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 Table of Contents  
ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 16  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 27-33

Increased inclination towards herbal preparations as immunity booster among young adults in the times of pandemic: A cross-sectional study


1 Department of Epidemiology, Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences, New Delhi, India
2 Department of Microbiology, Institute of Home Economics, University of Delhi, New Delhi, India
3 Department of Biology, Institute of Home Economics, University of Delhi, New Delhi, India
4 Department of Environmental Sciences, Institute of Home Economics, University of Delhi, New Delhi, India

Date of Submission09-Jan-2021
Date of Decision12-Jun-2021
Date of Acceptance22-Jun-2021
Date of Web Publication19-Mar-2022

Correspondence Address:
Rachna Kapila
Department of Biology, Institute of Home Economics, New Delhi
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/joa.joa_7_21

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  Abstract 


Introduction: With the lack of evidence-based specific therapy for COVID-19, the prevention against the infection and boosting the body's immunity is the only option. Experts have suggested the use of herbal plants to boost the immunity; however, the use and acceptance of herbal medicinal plants among young adults are not known. The present study is aimed at assessing the use of herbal medicinal preparations as immunity booster among young adults during the times of COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted among college-going students during October 23–31, 2020. A Google form was circulated to the target group through the private and institutional networks during the study period. The questionnaire consisted of questions related to past, current, and future use of the herbal medicinal preparations. Data were extracted in MS-Excel. Univariate analysis and logistic regression was performed using the SPSS software version 21. Results: A total of 318 participants with a mean age of 20.5 ± 2.1 and approximately 79% females were included in the analysis. Of the total, 65.7% participants stated some use of herbal preparations as the immunity booster during the pandemic. Type of family, monthly income of the family, and state of residence were not found to be significantly associated with the use of herbal medicinal plants during the pandemic, whereas the past use of herbal medicines, participants who considered herbal medicinal plants to be effective and safe were found to be significantly associated with the use of herbal preparations during the pandemic. Conclusion: A significantly large proportion of young adults are using herbal medicinal plants as immunity booster during the pandemic indicating inclination toward traditional medicines.

Keywords: COVID-19, herbal preparations, immunity, pandemics, young adult


How to cite this article:
Rastogi A, Nigam A, Mandal S, Nath S, Kapila R. Increased inclination towards herbal preparations as immunity booster among young adults in the times of pandemic: A cross-sectional study. J Ayurveda 2022;16:27-33

How to cite this URL:
Rastogi A, Nigam A, Mandal S, Nath S, Kapila R. Increased inclination towards herbal preparations as immunity booster among young adults in the times of pandemic: A cross-sectional study. J Ayurveda [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 May 16];16:27-33. Available from: http://www.journayu.in/text.asp?2022/16/1/27/339990




  Introduction Top


The novel coronavirus, originated in Wuhan at the end of last year, was declared a public health emergency of international concern by the World Health Organization (WHO) on January 30, 2020.[1] The status of novel virus was upgraded to pandemic by March 11, 2020.[2] As of December 22, 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic caused a global health crisis and has affected almost every country in the world, with around 75 million cases and reached a milestone of over 1.6 million deaths till 22nd dec 2020.[3] India has reported over 10 million cases till the above stated date. Despite the number of new cases showing a declining trend since few weeks, the country still holds its position among top five countries with the highest number of new cases globally.[3]

To curb the pandemic by breaking the chain of transmission, India imposed “Janta Curfew” on March 22, 2020, following which a nationwide lockdown for 21 days, was announced which was later extended till May 3, 2020.[4],[5],[6] Imposing lockdown was necessary but not sufficient to restrain the spread of coronavirus. The treatment of the affected individual, other preventive measures as well as immunity of the individual also plays an important role in curbing the disease.[7] The relentless transmission of the virus can be attributable to the lack of drugs, vaccines, and therapeutics against this novel virus. However, the existing medications were repurposed to be used in COVID-19 patients, but they have been found to have either little or no effect on overall mortality, initiation of ventilation, and duration of hospital stay in hospitalized patients as per the Solidarity Trial interim results.[8] Continuous efforts are being made by the scientific communities to unravel the pharmacological drugs or formulate the vaccines. Nevertheless, new discoveries will require numerous trials to establish their efficacy and safety which will require few months to years to be available for use. Thus, the only option is to prevent the infection by following necessary precautions and to boost the body's natural defense system or immunity. Doctors, health-care workers as wells as government have suggested the use of natural products, herbal plants, and their formulations to boost the immunity. of the individual.[9],[10]

According to the various traditional medicines, the deadly virus can be cured through the herbal preparations. They suggested a few aromatic and medicinal herbs which can help in boosting the immunity: Turmeric (Curcuma longa), Holy basil (Osmium sanctum), Dalchini (Cinnamomum zeylanicun), Ginger (Zingiber officinale), Garlic (Allium sativum), Clove (Syzygium aromaticum), Black pepper (Piper nigrum), Coriander (Coriandrum sativum), Jeera (Cuminum cyminum), Ajwain (Trachyspermum ammi), Methi (Trigonella foenum-graecum), Amla (Emblica officinalis), Giloy (Tinospora cordifolia), Lemon (Citrus limon):, Neem (Azadirachta indica), Shilajit, Kutki (Picrorhiza kurroa), Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), and Mentha (Mentha spp.).[11] These aromatic herbs have been used as an antioxidant, antiseptic, anti-carcinogenic, antibacterial, antiviral, and antimalarial agents since the ancient times. Thus, the use of such herbal medicines is common among middle age and elderly. However, we have limited literature which states the use of herbal medicine by young adults as immunity booster during the COVID-19 pandemic. This study aims at assessing the use of herbal plants as immunity booster among young adults during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study also explores the factors associated with the use of herbal plants as immunity booster among young adults.


