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Research to trial if traditional Indian herb can promote long Covid recovery

 Fruits on a Ashwagandha plant
Nina Massey, PA Science Correspondent

Researchers are aiming to find out whether a traditional Indian herb can help promote recovery from long Covid.

The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) will work with the All India Institute of Ayurveda (AIIA) on a trial to find out whether ashwagandha can help people recover from the condition.

Commonly known as Indian winter cherry, the herb is traditionally used in the Indian Ayurvedic system of medicine to boost energy, reduce stress and strengthen the immune system.

Its efficacy in reducing anxiety, stress, improving muscle strength and reducing fatigue symptoms in patients with chronic conditions has been demonstrated in recent trials, experts say.

People experiencing long Covid can suffer from a number of symptoms including cognitive dysfunction, poor mental health, extreme fatigue and muscle weakness.

Researchers estimate these symptoms affect 10% to 20% of coronavirus survivors, and can last for between one and three months or longer in many cases.

There is currently no evidence on its effective treatment or management.

The double-blind clinical trial will involve 2,000 people living in the UK with long Covid and will take place over one year.

One thousand of the trial participants will take 500mg Ashwagandha tablets twice a day for three months, while another 1,000 participants will be given a placebo.

The randomly selected participants will have a monthly follow-up of self-reported quality of life, impairment to activities of daily living, mental and physical health symptoms, supplement use and adverse events.

Dr Sanjay Kinra, professor in clinical epidemiology at LSHTM and principal investigator on the study, said: “It’s really exciting to be working on this trial of traditional Indian medicine to see if it can help solve a global public health crisis and improve people’s recovery from Covid-19.

“Ashwagandha has been shown to reduce symptoms of other conditions that are similar to those of long Covid, so we are hopeful that it will be an effective way to combat the condition.”

Dr Geetha Krishnan, technical officer at the World Health Organisation (WHO) Geneva, who helped to establish the research project, said: “Research is the only way to ensure appropriate integration of traditional medicine knowledge into mainstream medical practice.

“This study would provide an example on how major institutions across continents can jointly work to address problems faced by humankind, and develop credible solutions based on traditional knowledge in the area of health.”

The study is funded by the Ministry of Ayush of the Government of India, with the proposal developed with support from the UK’s All Party Parliamentary Group on Indian Traditional Sciences and the Traditional Complementary and Integrative Medicine Unit at the World Health Organisation (WHO).

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