With COVID-19 cases and deaths rising in the U.S. and globally, identifying new therapies to prevent and combat the virus is a top priority. Natural products from plants are an attractive option in the search for a cure. Approximately 374,000 plant species are on Earth; humans have used more than 28,000 of them as a form of medicine.
But not all that is natural is necessarily safe. Scientists have not yet explored most of these species for their chemical makeup or therapeutic potential.
As a medical ethnobotanist, I study the traditional uses of medicinal plants to discover promising leads for new drugs to fight infectious diseases. It’s vital to consider both the potential benefits and risks of plant extracts in such research. I am concerned by recent reports that a chemical found in the oleander plant is being touted as a potential treatment for COVID-19.