After failing to procure enough genuinely helpful coronavirus vaccines, the Thai government now is resorting to unproven, dangerous folk remedies to treat Covid-19.
The Cabinet on Tuesday made the baffling decision to officially approve use of green chiretta, or “fah talai jun” in Thai, on asymptomatic Covid-19 patients, even though the herbal remedy has proven to have dangerous side effects and not proven to be of any benefit to coronavirus patients.
The former generals trying to play doctor amidst Thailand’s worst-ever health crisis justified their decisions by saying the Corrections Department used chiretta on inmates – who couldn’t object – and reported success.
The herb is commonly known as “Indian echinacea” or “battler stick”. It is widely used in India and has seen limited use throughout Southeast Asia, but misinformation spread on social media has caused a run on the herb in Thailand, with back orders running several months and, now, the govermetn apparently buying into the fantasy.
There is no scientific evidence that chiretta has any effect on the coronavirus, but there is plenty of evidence the herb, especially if overused, can cause serious health ailments.
Use may trigger fatigue, headache, nausea, diarrhea, and allergic reaction. It has been known to lower blood sugar levels to dangerous levels for diabetics and can cause bleeding ulcers and prevent blood clotting leading to excessive bleeding.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, a small percentage of Thais used chiretta as an herbal remedy for symptoms of the common cold, claiming it can lessen fever and sore throat. But there are no scientific studies and too little evidence to back that up.
Now, amid the Covid-19 surge, Facebook “doctors” are claiming the herb can lessen symptoms such as sore throat and coughing. No pharmacists interviewed claimed it would prevent coronavirus infections, however.
Government spokeswoman Rachada Dhnadirek had no problems making that false claim, however. She stated as fact that andrographolide, a component of green chiretta, protects cells from the virus and reduces its multiplication.
There is not a shred of scientific evidence to support that.
The Corrections Department inflicted green chiretta on about 11,800 coronavirus-infected inmates and, she said, and 99 percent recovered. That recovery rate is exactly what it would have been without the herb. She conveniently left out how many of the 11,800 suffered harmful side effects from the herb.
Government researchers suggested coronavirus patients should consume 180 milligrams of andrographolide per day, or 60mg per meal, Rachada said. That is 12 times the dose recommended by the few medical studies out on chiretta and is not advised by global health authorities.