The use of medicinal plants to prevent COVID-19 in Nepal

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Abstract

Background: Medicinal plants are the fundamental unit of traditional medicine system in Nepal. Nepalese people are rich in traditional medicine especially in folk medicine (ethnomedicine), and this system is gaining much attention after 1995. The use of medicinal plants has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic as a private behavior (not under the control of government). A lot of misinterpretations of the use of medicinal plants to treat or prevent COVID-19 have been spreading throughout Nepal which need to be managed proactively. In this context, a research was needed to document medicinal plants used, their priority of use in society, their cultivation status, and the source of information people follow to use them. This study aimed to document the present status of medicinal plant use and make important suggestion to the concerned authorities. Methods: This study used a web-based survey to collect primary data related to medicinal plants used during COVID-19. A total of 774 respondents took part in the survey. The study calculated the relative frequencies of citation (RFC) for the recorded medicinal plants. The relationship between plants recorded and different covariates (age, gender education, occupation, living place, and treatment methods) was assessed using Kruskal-Wallis test and Wilcoxon test. The relationship between the information sources people follow and the respondent characteristics was assessed using chi-square test. Results: The study found that the use of medicinal plants has increased during COVID-19 and most of the respondents recommended medicinal plants to prevent COVID-19. This study recorded a total of 60 plants belonging to 36 families. The leaves of the plants were the most frequently used. The Zingiber officinale was the most cited species with the frequency of citation 0.398. Most of the people (45.61%) were getting medicinal plants from their home garden. The medicinal plants recorded were significantly associated with the education level, location of home, primary treatment mode, gender, and age class. The information source of plants was significantly associated with the education, gender, method of treatment, occupation, living with family, and location of home during the lockdown caused by COVID-19. Conclusions: People were using more medicinal plants during COVID-19 claiming that they can prevent or cure COVID-19. This should be taken seriously by concerned authorities. The authorities should test the validity of these medicinal plants and control the flow of false information spread through research and awareness programs.

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Khadka, D., Dhamala, M. K., Li, F., Aryal, P. C., Magar, P. R., Bhatta, S., … Shi, S. (2021). The use of medicinal plants to prevent COVID-19 in Nepal. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, 17(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13002-021-00449-w

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