The COVID-19 pandemic has raised the issue of using herbal medicines to fight against novel diseases. On September 19, the World Health Organization endorsed a protocol for testing herbal medication as a possible treatment to fight COVID-19 and other diseases.

The health agency's endorsement encourages traditional testing therapies with the same criteria used for molecules developed by laboratories in Asia, America, and Europe. The idea of using herbal medicines came months after the controversial bid from Madagascar's president promoting a drink based on Artemisia, which is a plant known with its proven treating capacity against malaria.

WHO partnered with the African Union Commission for Social Affairs and the Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The WHO Endorsed Protocol for Testing Herbal Medicines As COVID-19 Treatment
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Artemisia vulgaris

Potential Herbal Medicines to Cure COVID-19

Experts in WHO and colleagues from these two organizations have endorsed a protocol for phase III clinical trials of herbal medicine for COVID-19 as well as a charter and terms of reference for the establishment of a data and safety monitoring board for herbal medicine clinical trials on Saturday.

WHO noted in their statement that phase III clinical trials are essential to fully assess the efficacy and safety of a new medical product. Prosper Tumusiime, a regional WHO director, said that the health agency would recommend herbal medicines for a fast-tracked, large-scale manufacturing once it is proven safe and effective to use.

COVID-19's onset and Ebola outbreak in West Africa has raised the need for strong health systems and accelerated research and development programs on using herbal medicines, Tumusilime added.

However, he did not refer specifically to the drink that Madagascar's President Andry Rajoelina has been promoting, called COVID-Organics or CVO, as a cure for COVID-19. The drink is now widely distributed in Madagascar and sold to other African countries as well.

WHO Africa Director Matshidiso Moeti said that African governments committed in 2000 to take "traditional therapies" through similar clinical trials that new medicines undergo before getting approval of using them.

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Artemisia Plant

Madagascar had attracted a lot of attention when its president announced it was using a local plant in fighting coronavirus in April and May.

Its president has promoted a drink based on Artemisia plant extracts, although the WHO has found no evidence so far of the safety and efficacy of using the plant against COVID-19.

The plant is originally from Asia but generally grows in many sunny and warm regions of the world. The Artemisia plant is used for more than 2,000 years as a traditional Chinese medicine in treating a number of diseases, including malaria, fever and is used as a pain killer.

Scientists are now testing Artemisia for its safety and effectiveness against COVID-19. The German and Danish scientists claimed that the plant showed some effectiveness against the novel coronavirus after they tested the plant's extract. They found that when used with pure ethanol or distilled water, these extracts showed anti-viral properties, although the study was not peer-reviewed yet.

Meanwhile, researchers from the University of Kentucky are planning to test it on humans sometime now.

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