Vaccinations are important, but they cannot deal with many emerging virus serotypes early enough to be effective without the help of natural remedies
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Newly published research reveals that willow bark extract exhibits a wide range of antiviral activities not previously identified. The study, designed and conducted by a team of scientists based in Finland, found that tea made from hot willow bark extract not only helps fight a number of coronaviruses that cause common seasonal colds as well as Covid-19, but surprisingly, it also has been effective against a number of non-enveloped enteroviruses, which cause infections such as influenza and meningitis.
There are currently no clinically approved drugs that work against enteroviruses, so willow bark extract may provide promising new drugs against these viruses.
Historically, the bark of some species of willow (Salik spp) trees have been used to treat inflammatory and arthritic conditions since ancient times. Salik the bark extract contains salicin, which was discovered in 1828. Ten years later, it was used to create salicylic acid. In 1899, the Bayer drug company further modified salicylic acid to create aspirin acetylsalicylic acid.
We need broad and effective tools to combat the viral load in our daily lives, the study’s senior author, virologist Varpu Marjomki, a professor in the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences at Jivskil University, said in a statement.
Vaccinations are important, but they cannot deal with many emerging serotypes early enough to be effective on their own.
Previously, Professor Marjomki and a team of collaborators showed that willow bark extract is very effective against enteroviruses, such as those that cause polio and hepatitis A. This new study builds on that earlier research by establishing efficacy Salik bark extract against even more types of viruses with different physical structures to better understand the spectrum of antiviral activities of the extract and to potentially identify its mechanism of action.
To produce the extracts tested in this study, the researchers harvested commercially grown willow branches, cut them into pieces and froze them before grinding them and adding hot water to make the tea. These extracts were then tested on cell samples against two strains of enteroviruses, Coxsackievirus A and B, and the seasonal cold virus, as well as SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19.
Professor Marjomki and colleagues used several tests to check how long it took Salik bark extracts to act on infected cells and to assess how well the extract inhibits virus activity. Professor Marjomki and colleagues also examined the viruses under a microscope to better visualize their mode of action Salik bark extract treatment.
Viruses can be enveloped or non-enveloped, meaning they have or do not have an outer lipid membrane. Non-enveloped viruses such as enteroviruses are usually more virulent than enveloped viruses such as coronaviruses.
Professor Marjomki and colleagues discovered that willow bark extract exhibits different mechanisms of action on different structural types of viruses. After treatment with the extract, the team noticed that the coronaviruses seemed to be broken up by the extract, while the non-enveloped enteroviruses seemed unable to replicate inside the cells.
The extracts worked through different mechanisms against different viruses, Professor Marjomki reported. But the extracts were equally effective in inhibiting enveloped and non-enveloped viruses.
Professor Marjomki and colleagues also found that willow bark extract appeared to act on the surface of the virus rather than at a specific stage of the viral replication cycle.
To identify which compound in the willow bark extract might cause these antiviral effects, Professor Marjomki and colleagues fractionated the extract and tested each fraction, as well as testing commercially prepared salixin extract and salixin powder. Of these, only salixin extract showed antiviral activity, suggesting that the success of willow bark extract most likely depends on the interaction between different bioactive compounds in Salik bark extract.
In summary, this study found evidence that several bioactive compounds are present in willow bark extract that are medically promising antiviral agents and act together against a variety of viruses, but their antiviral activity is destroyed when all of these as-yet-unidentified compounds are not present together. Of course, more research is needed to determine exactly what these compounds are and how they interact with each other as well as with viruses.
We are currently continuing with the fractionation and identification of bioactive molecules from the willow bark extract, said Professor Marjomki. This will give us a number of identified pure molecules that we can study in more detail. Also, we will study a larger number of viruses with purified components. Purified components will give us better opportunities to study their mechanisms of action.
Dhanik Reshamvala, Sailee Shroff, Jaana Liimatainen, Jenni Tienaho, Mira Laajala, Petri Kilpelinen, Anneli Viher-Aarnio, Maarit Karonen, Tuula Jiske and Varpu Marjomki (2023). willow (Salik spp.) hot water extracts from the bark inhibit both enveloped and non-enveloped viruses: a study of its anti-coronavirus and anti-enterovirus activities, Frontiers in microbiology | doi:10.3389/fmicb.2023.1249794
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