacity and increase of non-specific resistance and adaptation in stress (Panossian 2017). These are, eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus), ginseng (Panax spp.), rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea), schisandra (Schisandra chinensis), ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), and andrographis (Andrographis paniculata).

Acute viral infections have four distinct stages: infection, viral replication, escalating inflammation, and pathogenic inflammation. In the initial infection phase, there are numerous interactions between components of host defense and the viral pathogen —genomic, transcriptomic, proteomic, metabolomic and macrobiotic (Yang et al. 2020). Consequently, effective prevention or treatment of a viral infection and other viral infections requires therapeutic intervention affecting the innate and adaptive immune system, phases I–III metabolizing enzymes of detoxifying and repair systems, as well as the virus’ life cycle and proliferation (Panossian et al. 2020).

Thomas Brendler owns a consultancy business called PlantaPhile® which is based in the US, Germany, and the UK. It focuses on all aspects of herbal product development, registration and licensing.

For the last 22 years, I have developed and managed projects for industry on the use of plants in medicine, food and cosmetics. As a consultant to the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the Centre for Development of Enterprise and the International Trade Centre I have been involved in the preparation, management and execution of various public funded research projects. In 2005 I co-founded the Association of African Medicinal Plants Standards. I currently serve as director of AAMPS and editor-in-chief of the AAMPS African Herbal Pharmacopoeia (2010). I have been author of Herb-CD®, a digital encyclopaedia of medicinal plants, and co-authored, edited and contributed to a wide range of publications on phytotherapy and natural product regulation, most notably "Physician's Desk Reference for Herbal Medicines", "Medicinal and Aromatic Plants of Indian Ocean Islands" and "A Practical Guide To Licensing Herbal Medicinal Products". I am a member of the editorial board of Phytotherapy Research and a regular peer reviewer for Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Ethnobotany Research & Applications, Economic Botany and Herbalgram. I also contributed to the translation into English of the German Commission E monographs on medicinal plants. From 2009-2010 I spent one year as a visiting scholar at Rutgers University (NJ, USA), Department of Plant Biology and Pathology, Natural Product Research Group.

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