  Materials and Methods Top


A cross-sectional study was undertaken by the Department of Biology and Microbiology, Institute of Home Economics, University of Delhi, New Delhi, India, among college-going students during October 23, 2020 to October 31, 2020. The study population was young adults attending college and belonging to the age group of 18–30 years. A Google form having all the survey questions was circulated among the target group through private and institutional networks (E-mail and WhatsApp) during the study period.

The survey was based on the probabilistic method of sampling that targets a large sample for survey dissemination. However, statistical collection of population parameters cannot be controlled using this method. For collecting the data, a structured questionnaire was used. The questionnaire consisted of three sections: (i) Section A: Informed consent; (ii) Section B: Demographic details of participants; and (iii) Section C: Questions related to the use of the herbal medicinal plants. The consent form clearly stated about the background and the objectives of the study. It also informed the respondent that they were free to withdraw at any time, without giving a reason and their participation in the survey was anonymous and completely voluntary. Section B collected information related to the general details of the participants such as name, gender, age, family type, family income, educational qualifications, residential area, and history of chronic diseases. Section C consisted of questions related to the use of herbal medicinal plants in the family before pandemic, during pandemic and future use of herbal medicinal plant. This section also enquired about reasons for past use and use in future, mode of preparation, perception about their effectiveness as immunity booster, etc. The questionnaire was content validated by Public health experts from the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences, New Delhi, India.

Data were extracted in MS-Excel from the online survey platform. Personal details of the participants such as name, mobile number, and E-mail ids were excluded from the final data sheet, and unique identity numbers were allotted to maintain anonymity and confidentiality of the participants. Data were further coded and cleaned before the analysis. For the purpose of analysis and for better understanding, the categories of the variables were combined such as postgraduates and PhD categories were combined as a new category: Postgraduates and above. For performing the requisite analysis, options in the question “Have you started the use or have ever used herbal medicinal plants in any form during pandemic” was divided into two categories: “yes” and “no,” Options in the above question like “used for sometimes,” “yes, used it only when had symptoms,” “yes, used it only when family members fell ill,” “yes, using rarely,” “yes using occasionally” and “yes, using it on a regular basis” were merged to form a new category “Yes” indicating use of herbal medicine ever during the pandemic times.

The descriptive analysis of categorical variables was represented as frequencies and percentages. Univariate analysis was performed and odd ratios (ORs) along with 95% confidence interval (CI) and P values were documented. Variables that were found to be significant in the univariate analysis were included in the logistic regression. The statistical significance level was fixed to conventional value of P < 0.05 (two-tailed). All the data analyses were performed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (IBM Corp. Released 2012. IBM SPSS Statistics for Windows, Version 21 Armonk, Chicago, Illinois: IBM Corp).

The present study is lying under less than minimum risk as per the latest National Ethical Guidelines for Biomedical and Health Research involving Human Participants and study used anonymous or nonidentified data, thus study did not require Ethical approval.[12] However, strict measures were taken by the investigators.


  Results Top


A total of 343 responses were collected till the closure of survey by the researchers on October 31, 2020; however, 25 responses were removed from the final analysis as they were found to be above 30 years of age. Thus, a total of 318 responses were included in the final analysis with a mean age of 20.5 ± 2.1, and approximately 79% were females. The majority of the respondents were living in the nuclear family (62.6%) followed by 32.7% of the respondent living either in joint or three-generation families. Of the total respondents, one-third had a family monthly income of 50,000 or above, whereas approximately 29% had family monthly income between 25,000 and 50,000. There was more participation from students having residence in Delhi (53.1%) as compared to students outside Delhi (46.9%) [Table 1].
Table 1: Baseline characteristics of the study participants (n=318)

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Of the total respondents, 64.8% of the participants reported prior use of herbal medicinal plants in their family before the pandemic for some other indications. The common reasons for the use of herbal medicines before the pandemic lockdown were effectiveness of herbal medicines (34.6%) and easy access to herbal medicines (23.9%). Approximately one-third of the participants reported that they were not aware about the reasons for using herbal medicine in their family. A total of 209 (65.7%) participants stated some kind of use of herbal preparations as immunity booster during the pandemic lockdown, whereas remaining 34.3% participants stated that they had never used such herbal medicines during pandemic. Among the participants using herbal medicinal plants as immunity booster, 60.7% of them started using it on recommendation by family members or relatives, whereas 28.7% started the use on their own. Of the total participants who consumed herbal medicine during the pandemic, 82.3% participants used home-made preparations, whereas 15.8% physically purchased the prepared preparations from branded herbal shops. Only 3.8% of the participants reported some allergy/side effects associated with the use of herbal medical plants, whereas 8.1% reported as they do not know about any allergy or side effect with the use of herbal medical plants [Table 2]. Approximately 61% of the participants stated continued use or will use herbal medicinal plants as immunity booster in future. The most common reason stated by them for future use of herbal medicine was safety of herbal medicines (60.4%), followed by their effectiveness (49.7%) [Table 2].
Table 2: Use of herbal medicine among the study participants (n=318)

