The effect of the “Covid Organics” potion has not been proven – nevertheless more and more African countries are ordering. What’s behind it?
Rising demand for alleged corona remedies
Before becoming President of Madagascar, Andry Rajoelina worked in the advertising industry, founded an agency and a company that put up huge billboards on the island off Africa’s southeast coast. Sometimes it looks as if he also speaks as president in advertising slogans. In April, he appeared on television and announced that his country was “changing the course of history” because researchers on the island had managed to create a cure from plants that was able to both fight infection with To prevent Covid- 19 than to cure them too. Rajoelina held up a bottle and saw a brown liquid and a logo that said “Covid-Organics”. Then the President took a sip.
Since then, the potion has had an amazing career. It is administered to schoolchildren in Madagascar and shipped to a dozen African countries: Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania, Liberia and others. In the beginning, the orders came only from people like Tanzania’s head of state John Magufuli. The corona denier is something like the Trump of Africa, who praises other miracle cures every week, sometimes snake oil, sometimes the potion from Madagascar. In the meantime, countries like Senegal and Ghana, which have successfully and scientifically based action against the pandemic, have not been able to withdraw from the island.
“Africans have to find their own solutions. We have to prove our independence.”
There is a great longing on the continent for African solutions to a disease imported by whites who are now trying to find solutions. Many countries froze public life very early and followed chains of infection, which is one of the reasons why the number of infections on the continent is still low, at less than 100,000. But the costs are brutal, millions of people in the informal sector have lost their jobs.
“Africans have to find their own solutions. We have to prove our independence. That is a great motivation,” said Ibrahima Gueye, a professor from Senegal who built a prototype for a ventilator with students. Such innovations can now be seen all over the continent. And for many, the herbal potion belongs in this series. “Madagascar is an African country, as an African nation we will continue to use our African remedies,” said Liberia’s Deputy Minister of Information Eugene Farghon when he picked up thousands of bottles of Covid Organics at the airport. “We need to make it clear to mankind that Africa is not just dance and music, it has solutions to the world’s health problems,” said Erick Gbodossou, who runs an organization in Senegal that promotes traditional medicine.
So far, the WHO has reacted less enthusiastically to Covid Organics. There is no evidence of effectiveness. “We advise the government of Madagascar to test the product in a clinical trial and we will be happy to contribute,” said Rebecca Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. The African Union wants to endeavor to find the exact ingredients and test results of Covid-Organics in Madagascar and to conduct its own studies. Before that, the liquid should not be taken uncontrollably. Madagascar’s president has been increasingly offended over the past few days. “What if this remedy had been discovered by a European country? Would people question it that way?” So far, his government has not disclosed exactly what is contained in the potion. The recipe comes from the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research, which has been researching traditional medicines and plants for decades and has developed medications for hypertension and malaria. However, the drink is not a completely new invention. The main ingredient is probably Artemisia, an ingredient obtained from the Artemisia annua plant, which in Germany is called mugwort. The magazine Africa Report reports that Madagascar’s president’s speech at the presentation of the drink largely corresponds to a letter that the French organization La Maison de l’Artemisia sent to 23 African heads of state in March to praise the effectiveness of Artemisia. The active ingredient and derivatives derived from it are considered successful in the treatment of malaria worldwide. South Africa’s health minister recently told how another Artemisia species has been used to lower fever in his home region for generations. The active ingredient must now also be tested for effectiveness against corona.
This is currently happening at the Max Planck Institute for Colloid and Interfacial Research, where independent of Covid-Organics in Madagascar had started in early April to investigate the effectiveness of Artemisia annua against Covid-19, together with Danish and US researchers, the first results are expected next week. The researchers were unable to investigate Covid Organics there, it was not available to them. There are also very different types of Artemisia annua, says Peter Seeberger, the director of the institute. “In these, the amount of active ingredients can differ 20 times.” Other researchers warn that the active ingredient in the form of beverages can evaporate quickly. Madagascar still wants to export. The country reported the first corona deaths in the middle of the week.