Covid-19: a plant in the News

Mugwort, called artemisia in Corsica and very present on the island, has been used for millennia in traditional medicine. A variety of this plant, Artemisia annua, or Chinese wormwood, is said to be a natural remedy for the Coronavirus. At the time of the fifth wave and the third dose, spotlight on a plant with ancestral virtues that is returning to the heart of the news.

The subject has aroused many controversies, including in Corsica where other species of mugwort are ancestrally known to treat various pathologies. Like all pandemics and serious diseases, the Covid generates an innumerable production of scientific studies but also, beyond the theses concerning vaccines, various writings on the subject of possible remedies resulting in particular from herbalism and non-order. pharmaceutical. This production now benefits from a sounding board of disproportionate magnitude with the Internet, sites and social networks, which ensure an international audience. It is the same for the debates generated in the scientific community, the political world and the public, and the online sale of products supposed to cure the infection or to prevent it, that they are decoctions, herbal teas or capsules.Those based onArtemisia annua  have given this plant a dazzling notoriety.

 
Covid Organics
in Madagascar

This vogue is essentially born of the media coverage having concerned, after the controversial hydroxychloroquine of Professor Raoult, the  Covid-Organics, says CVO, developed by Malagasy researchers and presented in April 2020 by the President, Andry Rajoelina, as « a miracle cure ». He said he could cure mild and moderate forms of the infection in seven to ten days. He had massively distributed to the population and in schools bottles of this herbal tea, based on mugwort extracts for 62% of its composition. The CVO was then available in preventive capsules and a remedy called CVO + curative. These products, popular in several African countries, did not prevent the epidemic from hitting Madagascar, and the government finally subscribed to the use of vaccines, but lip service, the President refusing for his part to be vaccinated …

Conversely, after the strong reluctance of a large part of the Western scientific community and a resounding campaign waged against the CVO ironically described as « diplomatic and political remedy », the WHO recognized the antiviral potential of artemisia and of large laboratories have decided to closely study the scientific data provided by Malagasy researchers. If the drink itself did not convince the Health Authority, the latter was in fact very interested in curative CVO +. A large American company,  ArtemiLife , ensures the production of the plant, a « green gold » of which Madagascar was, along with China, the main supplier. In addition, three treatments using Artemisia annua are tested in large European and American laboratories.

Artemisia already famous against malaria

This plant is widely used in traditional Chinese pharmacopoeia and its properties used during the SARS epidemic, a strain of the coronavirus species, which raged between 2002 and 2004, are also known in the context of antimalarial treatments. She had benefited from a strong revival of interest during the Vietnam War. A drug developed as part of military research was then sent by Mao Zedong, at the time head of the Chinese regime, to treat – successfully – the Vietminh fighters Artemisia returned to the news in 2015, when Chinese researcher Tu Youyou, who developed the antimalarial remedy in 1972, won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for her research. Work on this disease is still current, because malaria remains very deadly in many countries and again the controversies divide the scientific community as to its treatment. The WHO has reservations about the artemisinin-based drug, but according to  Médecins Sans Frontières in particular , it would greatly reduce mortality even in severe forms of malaria. According to the Health Authority, it must imperatively be coupled with other remedies.     

Wait for the end of clinical experiments

With regard to Covid, the WHO warns against the purchase of various products based in particular on artemisia sold online and not having been the subject, for the time being, of clinical trials. In vitro tests   carried out on the plant are not sufficient. Indeed the molecule, cultivated in the laboratory, does not necessarily have the same effectiveness  in vivo , in individuals exposed to the virus, many other factors having to be taken into account. In France, the ANSM (National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products) has also alerted, since 2020, to therapeutic products sold on unauthorized sites. They can be harmful, or depending on the agency, are often tampered with, falsely labeled or counterfeit. For the WHO, this is the case for 50% of these products.

Green gold and large labs

On the scientific scene, research on mugwort is more than ever on the agenda. At present, several international laboratories, in the USA – at the University of Kentucky – in Mexico, in Germany, under the aegis of the famous Max Planck Institute, continue to conduct extensive research on the plant with the much vaunted powers. The antiviral effect of the extracts of dried artemisia,  annua  and  afra , were found to be more conclusive, according to them, than the derivatives of pure artemisinin. As the analyzes have not yet been completed, the greatest caution is required before the treatment protocols are established in a rigorously supported manner.

Many Internet users, very suspicious of the pharmaceutical industry in view of certain abuses, accuse it of blocking « natural remedies » to promote chemical molecules for profit, but on the other hand, they are operators in margin of all scientific control and themselves guided by the search for juicy profits which, surfing on the vogue of organic, phytotherapy and traditional medicine, are in the maneuver behind websites offering treatments without any knowledge of their possible harmfulness.

Avoid self-medication

For the time being, no approved drug allows with certainty to cure Covid and prevent infection. Whether decoctions, herbal teas and capsules, their use is also strongly discouraged by the Academy of Medicine. Avoid self-medication in the event of a symptom suggestive of Covid, this is the express recommendation of the health authorities.

Beyond the current research on artemisia in relation to the Covid, the famous plant is experiencing an unprecedented craze. In France, a “  House of artemisia  ”, located in the Oise, was opened well before the pandemic, in 2013, to publicize its multiple virtues and help it grow without pesticides or fertilizers, according to a rigorous charter. To date, 23 countries have created 81 “Maisons”, cooperatives or enterprises in the social and solidarity economy.

Artemisia in Corsica

On the island, local varieties of mugwort have also been used in traditional medicine to treat various diseases, including certain gynecological problems and puberty disorders in girls. The Corsican name of the plant, known as mugwort in French, is identical to the learned Latin name and would refer to the Greek goddess of nature and hunting, Artemis, who became Diana in Roman mythology. Presented as being able to cause epidemics when she had been offended, she reigned over the animal and plant world and was protector of pregnant women and parturients. His cult has been anchored in the island since Antiquity, probably thanks to the Phocaeans, Greeks from Asia Minor, who landed in Aleria in the 6th century. BC Goddess of fertility linked to the lunar star, watching over women in childbirth, she would have given her name to  »  the mother’s plant  « .  

Thousands of years after the discovery of the medicinal virtues of artemisia treating gynecological problems, the name of the famous goddess of ancient Greece has in any case never been more present than today in international news, thanks to those which are now being studied in research against Covid, malaria and many other ailments as well.

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