Since the novel coronavirus hit Nigeria February 2021, there has been an abundance of information regarding how the virus spreads and its treatments. In response, Dubawa has consistently churned out fact-checks around the misinformation accompanying the pandemic.
Despite constant reminders that there was no cure for the COVID-19, fake news vendors with the aid of the Internet, managed to propagate the efficacy of different cures against the virus. One of these is the claim that Ewedu, a local vegetable also known as the Jute plant and scientifically called Corchorus olitorius, cures COVID-19.
Once during the Ebola outbreak, the Nigerian government cautioned its citizens against the hot water and salt bath which spread across the country like a wildfire. More recently, the effect of disseminating these fake messages was evident when chloroquine was announced as a COVID-19 cure.
Over time, fact checkers have had to debunk different claims on the potency of Ewedu in curing certain diseases. One time in 2017 the Ewedu leaf was circulated as a cure for Ebola, in 2019, news about Its efficacy in the treatment of cancer surfaced and as the second wave of the coronavirus hit the world, there was another claim of ewedu’s efficiency in curing COVD-19.
Ebola and Ewedu
During the Ebola outbreak in Nigeria in 2014, the media space received several contents suggesting different cures and treatments for the deadly virus which is capable of causing intense internal bleeding.
Articles suggesting Ewedu as Ebola cure were circulated with headlines such as: “How I discovered ewedu cure for Ebola,” “Ewedu can cure, prevent Ebola.” The source in these articles was a professor in ophthalmology at Lagos State University Teaching Hospital named Adebukola Adefule-Ositelu.
She said, as quoted in the articles, that “The qualities inside ewedu is so much that it will kill Ebola by preventing the virus from replicating and destroying more organs in the body… [u]ltimately, leading to the cure.” The professor also directed readers on how to make the cure and its usage, she said, “The remedy is to take some ewedu, “rinse and wash it with liquid vinegar, then blend it and cook with only drinkable water for five minutes. First thing in the morning, freshly made, just take 25cl of the herb in an empty stomach once a week for prevention.”
However, after its research, AfricaCheck found existing research works that suggest extracts of the plant do have some anti-bacterial effects when applied “in vitro” or outside a living organism but do not know their effects on living organisms.
A potential anti-cancer drug
Due to the viral claim, in 2019, that Ewedu could cure cancer, Dubawa published its research on the subject. The fact check concluded that the presence of vitamin B9 and polyphenolic compounds, powerful antioxidants with antitumor potential, make Ewedu a potential anti-cancer drug source in the future. But for now, it is certainly just a healthy and delicious dish!
Not approved to cure COVID-19
As the World Health Organization’s (WHO) continues to search for a herbal cure for COVID-19, WhatsApp users have circulated a post claiming that ewedu leaves kill Coronavirus. The spread of this post was not limited to WhatsApp as it was also found on a website and a Twitter handle. The post stated: “Krain krain has flavonoid that aids the absorption of zinc in the body. Zinc can enter the virus infected cells and stop corona virus from reproducing. Good news. Eat African! Ewedu.”. ‘Molokhia leaves help curb reproduction of coronavirus.”
Dubawa consulted a dietician and nutritionist who said zinc, as a micronutrient, is not peculiar to Ewedu alone, there are other leaves or food with zinc. So, Coronavirus disease cure is not just by the micronutrient, rather, it has to do with claims that have been scientifically proven. Hence, Ewedu cannot cure Covid-19, Dubawa concluded.
The importance of fact checking can not be over-emphasized in a period, when there is a continuous (intentional and unintentional) circulation of false information about drugs and cures.
What these bad actors have done with ewedu, its medicinal properties, and curative property shows that fake news purveyors also do research, but perhaps not always thoroughly. Yet they use their little knowledge for selfish gains such as shares, likes, retweets, reposts, follows and, more generally, to pull traffic.
Basic knowledge about a topic is not enough to help draw conclusions or form thoughts about the topic. More research has to be done; talking to experts and comparing studies and, in the context of Covid-19, gathering comments from regulating bodies also help in redirecting your thoughts and conclusions.