After the well known herb Ashwgandha, now, Kangra tea has been marked as a potential coronavirus blocker. A senior research professional associated with a reputed bioresource technology institute has claimed that Kangra Tea, well known for its other medicinal properties, may also be able to boost immunity against coronavirus by blocking the virus activity better than the anti-HIV drugs currently being used as preventive care for patients and health care professionals.
According to a communication released by the Ministry of Science and Technology, India's premier medical research institute, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is considering replacing hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) with anti-HIV drugs to improve immunity and possibly reduce viral replication. However, Kangra tea could prove to be a more effective weapon against the disease, says a well known expert.
"The chemicals in Kangra tea could also be effective in boosting immunity as they can block coronavirus activity better than anti-HIV drugs," said Dr Sanjay Kumar, Director, Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology (IHBT), based in Palampur, Himachal Pradesh.
Dr Kumar made the claim during a webinar organized at IHBT on the occasion of the International Tea Day.
The claim, along with a comparison with HIV drugs and hydroxychloroquine, comes at a time when the Centre has decided to expand its use as a preventive medication for asymptomatic healthcare workers who are engaged in providing services even at non-Covid-19 hospitals, for frontline staff who are deployed on surveillance duty in the containment zones and for paramilitary and police personnel who are engaged in fighting coronavirus.
The endorsement of Kangra tea as a potential virus killer or fighter comes days after a group of researchers of IIT-Delhi revealed that herb Ashwagandha contains certain bio-actives that interact with SARS-CoV-2 virus in a way that prevents it from multiplying. According to experts, Ashwagandha, which is also popular as an aphrodisiac, has a natural compound called withanone (Wi-N), with the potential to block Covid-19's enzyme responsible for replication. It is being alleged that Ashwagandha, if used along with an active ingredient of propolis called Caffeic Acid Phenethyl Ester (CAPE) can block the replication process of the virus.
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Dr Kumar, while discussing the benefits of Kangra tea along with the medicinal properties of tea for human health, spoke of the technologies developed and transferred by IHBT for combating Covid-19 disease.
"Using computer-based models, the scientists screened 65 bioactive chemicals or polyphenols that could bind to a specific viral protein more efficiently than commercially available anti-HIV drugs approved for treating Covid-19 patients. These chemicals might block the activity of the viral protein that helps the virus to thrive inside human cells," said Dr Kumar.
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IHBT, a constituent of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), has also produced and supplied the alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing tea extract and natural aromatic oils through its technology partners. The Institute has developed herbal soap with tea extract, natural saponins (phytochemicals found in most vegetables) and without SLES (sodium laureth sulphate), SDS (sodium dodecyl sulphate) and mineral oil. This soap provides anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, cleansing and moisturizing benefits. The soap is being produced and marketed by two companies based in Himachal Pradesh.
"Tea catechins production process which has been transferred to M/s Baijnath Pharmaceuticals, and Ready to Serve Teas and Tea wines which could be game changer for Kangra tea", added Dr Kumar. Catechins are natural antioxidants that help prevent cell damage and provide other benefits.
The first flush of Kangra tea, grown at a height ranging from 900 metres to 1400 metres above the sea level in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, is known for quality, unique aroma and tinge of fruity flavor. A little milder than Darjeeling tea in terms of flavour, Kangra tea has more body and liquor.