Focus/Spotlight

Covid-19 curative tonics: Truth or myth?

The Speaker of Parliament inspecting the anti-Covid herbal syrup produced by Dhammika Bandara

With the series of media appearances made by the creator of a curative indegenius potion for Covid-19, and ayurvedic recipes by “experts” and practitioners to cure the disease shared on social media, the past couple of weeks have been a confusing time for many Sri Lankans. Several other such curative tonics have also made their way to the public domain.

However we saw swarms of people flocking over to these medical experts to purchase the medicine and hold on to a tiny shred of hope. While we are trying to decide whether to rely on ayurvedic cures or to wait for the vaccine, we spoke to some members of the public to see what their opinions were on the matter and here’s what we found out.

 

This recent uproar is promising: Devmini de Silva, fashion designer

 

“This recent uproar is promising, as there will be no vaccine in Sri Lanka for the next 6-8 months, these ayurvedic meds may have a good effect. After all, they aren’t harmful to the body as they’re made out of herbal substances. Some of these substances are anyway consumed with daily meals. I don’t see why there is such a propensity to oppose such methods at this juncture. 

It is a possibility however if it’s scientifically proven it would be more mass market believable. The tonics may not be a cure for Covid-19 but it helps to boost the immune system to fight the virus. So if such a tonic does prove to be beneficial, why not give the freedom of choice to individuals who want to consume it? 

However I feel our indigenous cures that have worked for generations on people in the olden days aren’t portrayed in a good light by the media. Thus, downgrading these tonics and calling ayurvedic practices a pseudoscience.”

 

We need to be very careful: Thusitha Medagama, banker

 

“Recently we noticed there is a trend on medicinal tonics around Sri Lanka, so many are claiming that they have found a cure for covid 19 and they are distributing different kinds of medicinal tonics. However, we need to be very careful when using them because they might not be coming from certified physicians. If we blindly listen to them and use those medications we might not only end up having various kinds of side effects, further people gathering around these so-called ‘doctors’ houses will create more covid clusters around Sri lanka. 

However there is no denying that we had a strong scientific knowledge in the past,  look at giant stupas our ancestors built. Statues such as Awukana are still wonders. How they did those , we still don’t know. This indicates we had a strong knowledge back in the days which due to certain reasons disappeared. Obviously they would have had diseases back in the days and how did they overcome them.There should have been a way, so I personally believe our indigenous medicine will probably be able to come up with a medicine.”

 

I do not believe these can provide serious diseases with a permanent cure: Sharith Perera, Attorney-at-law

 

“Let me start by saying that there’s nothing wrong with ‘recognized’ ayurvedic/ indigenous medication as these are mostly made out of natural ingredients which have been tested over time, and certainly it is an individual’s right to choose to be treated with either modern/ western medication or indigenous treatment options. 

However, although there seems to be no health risks associated with indigenous medicine, I do not believe these can provide serious diseases with a permanent cure. As an example in the mid 1930s over 80,000 people had lost their lives due to the malaria epidemic according to sources. If we possessed a cure through indigenous medicine we wouldn’t see such figures being reported and we would also possess cures for other diseases such as cancer, HIV AIDS etc. 

However it is the gradual development of modern scientific and medical research which has been the key in dramatic drops in most diseases which affected mankind in the past. The decreased maternal mortality rates and other diseases such as polio, and the overall increase in the quality of life/ the increased average life expectancy in Sri Lanka was undoubtedly due to modern medical and health-care services. 

Yet during the past few weeks in Sri Lanka, a number of individuals who are not recognized medical professionals have emerged claiming to have somewhat of a magical cure for the Covid-19 virus and these claims have been severely criticised and ridiculed especially on social media. Countries such as New Zealand did not overcome these current global challenges by allowing witch doctors and magic portions into limelight – they did so by adhering to modern medical practices and recognized guidelines. 

Therefore it is also the duty of the media, especially at these times, to not allow disinformation to be spread and to not give publicity to unconfirmed claims. What should be promoted is the responsibility of everyone in society to adhere to health guidelines provided by recognized authorities which are given in terms of global standards, and to assist recognized health-care professionals who work tirelessly to contain this pandemic.”

 

The biggest problem is the lack of hope: Premalatha Perera, house wife

 

“The biggest problem is the fact that there is no hope for the people, so they latch on to any cure that comes their way and selfish, opportunists take advantage of that. If the government has strict regulations about this sort of thing, none of this would happen.”

 

There is a clear difference between medicines and Snake Oil: Chiranthaka Palugaswewa, Attorney-at-law

 

“One must be a fool to say that the sinhala Hela medicine with roots extending over  thousands of years along with other medical practices such as Ayurveda,Sidhi,yunani  cannot  find a cure for covid-19. However, there is a clear difference between these medicines and Snake Oil. Therefore the government and the media have a responsibility to wait until the proper medical trials are carried out before giving it the recognition they already gave. 

Such medicine should  be carefully analyzed then, if satisfactory,  trials should be carried out for a larger sample size! 95% corona patients recover without any medicine and do not show any complications at all therefore one could argue water cures Covid-19 and it’s 95% effective. The vaccines administered now are the labour of months of research and trials. Therefore my faith lies with the vaccines for now!”

 

Still a question whether it’s gonna work 100%: Luke Fernando, student

 

“Speaking of the COVID19 vaccine, personal perspective, something to look forward to. In a medical perspective, still a question whether it’s gonna work 100% and whether it’s gonna work with the immune systems and bodies of Sri Lankans. There might be people who might do that for the money, fame but still they might be some who actually want this to end so trying to do something from their end.”

 

I believe ayurvedic medicine should be able to find a cure for Covid: S. Udhayasiri, Marketing Manager

 

“The dhammika paniya that made a whole lot of noise and drama in the country a week ago seemed to be a scam. But the thing is, I believe ayurvedic medicine should be able to find a cure for Covid, if the indegenius medical experts get together and conduct significant research and experiment enough. Basically we should not stop trying and we should not lose hope.”

 

Making a whole lot of calamity for no reason: Nimasha dias, receptionist

 

“I think curative ayurvedic medicine right now is just making a whole lot of calamity for no reason. The point is that we are focusing on the wrong thing. We have to be happy that our medical experts are taking initiative to come up with a cure for Covid-19, at the same time these efforts should not be selfish opportunities to take advantage of the vulnerability of the people in this situation.” 

 

Everything is unpredictable: Janega Guruge, research assistant

 

“Who’s to say what we can have faith in. The flow of these curative medicines are a sign of effort put in to come out of this mess. However the success of these attempts are not guaranteed. Just this week there was a report of a person who contracted the virus 2 weeks after taking the vaccine, so everything is unpredictable right now.”

 

Yet to hear of any that have undergone rigorous ayurveda research: Yasodhara Pathanjali, artist

 

“I’ve heard of a whole bunch of unsubstantiated claims of cures but have yet to hear of any that have undergone rigorous ayurveda research. So I highly doubt that there are upcoming tonics. Ayurveda has a longer record of understanding and healing our health than any other medical system, so it seems inevitable that we can find a cure. But sadly there is too much focus on a cure for Corona, when it’s well documented that what’s urgently needed is prevention and not a cure. Anyone that understands respiratory or lung health can see that clearly. 

None of those who have come forward with so called ‘cures’ are registered Ayurveda practitioners from my understanding, so it is not fair to think of the offerings as representative of our ancient knowledge and medicine. It is certainly very sad to see people’s fear, lack of understanding and trust being misused in this way.”