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Univariate analysis suggested, odds of using herbal medicinal plants among females was 2.14 (95% CI: 1.23–3.72, P < 0.007) as compared to males. It was found that the participants who used the herbal medicines in the past for other indications had significantly higher odds of availing herbal medicines during the pandemic lockdown (OR: 4.47, 95% CI: 2.72–7.35, P < 0.001) as compared to the participants who have not used it in past. The results suggested participants who did not perceive herbal medicinal plants as an immunity booster used herbal medicines 0.26 times (95% CI: 0.07–0.94, P = 0.040) less than those who perceived herbal medicines as immunity booster against illness. Demographic factors such as type of family, monthly income of the family, and state of residence were not found to be significantly associated with the use of herbal medicinal plants as immunity booster during pandemic indicating the similar use of herbal medicinal plants across these variables [Table 3]. The logistic regression with significant variables in the univariate analysis suggested the use of herbal medicinal plants during the pandemic was more among participants who were using herbal plants as immunity booster in past, who considered herbal medicinal plants to be effective, safe and do not require prescription from the doctor after adjusting for other variables. The factors such as gender, ease of procuring, and cost of these medications were not found to be significant after adjusting for other variables [Table 3].
Table 3: Association of factors affecting the use of herbal medicinal plants as immunity booster (n=318)

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  Discussion Top


The persistent transmission of the coronavirus among the human population can be mainly considered due to the lack of evidence-based specific therapy for COVID-19 and vaccines against the novel virus. Thus, the only prevention against the infection is to follow necessary precautions and to boost the body's immunity. The use of natural products, herbal plants, and their formulations have been suggested by experts to boost the immunity of the individual, however, the use of these products among young adults is not known. The present study was conducted to assess the use of herbal medicinal plants as immunity booster among young adults during the times of COVID-19 pandemic.

The results of the study revealed approximately 65.7% of the young adults reported use of herbal medicinal plants as immunity booster during the COVID-19 pandemic. There are limited studies across the world that have explored the utilization of medicinal herbal plants and their products among the general population, especially among youth as preventive measures during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, with the limited studies available, the use of herbal medicine during the COVID-19 pandemic was found to be higher in the present study (65.7%) when compared to a study from Saudi Arabia where the use was found to be around 14.9%.[13] This could be mainly attributable to the popularity of Ayurveda and herbal medicines among Indians as compared to Saudi Arabians.

Previous studies have reported that there is a common belief that herbal medicinal plants and their products are safer and effective than prescribed medicines.[14] Our study re-emphasized the finding of the previous study on the use of herbal medicinal plants mainly because of its perceived effectiveness and safety as well as easy access to such medicines. Our study was in-line with other studies where failure to conventional therapy and prior experience with previously used herbal medicine were found to be significantly associated with the use of herbal medicine during the pandemic.[15] However, our study was not able to highlight the significant association between the use of herbal medicine and type of family as compared to previous studies which showed significant association between family tradition and use of herbal medicines.[15]

To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study from India that investigated the use of the herbal medicinal plants as immunity booster among young adults during the COVID-19 pandemic. Similar to other online surveys, the present study too has the inherent drawbacks of self-reported surveys. First is the inherent design of the study like a cross-sectional survey design, limited our ability to identify causality between the study variables. Second, the study is only restricted to people with internet access and understanding of English language. Thus, the use of an online survey for data collection might have excluded some vulnerable populations who could not be reached and ultimately have been missed from the survey population. Finally, we were not able to estimate the response rate for our study as it was an online survey which was shared depending on the feasibility and convenience of the participants. Despite these limitations, the study is able to provide us with an estimate of use of herbal medicinal plants as immunity boosters during the times of pandemic. The present study was also able to provide the factors associated with the use of herbal medicinal plants. The present study concludes moderate to high use of herbal medicinal plants as immunity booster among young adults, suggesting an inclination toward traditional medicines.


  Conclusion Top


A significantly large proportion of young adults had used herbal medicinal plants as immunity booster during the pandemic. This indicates inclination toward traditional medicines among young adults.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.





 
  References Top

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Chandna H, Basu M. Modi announces 'Janata Curfew' on 22 March, Urges for Resolve, Restraint to Fight Coronavirus. The Print; 2020. Available from: https://theprint.in/india/modi-announces-janata-curfew-on-22-march-urges-for-resolve-restraint-to-fight-coronavirus/384138/. [Last accessed on 2020 Dec 25].  Back to cited text no. 4
    
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  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3]



 

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