Claim: a viral message making rounds on WhatsApp claims that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has approved a COVID-19 herbal remedy discovered by a certain Indian student.
The claim that WHO has approved a COVID-19 herbal remedy with black pepper powder, ginger juice, and honey as ingredients is false and misleading. The claim is refuted by WHO and experts have confirmed the ingredients as insufficient and impotent to be termed a cure for COVID-19.
The Novel COVID-19 virus has forged a new spectrum in society. A new normal that has overhauled what used to be normal, to now be totally abnormal. Yet amidst this avalanche of unusual scenery is also an influx of diverse claims regarding cures, and remedies for COVID-19. These claims are most often predominant on social media, suggesting strategies and diagnosis for the virus.
Evenmore, the fear and anxiety COVID-19 instills, seem to make people susceptible to such information and enthusiastic in sharing such information to their loved ones, online community groups and colleagues, etc. Though some of these heralded messages hold some shreds of truth, most of them turn out to be misleading.
In this instance, a viral WhatsApp message claims that the World Health Organization (WHO) has approved a COVID-19 herbal remedy that was discovered by Ramu, a certain Indian student from the Pondicherry University. The claim posits that the herbal remedy is the first of its kind to be approved by the WHO with 100% efficacy confirmed. It further beckoned on users to distribute the information to “friends and family”.
The message read:
“COVID -19 HERBAL SOLUTION JUST IN.
Finally, an INDIAN student from PONDICHERRY University, named RAMU, found a home remedy for Covid-19 which is for the first time accepted by the World health organization( WHO.)
– He proved that by adding 1 tablespoon of black pepper powder to 2 tablespoons of honey and ginger juice for 5 consecutive days, it would remove the effects of the covid-19 And finally disappear 100%
– The whole world is beginning to accept this remedy. Finally good news in 2021 !!
PLEASE DISTRIBUTE THIS INFORMATION TO ALL OF YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS AND FRIENDS.
Efficacy is 100% confirmed.”
In recent times, DUBAWA has debunked multiple claims and myths about the COVID-19 cure. In one instance, a post on Facebook announced that the National Agency For Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has approved the PaxHerbal-remedy as a treatment for COVID-19. Yet after some analysis was carried out, we discovered it was a hoax. Also, several such messages with claims about natural home remedies having the ability to cure COVID-19 have been making rounds since the pandemic broke. However, as before, none of these have been proved to be effective in curing COVID-19.
Significantly, the timely and sufficient scrutiny of such claims is vital in directing and guarding unsuspecting members of the public on the right practices to inculcate as regards the virus and the access to fact-based information that directly relates to their health and general well being. It is as regards this need that DUBAWA subjects the claim to scrutiny, to uncover its verity and determine its validity and reliability especially as it relates to the general public.
A preliminary query conducted by DUBAWA showed that in April 2020, when claims about COVID-19 home remedy cures became rampant, WHO clarified that ginger and honey may not have any effect in curing or treating the disease. At a press conference in Geneva, Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, said that while it could have soothing effects, or even provide reassurance during an illness, it should not be assumed to be effective in treating COVID-19. In his words, he stated that:
“I think we have to be careful from what we would consider to be the traditional remedies that people use for making themselves feel better during the common cold or the flu or any of this. We’ve all had illnesses, and some of us like to take a drink with honey, some like to take ginger…But it’s a different thing to say that something is effective in treating the disease. At this moment there is no therapy that has been proven to be effective in the treatment of COVID-19.”
In the same vein WHO has refuted the claim and renounced its purported cure. The WHO communication officer, Ms. Charity Warigon confirmed that “This is fake news and WHO has not approved any of such home remedies as COVID-19 cure.” While, Dr Jean Baptiste NIKIEMA, Regional Adviser, Essential Medicines at WHO Africa Regional Office in Brazzaville, who replied to DUBAWA via a mail also explained that:
“Until now there is no cure for COVID-19 that has been scientifically proven. It is important to note that large clinical trials are necessary to conclude on the efficacy of therapeutics against COVID-19. With a very limited number of participants in trials, the recovery can be attributed to any product used by the patients during the sickness. When the number of participants in clinical trials increases, the inefficiency of the product will become evident. This already happened with Chloroquine, Hydroxychloroquine and Remdesivir last year. WHO kicked off last year, the Solidarity Clinical Trial for COVID-19 Treatments. Solidarity is an international clinical trial to help find an effective treatment for COVID-19, launched by the World Health Organization and partners. It is one of the largest international randomized trials for COVID-19 treatment for almost 12 000 patients in 500 hospital sites in over 30 countries.”
Concerning the ingredients, Dr. Suranjit Chatterjee, Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine at Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, in a video interview that regards black pepper powder, honey, and ginger juice as COVID-19 cures, explained that there was no medical basis or evidence for stating that either of these ingredients could cure COVID-19. He clarified that:
“They might soothe the symptoms, they might in some way be immune-boosters, but in no way do they treat the infection in itself. Once you’ve had the infection, they don’t treat it. They have no definite proven role in the treatment of coronavirus.”
Dr. Chatterjee added that:
“Earlier, in pandemics when there was not much medical management, solutions like these were like a solace to people. But at present, there is fairly good medical management which can improve outcomes, so trying to do these and not actually approaching healthcare facilities for the disease could be counter-productive”.
Deductively, this viral message lacks credible reference and the sufficient fact to back its imposition. It’s not anywhere published by a reputable media and has only been in existence as a broadcast message.
While black pepper and honey have lots of value to human health and ginger is also prevalent in natural treatment to boost immunity, these ingredients are not a cure for the novel coronavirus. Also, WHO has distanced itself from this claim, flagging it as a false claim.