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How Potent is Lemongrass in COVID-19 Treatment?

Image Credit: Medical News Today 4 mins read

A viral WhatsApp message suggests that Lemongrass tea kills COVID-19.

Lemongrass is not the proposed cure for COVID-19; if it were accurate, perhaps the altruistic Dr Li would still be alive today, presumably as a first-hand user and witness of the efficacy of the tea. More so, there is no proof of CNN’s involvement as no such publication or report has originated from the organization. 

Full Text

On 28th of April, a chain message, titled “Breaking News from CNN” surfaced on WhatsApp. This message, attributed to renowned Cable News Network (CNN), says the African Grass Tea is responsible for curing COVID-19 patients in China. It further named Dr Li Wenliang – the doctor Chinese law enforcement arrested for allegedly misinforming the world about the novel coronavirus- as the source. 

According to the message, the chemicals present in the tea are proof of its efficacy in curing COVID-19. The substances, identified as  Methylxanthine, Theobromine and Theophylline allegedly, stimulate compounds that can get rid of the virus in humans.

Dr Li Wenliang

Li Wenliang is an acclaimed Wuhan doctor, who gained popularity for blowing the whistle on the new coronavirus at its wake in China. On December  30th, last year, he reportedly warned his classmates, in their alumni group, on messaging App – WeChat, to be careful of the virus. His friends, in turn, circulated his message, which he paid for immediately. The Wuhan Police arrested Wenliang for spreading misinformation. The 34-year old later tested positive for COVID-19 on February 1st and died on the 7th of the same month.

African/Lemongrass Tea

Lemongrass is also known as African Grass Tea and popular amongst the Yoruba as ‘Ewe Tea’. It is a tall/long stalky plant and contains several health benefits. Its medicinal values vary from country to country. The African grass tea, like every other tea, contains Caffeine – a type of methylxanthine that helps in controlling the airways amongst its other functions.

Methylxanthine, Theobromine and Theophylline 

Methylxanthines are drugs derived from xanthine, present in medications for some respiratory issues. They are a type of stimulants that include caffeine, theobromine and theophylline. 

Theobromine is the primary bitter-tasting alkaloid found in cocoa and chocolate. While its chocolate content is little enough to be consumed safely by humans; it poses a risk to animals such as dogs. Doctors utilise it as as a heart stimulant and a vasodilator (a blood vessel widener) which aids urination.

Theophylline is one of the most widely prescribed drugs for the treatment of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) worldwide, and also has several other pharmacological effects, notably the stimulation of the pumping action of the heart and the dilation of blood vessels around the body. It is inexpensive and widely available.

While these drugs do treat respiratory airway obstruction, no study has suggested that they are effective against coronavirus, not to mention SARS-COV-2, which also obstructs the lungs. Nonetheless, as it stands, scientists are still working on vaccines for the new coronavirus.

Verification

Dubawa has checked many COVID-19 cure related claims, and they all turned out to be false. (check here) The reason is that health organisations are yet to establish a cure for the pandemic, although some vaccines are currently in trial. However, the World Health Organization has recommended preventive measures which include practices such as social distancing, frequent washing of hands, covering of mouth when coughing, and wearing face masks out of the house, etc.

It is also significant to note that findings show that CNN is not responsible for the composition and dissemination of the broadcast message.

Additionally, there is no evidence to prove the late doctor ever proposed the tea for treating the novel coronavirus as claimed by the BC. Ironically, the doctor who allegedly recommended the cure died of COVID-19, raising doubt about the integrity of the claim attributed to him. If the tea truly wards off the virus, what could have possibly held Li Wenliang from treating himself with it? This question draws attention to the possibility of malicious intent in the propagation of this message. 

Conclusion

Using credible sources to strengthen an otherwise baseless claim is no new tactic. This strategy is a common practice of fake news purveyors. Lemongrass is not the proposed cure for COVID-19; if it were accurate, perhaps the altruistic Dr Li would still be alive today, presumably as a first-hand user and witness of the efficacy of the tea. More so, there is no proof of CNN’s involvement as no such publication or report has originated from the organisation. 

Again, since there is no cure for the novel coronavirus yet, security resides in prudent scepticism of news relating to treatments and cure of COVID-19 that do not include statements of approval by WHO and other relevant health authorities.

Lateef Sanni is a graduate of mass communication from Lagos state university. Before joining Dubawa, he belonged to the association of campus journalists where he was trained on the basics of fact-checking, a tool for combating misinformation in Nigeria. He joined the Dubawa team as a researcher and content developer for Dubawa's social media platforms. He consistently works to improve the dissemination of fact-checks through pictures [fact cards] and videos.

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