Aug. 19, 2020 — Oleandrin, a toxic substance found in the poisonous oleander plant, is making headlines as a potential treatment for COVID-19 infection, raising concerns that uninformed people may eat the leaves of the plant and become ill or die.
“Though renowned for its beauty and use in landscaping, this Mediterranean shrub is responsible for cases of accidental poisoning across the globe. All parts of the plant are poisonous,” Cassandra Quave, PhD, an expert in the use of indigenous plants for medical treatments, and curator of preserved plant specimens at Emory University, cautioned in an article in The Conversation, an independent, not-for-profit publication.
Heart problems may follow these first symptoms, including a rapid or lowered heartbeat, an irregular heartbeat, or other problems. Those poisoned may also have a burning sensation in the eyes, paralysis of the GI tract, and respiratory symptoms.
Oleandrin poisoning may also affect the central nervous system. Drowsiness, tremors, seizures, collapse, and coma leading to death are all possible. Oleander sap put on the skin can cause skin irritations and allergic reactions characterized by dermatitis.
Neither oleander nor oleandrin is approved by regulatory agencies as a prescription drug or dietary supplement.
In Vitro Study
Oleandrin for COVID-19 made headlines after President Donald Trump met in the Oval Office with Andrew Whitney, vice chairman and director of Phoenix Biotechnology, along with Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, MD, and MyPillow founder/CEO Mike Lindell, a strong Trump supporter and an investor in Phoenix. The meeting was to learn about oleandrin, which Whitney called a “cure” for COVID-19, Axios reported.
In an in vitro study, researchers from Phoenix Biotechnology and the University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, tested oleandrin against SARS-CoV-2 in cultured cells.
The results, which showed oleandrin “significantly inhibited replication” of the coronavirus, appeared in an article posted on bioRxiv, a free online archive and distribution service for studies that have not been published or peer-reviewed.