Madagascan President Andry Rajoelina has officially launched a local herbal remedy he claims can prevent and cure the novel coronavirus.
“Tests have been carried out, two people have now been cured by this treatment,” Rajoelina told ministers, diplomats and journalists at the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research (IMRA), which developed the beverage.
“This herbal tea gives results in seven days,” he said.
Downing a dose, he said: “I will be the first to drink this today, in front of you, to show you that this product cures and does not kill.”
The drink, called COVID-Organics, is derived from artemisia a plant with proven efficacy in malaria treatment and other indigenous herbs, according to the IMRA.
But its safety and effectiveness have not been assessed internationally, nor has any data from trials been published in peer-reviewed studies. Mainstream scientists have warned of the potential risk from untested herbal brews.
The principal ingredient in the drink is derived from Artemisia annua or sweet wormwood. Dried leaves from the plant are considered to have medicinal properties in Madagascar. But there is no evidence to show it actually works against COVID-19, a respiratory disease that has claimed more than 165,000 lives and infected almost 2.5 million people across the world.
Herbal remedies made from A. annua leaves are often touted as a cure for malaria. But its use against malaria is controversial. The World Health Organization criticized A. annua’s use in 2012 report saying it couldn’t recommend the use of A. annua plant material, in any form, including tea, for the treatment or the prevention of malaria,”.
Rajoelina’s government brushed aside any such reservations and said the concoction would be offered to schoolchildren, as it was his duty was to “protect the Malagasy people”.
“Covid-Organics will be used as prophylaxis, that is for prevention, but clinical observations have shown a trend towards its effectiveness in curative treatment,” said Dr. Charles Andrianjara, IMRA’s director-general.
The president also said the product will be made available for free to the poor.
The large Indian Ocean island has so far detected 121 cases and no fatality.
The pandemic has triggered a rush for herbal formulas, lemons and ginger in the belief that they can protect against the virus.
The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), referring to claims for herbal or tea remedies, says: “There is no scientific evidence that any of these alternative remedies can prevent or cure the illness caused by COVID-19. In fact, some of them may not be safe to consume.”