Two new studies – both pending peer review before actual publication – report that neem may be more effective than currently used treatments in treating COVID-19. Although these reports are considered very preliminary while they’re undergoing review, they are beyond exciting, particularly for the millions of people living in tropical countries around the world where neem is readily available and practically free.
OUR REPORT ON THIS RESEARCH IS PUBLISHED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY, AND WE HAVE INCLUDED LINKS TO THE FULL TEXT OF ANY ARTICLES QUOTED WHENEVER POSSIBLE. NONE OF THESE STATEMENTS HAS BEEN EVALUATED BY THE U.S. FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION, NOR DOES NEEM TREE FARMS SELL PRODUCTS INTENDED TO DIAGNOSE, TREAT, PREVENT, OR CURE ANY DISEASE.
Researchers in both studies used molecular docking, a highly sophisticated and key tool in computer-assisted drug design. Molecular docking predicts which molecules will most effectively link up together and create the strongest hand-in-glove bond. In the search for an antiviral drug, they’re looking for those molecules that bind most powerfully to those segments of the virus’s bumpy surface that will minimize the potential for infection.
These reports on Covid-19 build upon previously published reports showing that neem effectively binds with other viruses including Influenza NS1, conserved residues of influenza viruses ASP302 and SER50, and dengue fever.
The first report (the preprint undergoing review is available at ResearchSquare) looked at the ability of natural compounds from tulsi and neem to bind to those parts of the SARS-CoV-2 molecule — the coronavirus that causes Covid-19– which allow it to attach to human cells and then reproduce.
Not only was binding excellent, but their “binding efficacy was superior to that of the standard drugs Lopinavir/Ritonavir and Remdesivir.” It concludes that these natural compounds are likely to be useful in the management of infections caused by SARS-CoV-2.
The second (also available at ResearchSquare) reports that “nine compounds from neem leaves had higher computational binding affinity…when compared to Remdesivir or hydroxychloroquine.”
In addition, the leaves contain other compounds—like quercetin, zinc, vitamin A, vitamins B1/B2/B6, vitamin C, and vitamin E—which may boost antiviral immunity (Garba, 2019) against Covid-19.
It concludes that hands-on research on Covid-19 is definitely warranted: “these results demonstrate that in vitro and in vivo studies are necessary to evaluate if neem can bind with the Covid-19 main protease in animals and humans.”
A separate study published in 2016 looked at neem as a “universal” treatment for different strains of viruses. Hyperoside (one of the many compounds found in neem leaf) along with four synthetic drugs showed the best potential as a universal anti-influenza drug. (Click here to read a more simplified report from our friend and medical journalist Sheila Haas.)
Again, we stress that these molecular docking reports are very preliminary and very little is known about the coronavirus that causes Covid-19. Once these studies have been reviewed and approved by experts in molecular docking, then they have to be evaluated in real life, first in test tubes, then in animals, then in humans. While we wait for this series of results, it is exciting to see the potential for a natural substance to slow down the pandemic, particularly in places where modern drugs may be less accessible. It is also encouraging to see another possible important benefit from a plant that contains so many valuable substances for human and animal health.