A Nigerian biotechnologist says he has an herbal treatment for COVID-19 that is “more potent” than a popular - but unproven – tonic made in Madagascar. However, medical authorities caution that plant-based medicines must be tested before use or else they can do more harm than good.
Madagascar touted its herbal drink from the artemisia plant, an antimalarial , to cure the coronavirus – despite having no scientific proof.
The artemisia plant also known as Sweet Wormwood contains artemisinin which has been used in Chinese traditional medicine for centuries in treating fevers.
Hope in the plant-based treatment led countries from Tanzania to Liberia to import the brew and to also develop their own.
Nigerian professor of biotechnology at the University of Jos, Innocent Ogbonna, claims he has created more potent herbal treatment from the plant.
“The artemisia annua in Madagascar has an artemisinin content of 1.1%, ours has 4.8%. You can see the difference," he told VOA.
As with Madagascar’s, Ogbonna’s team of researchers claim their herbal cocktails, which are in the form of syrups and teas, have assisted COVID-19 patients to recover from the virus.
But Infectious disease physician at the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH), Dr. Nathan Shehu, cautions that testing is needed before using herbs to treat COVID-19.
“It is a fact that herbal remedies are available and could be effective in the management of COVID," Dr. Shehu said. "But it is important that before they can be deployed for such purposes, they should undergo the elaborate trials to validate whether they are functional or not. Because you are dealing with human lives.”
The World health Organization says 80% of Africans regularly use herbal medicine, including Nigeria where plant-based treatments have been used for generations.
But the WHO warns that using unproven COVID-19 remedies can do more harm than good.
Infectious diseases specialist at JUTH, Dr. Samuel Gomorep, stresses there is no effective herbal treatment for the virus, let alone a cure – plant-based or otherwise.
“For now, there is no cure for COVID-19. But in terms of management of patients with COVID-19, most especially those that have severe symptoms, we understand the disease better than where we started, and we can better handle the disease.," Dr. Gomorep told VOA.
Until a proven vaccine is found, the Nigerian Center for Disease Control says the best form of prevention is to maintain social distancing, wear a mask, and wash your hands regularly.