WHO 'waiting for evidence' on Madagascar’s herbal coronavirus cure

Samples of Covid-Organics on display in Antananarivo on 20 April 2020.
Samples of Covid-Organics on display in Antananarivo on 20 April 2020. © AFP - Rijasolo

The World Health Organization has yet to receive any data or information about the effectiveness of a herbal cure for Covid-19 promoted by Madagascar’s government, the UN health body has said. President Andry Rajoelina has been pushing products containing extracts of the artemisia plant as a treatment for the virus. 


“We’ve not received any data on that, we would welcome seeing such information,” said Richard Mihigo, WHO deputy incident manager for Covid-19 response in the Africa region.

“We are currently seeing how we can work with the national authority to help them, if necessary, to conduct clinical trials that respect international standards.” 

Rajoelina appeared on Malagasy television last weekend encouraging the use of Covid-Organics, a product based on extracts of the artemisia plant, claiming its effectiveness in treating Covid-19. He is also encouraging other African countries to follow suit in using it for treatment. 

“There is no effective treatment against Covid-19 so far,” Mihigo told RFI in a telephone interview, outlining several different research areas that are being pursued for coronavirus treatment, including repurposed medicine, new chemical derivatives and herbal medicine. 

Rajoelina said Madagascar's authorities would start clinical trials of artemisia. The government has already suggested that some tests of the herbal treatment have taken place. 

“For the moment we don’t have any evidence that it’s a cure for Covid-19,” added Mihigo, referring to Rajoelina’s claims that the plant can be used to treat a lot of different diseases. 

The WHO says it supports the use of traditional medicines and has encouraged the creation of policies with African governments concerning their use. 

The artemisia annua plant has been long-known to have uses for the treatment of malaria and drugs have been developed using artemisinin, a derivative of one of the plant’s compounds.

Research has also been conducted into artemisia’s use in combatting HIV and its effectiveness against SARS, another type of coronavirus. 

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