Celebrating botanical discoveries

Folk Medicine in Nepal Claimed to Prevent COVID-19


By Ashley Washington

Folk medicine, also known as ethnomedicine, has been a long-standing tradition in the Eastern hemisphere. On the other side of the world in Nepal, India, Nepalese people has gained scrutinized attention after claiming that medicinal plants can prevent and cure COVID-19 (Coronavirus). The World Health Organization (WHO) has come out and warned against relying on these medicinal plants until further research is conducted. Of course, the countries that practice ethnomedicine and holistic treatment have ignored that statement (Khadka et al., 2021). Due to the wide spread of misinformation interchanged on social media, a study was done to investigate these claims of good recovery and prevention. If something as simple as plants can cure COVID-19, why wouldn’t the world know about it? Interestingly, the respondents of the research overwhelmingly asserted that the use of medicinal plants helped them prevent the coronavirus disease, which most respondents were college educated and male. The data the researchers collected factored in age, sex, location, and education level to determine their information source of plants. The political leaders and local media in India have backed the medicinal plant claims (Khadka et al., 2021). It seems that because the plants are not grown in a lab, the science community has been silent and not forthcoming with information into the topic. Ultimately, folk medicine came before western medicine, and we have a moral duty to not let bias come in the way of life-saving measures in the midst of this pandemic.

Confidence in medicinal plants despite no significant scientific research is typically frowned upon in western countries. Despite the WHO warnings, the Nepalese have stuck to their traditions and cultivated medicinal plants for coronavirus prevention use. The best part? The plants recommended could be found in most home gardens around India (Khadka et al., 2021). Unlike the United States, gardening for medicine along with food is common. The knowledge of plants is not taught to kids through school science textbooks and diagrams. The people of Nepal live in urban and rural areas that get to experience growing and gardening firsthand. The effects of these medicinal plants have seen faster recovery, improved immune systems and blockage of the worst effects of viruses. When the Coronavirus spread globally into a pandemic, the local research found that the chemical properties of certain plants interact with the coronavirus meaningfully (Khadka et al., 2021). Despite these initial findings, the WHO and science leaders of the world are focused on one thing. The money maker: the vaccine.

Pictured is a Nepalese woman and child in their home garden. Home Gardens in Nepal: Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition (

The global impact of the coronavirus has prompted governments around the world to speedily develop a vaccine. In response to that, countries such as Nepal, countries in Africa and China turned to their traditional medicinal use. What these countries such as Nepal know, is that plants have healing powers. To them, plants are not just a source of food, but an extension of their livelihood as witnessed in their home gardens. The Nepalese people have collected a lot of data on the species of plants and identified the successes. The most popular plants named by the Nepalese to help prevent the coronavirus are Zingiber officinale, Curcuma angustifolia and Cinnamomum zeylanicum. These unique plants were already well known and familiar in Nepal for treatment of similar viruses. Instead of a vaccine, the plants are grinded and added to milk to drink (Khadka et al., 2021). The effects seem to improve and boost the immune system and minimize side effects.

A picture of Curcuma angustifolia which is one of the plants claimed to help reduce COVID-19 symptoms. R.261ace5b5819fe3bd75ac637d6a2ebac (900×600) (

The vaccine that is being developed and distributed have a supply and demand problem, which means the western countries will receive the vaccines first while people in the developing countries are left to die. The United States and other first world countries have committed to sending free vaccines to the countries who need it, but it still is not enough. The coronavirus is one of the deadliest diseases the world has on record and people are dying daily at an alarming rate (WHO, 2021a). How do people in rural areas in developing countries get access to the vaccine? There are no corner stores, CVS or Walgreens to walk into that will readily administer the dose. Therefore, medicinal plants and ethnomedicine are important. The people who do not have access to modern healthcare still deserve a chance to live. The plants they use to treat sickness and disease have been passed down for generations (WHO, 2021a).

Plants being the primary ingredient in medicines go back to the beginning of humanity. It wasn’t until western medicine emerged that plants were seen as alternative and holistic (Khadka et al., 2021). More research and money should be allocated to the Nepalese findings. In the western world, a race to develop and profit off the vaccine was well documented. I believe it is time for science to look back into its roots and expand its way of thinking. Western medicine is seen as superior and the standard of health. Yes, it has seen tremendous advancements in health and science. However, we cannot ignore the natural gifts of this planet and ignore our most vulnerable people. My hopes are that more research is done to study medicinal plants in modern society and develop a happy medium of

holistic and modern treatment. The Nepalese people are treating themselves with historical knowledge, and more insight needs to shine into these holistic methods in these perilous times.

Helpful links


Khadka D, Dhamala MK, Li F, Aryal PC, Magar PR, Bhatta S, Thakur MS, Basnet A, Cui D, Shi S. The use of medicinal plants to prevent COVID-19 in Nepal. J Ethnobiology Ethnomed. 2021 Apr 8;17(1):26. Doi: 10.1186/s13002-021-00449-w. PMID: 33832492; PMCID: PMC8027983.

Phum Thum M, Nguanchoo V, Balslev H. Medicinal Plants Used for Treating Mild Covid-19 Symptoms Among Thai Karen and Hmong. Front Pharmacol. 2021 Jul 20; 12:699897. Doi: 10.3389/fphar.2021.699897. PMID: 34354592; PMCID: PMC8329454. WHO (2021a). Coronavirus: Symptoms. Available at:

(Accessed October 14, 2022).

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