An Australian-first research review article, written by two University of Technology Sydney (UTS) professors, has found that the Nigella Sativa plant could be used in the future treatment of COVID-19 infection.
Nigella Sativa, a flowering plant native to North Africa and Western Asia, has traditionally been used for its seeds for multiple medical conditions, including inflammation and infections.
“There is growing evidence from modelling 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,” UTS lead author Professor Kaneez Fatima Shad said.
“It may also block the ‘cytokine’ storm that affects seriously ill patients who are hospitalised with COVID-19.”
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 UTS study 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,” UTS co-author Dr Wissam Soubra said.
“Furthermore, the drug has recently been successfully given to patients as a nasal spray and topical paste.”
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, which 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,” co-author associate professor Dennis Cordato said.
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.