The World Health Organization (WHO), on Monday, cautioned against the use of medicinal plants such as Artemisia annua, which have been touted as possible treatments for COVID-19.
The international health agency, in a statement, said while it supports scientifically proven traditional medicine, there is still a need to test for the efficacy and side effects of the newly touted drug.
The new herbal drug received global attention after Madagascar’s president, Andry Rajoelina, announced that his country had gotten a cure for COVID -19.
The herbal mix has not been scientifically tested yet, but many African countries have announced placing orders for it.
Mr Rajoelina, at the official launch of the herbal mix, “Baptised Covid-Organics”, said the tonic is derived from artemisia – a plant with proven efficacy in treating malaria – as well as other indigenous herbs.
It was developed by the Madagascar Institute of Applied Research (IMRA) but has not been tested internationally.
“This herbal tea gives results in seven days,” he said.
While the race to find a potential cure for the virus has been intensified globally, WHO African region said there is still a need to establish the efficacy of herbal drugs through clinical trials.
The organisation said it welcomes innovations around the world, including repurposing drugs, traditional medicines and developing new therapies in the search for potential treatments for COVID-19.
“WHO recognizes that traditional, complementary and alternative medicine has many benefits and Africa has a long history of traditional medicine and practitioners that play an important role in providing care to populations,” it said.
“Medicinal plants, such as Artemisia annua, are being considered as possible treatments for COVID-19 and should be tested for efficacy and adverse side effects,” it added.
According to the statement, even though therapies are derived from traditional practice, it is critical to establish the efficacy and safety.