The World Health Organisation (WHO) announced that it recognises the benefits of traditional healing and other alternative medicines as possible treatments for COVID-19, and will conduct studies into its effects.

In a statement, WHO explains that studies of medicinal plants as possible treatments is valid and should go through the same testing process as modern medicine.

“WHO recognises 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. 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.

Even if therapies are derived from traditional practice and natural, establishing their efficacy and safety through rigorous clinical trials is critical.”

Many approved traditional medicine products have been used to treat diseases such as malaria, HIV, diabetes, sickle cell disease and hypertension.

WHO is now working with various research institutions to test such medicines for clinical efficacy and safety as a treatment for COVID-19. Traditional medicines being tested must be approved by national medicine regulatory agencies and its production must fall in line with international standards.

However, WHO cautions against blind belief in traditional medicine that has not been thoroughly researched. People are still advised to follow proper health and safety protocols, and must not rely solely on traditional medicine.

“As efforts are under way to find treatment for COVID-19, caution must be taken against misinformation, especially on social media, about the effectiveness of certain remedies. Many plants and substances are being proposed without the minimum requirements and evidence of quality, safety and efficacy.

The use of products to treat COVID-19, which have not been robustly investigated can put people in danger, giving a false sense of security and distracting them from hand washing and physical distancing, cardinal in COVID-19 prevention, and may also increase self-medication and the risk to patient safety.”

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