“There is no evidence. We do not know how these traditional medicines, which are recommended by countries or authorities, are actually effective and whether they are harmless to human health.”
It is no news now that Scientists from all over the world are literally banging their heads to find a cure to novel coronavirus. This deadly virus which has claimed the lives of more than millions of people is a nightmare for humans, one that they experienced only in movies and science fiction movies. But it is here and Scientists around the world are fighting against time to find a cure for this deadly disease before it wipes out the Earth.
Scientists at Germany’s Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam are among a group of researchers from Germany and Denmark collaborating with the US company ArtemiLife to explore whether the Artemisia plant can be used against the novel coronavirus.
“It is the first study in which scientists are investigating the function of these plant substances in connection with COVID-19,” the head of the study, Peter Seeberger, told DW.
The cell study will use test extracts from the Artemisia annua plant, also known as sweet wormwood, as well as derivatives isolated from the plant such as artemisinin.
Artemisia plant has been long used over the centuries for the treatment of malaria. Madagascar’s President Andry Rajoelina touted a potion containing an Artemisia extract and other herbs as a “miracle cure” for the coronavirus.
Ever since then, media in Africa have plugged the drink’s potential, and several African countries have placed orders for the herbal tonic, sold under the name COVID Organics.
The director of Malagasy IMRA research institute, Charles Andrianjara, spoke vaguely of “tests on some people” when contacted by DW for details of any scientific studies on the potion, and referred to many years of experience with the concoction.
Though he was unable to cite any specific research that will support the herbal drink’s ability to either prevent or treat COVID-19.
It’s also difficult for other scientists to test the potion as its formula is a secret – in his conversation with DW, Andrianjara said he couldn’t reveal its make-up to protect intellectual property rights.
The World Health Organization, however, warns on its website that there is “no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 can be prevented or treated with products made from Artemisia-based plant material.”
Michel Yao from the WHO Regional Office for Africa says that though it is possible that new treatments for this virus can come from traditional medicines but people should really avoid using untested remedies.
While some African countries, such as Tanzania, Togo, and Chad have reportedly ordered Madagascar’s potion, others – like Nigeria – are being more cautious.
Nigeria’s COVID-19 coordinator Sani Aliyu said this week at a briefing that any potential COVID-19 drug would be subjected to “stringent” evaluation, according to the Nigerian newspaper Punch.
Madagascar’s President Rajoelina continues to defend COVID Organics against criticism. In an interview with French radio stations on Monday, he said the world doesn’t want to admit “a country like Madagascar developed this formula to save the world.”
Peter Seeberger believes that Madagascar could benefit if the Artemesia extracts prove effective in the Max Planck study and subsequent clinical tests.
“Already today, around 10% of the artemisinin requirement for malaria drugs is produced in Madagascar,” said Seeberger.
It could, therefore, be attractive for Madagascar to produce more of the extract locally.