COVID-19: The cure is almost here, but it’s not your kitchen herb

Nigerian Twitter is divided on how to approach the advice from the Ooni of Ife on how to get through the Coronavirus pandemic. The traditional ruler had announced, in a video on his social media platforms, that the cure for Coronavirus is a group of super herbs that have been used by the indigenous Yoruba people for generations to ward off infections and stay healthy.

The short clip showed the herbs with a voice-over saying out their names, both common and botanical, followed by instructions on how they can be used to fight the Coronavirus. Onions (sliced and placed in corners of the room and underneath the feet with the help of socks), neem tree, bitterleaf, African black pepper among other things, dried and used as incense. The Ooni confidently proclaimed that this has been tested and proven effective on Coronavirus patients by him.

While many dismissed the claim as irresponsible, considering the potential harm it could cause the Ooni’s desperate followers who would take the claims as authoritative; some Nigerians are calling for deference to the ruler’s opinion.

Earlier, President Trump of the United States, made a similar claim regarding Chloroquine, a drug long used for many health conditions, particularly for malaria in this part of the world. The claim caused massive panic buying of Chloroquine in the U.S., but also here in Nigeria, and a resultant couple of cases of chloroquine poisoning in both countries. Referring to this, a Twitter user cautioned against such ‘reckless statement’ by the monarch, pointing out that it could lead to more loss of life than the virus itself;  “Pharmacists have come out to debunk the Ooni of Ife’s claim but Tunde from Okoko believes agbo Jedi jedi can cure Coronavirus. Remind me again the average mortality rate before the advent of modern-day medicine?”

The scientific community had warned earlier that a vaccine for Coronavirus, which is the only way the virus can be truly defeated, will take months to develop, test, and roll out for use. Estimates place the availability of this in 2021 at the latest. This may explain why even learned individuals appear open to considering alternative possibilities, as seen on Twitter. The repercussion, when carefully considered, is nevertheless not worth the try.

Existing research shows that some of the herbs used in alternative medicine are intrinsically harmful, especially when used in certain doses, which often fall within the range prescribed by herbalists. So, perhaps we should listen more closely to the health authorities in these times of the pandemic, the Ntional Centre for Disease Contol. Hours after news of the Ooni’s bold claim emerged, the centre tweeted:

Rightly so, ‘unverified,” says the professionals. Stay home and stay safe

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