COVID-19 rapid reviews: Task force to make recommendations on vitamins, botanicals to health authorities

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

A group of Australian naturopathic experts has published a whitepaper on the clinical effectiveness of vitamins and botanicals supplementation in aiding recovery in COVID-19 patients. ©Getty Images
A group of Australian naturopathic experts has published a whitepaper on the clinical effectiveness of vitamins and botanicals supplementation in aiding recovery in COVID-19 patients. ©Getty Images

Related tags COVID-19 Australia clinical research

A group of Australian naturopathic experts is gathering on-the-ground data from health practitioners on the effectiveness of nutraceuticals in helping to combat COVID-19, and will present the findings to health authorities.

The experts from the World Naturopathic Federation (WNF) have formed the Rapid Review Task Force which has been gathering the data.

The task force is chaired by WNF president Dr Iva Lloyd, with Dr Amie Steel and Prof Jon Wardle as the research leads.

Nutraceuticals examined include vitamin C, D, zinc, quercetin, echinacea, elderberry, honey, and n-acetyl cysteine (NAC).

Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia, ​Prof Wardle said the project was to identify nutraceuticals that not only could work as an adjunctive treatment, but also to aid in the rehabilitation process.

“Some treatments which are really good at treating respiratory infections may not be so good at treating respiratory infections that have cytokine storm activities. 

“So we are trying to capture the nuances of which and when and where the most appropriate treatments can be used,” ​he said.

The study can also filter unsubstantiated claims about a certain complementary medicines or ingredient, as well as a potential reference in addressing future respiratory diseases and pandemic.

The rapid reviews involved over 40 researchers and research-active naturopathic clinicians from 16 universities.

They only focused on single nutrient interventions in populations with acute illness or complications arising from acute illness.

Prof Wardle said the task force hoped to publish three to four papers on the findings in the upcoming months.

“The whole review has been completed, like any review, there will be additional papers that will come up.”

The findings will also be presented to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and health authorities of different countries. It is hoped that governments would introduce the effective nutraceuticals for use in public health services.

At present, the task force has put up a whitepaper​ which provides a summary of the clinical effectiveness of vitamins and botanicals supplementation.

Time is crucial

A key finding is that early administration is crucial for reducing symptoms of the infection.

For instance, oral vitamin C, when taken at the onset of acute respiratory viral infections, it may reduce the duration of fever, chest pain, chills, bodily aches, as well as hospital stays.

Similarly, elderberry, when taken within 48 hours of the onset of acute respiratory viral infections, may reduce the duration and severity of common cold and influenza symptoms in adults.

This is based on evidence obtained across five clinical studies​ involving 996 adults.

Echinacea and ivy leaf are the other options that could address early symptoms of respiratory infections.

For echinacea, it is also beneficial for reducing common cold​, while ivy leaf is proven for reducing the frequency and intensity of cough​ by acting as an expectorant.

The much talked about duo – vitamin D and zinc – are also included in the review.

Experimental evidence has shown that vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased risk of acute respiratory infections. Supplementation has shown​ to reduce the incidence of infections.

No evidence doesn’t mean no benefits

On the other hand, the lack of published scientific findings might not necessarily mean that a particular botanical is of no use.

Liquorice (glycyrrhiza glabra) and palmitoylethanolamide (PEA) are two such examples.

The task force initially included the two in the list of potential ingredients for a rapid review. Yet, no relevant paper was found during the initial scoping activities based on the inclusion criteria.

This itself is an important finding, highlighting the dearth of research attention that exists in this area, and the need for clinical perspectives have a greater role in informing TCIM research,” ​said the key research leads of the task force.

Nonetheless, prof Wardle added that task force said it would keep in mind the botanical, as new research becomes available.


Source: Advances in Integrative Medicine

The potential contribution of traditional, complementary, and integrative treatments in acute viral respiratory tract infections: Rapid Reviews in response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Authors: Amie Steel, et al

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