Is WHO turning around on the herbal tonic?  

Rattled by the growing popularity of a possible treatment for COVID-19 by herbal tonic produced by Madagascar, the World Health Organization (WHO) appears to seek a way around its hardline position against the tonic.

In a press statement released on Monday, 04 May 2020 WHO said that it recognizes that traditional, complementary and alternative medicine and that it welcomes innovations around the world including repurposing drugs, traditional medicines and developing new therapies in the search for potential treatments for COVID-19.

The WHO said that it is working with research institutions to select traditional medicine products which can be investigated for clinical efficacy and safety for COVID-19 treatment.

“The organization will continue to support countries as they explore the role of traditional health practitioners in prevention, control, and early detection of the virus as well as case referral to health facilities,” said the statement.

In the wake of the rising infections and deaths due to COVID-19, a number of African heads of governments have publicly declared their support for the tonic herbal medicine purported by Madagascar’s President to cure COVID-19.

Ghana, Egypt and a host of others in the West and North Africa have either showing interest or importing the herbal tonic.

Tanzania and Guinea-Bissau have also made plans to import the tonic, which contains the artemisia plant, which is normally used to treat malaria.

However, the WHO said Africans deserve to use medicines tested to the same standards as people in the rest of the world, “even if therapies are derived from traditional practice and natural,” adding that establishing their efficacy and safety through rigorous clinical trials is critical.

But the drama the herbal tonic is causing today would have been avoided if the WHO took serious a resolution by the African governments through their Ministers of Health urging Member States to produce evidence on the safety, efficacy and quality of traditional medicines at the Fiftieth Session of the WHO Regional Committee for Africa in 2000.

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