(NaturalNews) An ancient Chinese remedy that was used to fight the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic may prove effective against the H1N1 swine flu, according to a study conducted by researchers from Kaohsiung Medial University in Taiwan and published in the American Chemical Society's Journal of Natural Products.
The plant is known by the scientific name Ferula assa-foetida, but is known colloquially in many regions as "Dung of the Devil" due to the foul smell of its sap. It grows mostly in Iran, Afghanistan and China, and has been traditionally used to treat everything from the flu and children's colds to asthma, bronchitis, constipation, flatulence, and epilepsy. It is considered an antimicrobial and digestive aid, and has also been traditionally used as a contraceptive and abortifacient. The researchers noted that more than 230 medicinal compounds have been identified in plants of the ferula genus.
The researchers tested F. assa-foetida samples acquired from a Chinese herb store in Taipei against samples of H1N1 influenza, then compared the plant's effectiveness with that of the prescription antiviral drug adamantine. The researchers found that the herbal medicine proved more effective at killing H1N1 in the laboratory than the prescription drug.
A number of influenza strains, including some varieties of H1N1, have shown great success in evolving resistance to adamantine.
The tests were conducted before the outbreak of the H1N1 variety known popularly as "swine flu," and therefore the results may not apply to that strain. The next step is to test F. assa-foetida against influenza viruses that are actually infecting humans or other animals.
"Overall, the present study has determined that sesquiterpene coumarins from F. assa-foetida may serve as promising lead components for new drug development against influenza A (H1N1) viral infection," the researchers wrote.
The study was funded by the Taiwanese National Science Council and Department of Health.