The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Mandi, Himachal Pradesh made news recently for their research on the rhododendron plant’s petals and the phytochemicals in them. The research showed that phytochemical-rich petals of Rhododendron Arboreum, found in the Himalayan region, locally called ‘Buransh’, show antiviral activity and could be used against the COVID-19 virus.

Phytochemicals are compounds that are produced by plants and are found in fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, among other plants. Some phytochemicals can even protect cells from damage that could lead to cancer

The findings of the research team were published in the journal Biomolecular Structure and Dynamics. According to the team, two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the researchers are still trying to understand the virus’ nature and discovering new ways to prevent the infection.

Also read | Phytochemicals in Himalayan plant inhibit COVID virus: IIT Mandi research

It may be mentioned that the IIT Mandi research team had first posted the manuscript of their research on August 19, 2020, which was then approved and published online on August 24, 2020. 

The detailed manuscript in its entirety can be found here.

During their initial research, the team found out that the petals of the plant are rich in Quinic acid, 3-Caffeoyl-quinic acid, 5-O-Coumaroyl-D-quinic acid, 5-O-Feruloylquinic acid, 2,4-Quinolinediamine, Coumaric acid, Caffeic acid, Epicatechin, Catechin, 3-Hydroxybenzoic acid, Shikimic acid, Protocatechuic acid, Epicatechin gallate, Quercetin, Quercetin-O-pentoside, Quercetin-O-rhamnoside, Kaempferol-O-pentoside and Kaempferol. 

Several of these phytochemicals were reported to exhibit inhibitory activities against a range of viruses. The several antiviral phytochemicals also docked against SARS-CoV-2 MPro and Human ACE2 receptors.

From the molecular docking studies, 5-O-Feruloylquinic acid, 3-Caffeoyl-quinic acid, 5-O-Coumaroyl-D-quinic acid, Epicatechin and Catechin showed a strong binding affinity with SARS-CoV-2 Mpro and human ACE2 receptor.

Molecular binding sometimes leads to the formation of a molecular complex in which the attractive forces holding the components together are generally non-covalent and thus are normally energetically weaker than covalent bonds.

The manuscript published on preprints.org was the first report highlighting Rhododendron arboreum petals as a reservoir of antiviral phytochemicals with potential for synergetic activities. EastMojo can confirm, therefore, that the research is correct, and that Rhododendron does help fight COVID-19.

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