CLAIM: There is a WhatsApp post claiming that ewedu leaves kill Coronavirus. The post, which is also on a website and Twitter handle, stated that: “Krain krain has flavonoid that aids the absorption of zinc in the body. Zinc can enter the virus infected cells and stop corona virus from reproducing. Good news. Eat African! Ewedu.”. ‘Molokhia leaves help curb reproduction of coronavirus'”.
VERDICT: Eating Ewedu leaves will NOT cure Coronavirus disease.
An article published by Medical Brief on May 6, 2020, noted that the World Health Organisation (WHO) “welcomes innovations around the world including repurposing drugs, traditional medicines, and developing new therapies in the search for potential treatments for COVID-19”. The medical article explained that the WHO recognises that traditional, complementary and alternative medicine has many benefits and Africa has a long history of traditional medications and practitioners that play an important role in providing care to populations.
It affirms that even if therapies are derived from traditional and natural practice, establishing their efficacy and safety through rigorous clinical trials is critical. As stated in this medical article, one would want to know the level of safety, efficacy, and quality of such traditional medicine.
According to one of the articles claiming this cure, studies have shown that the ewedu leaves, botanically called ‘corchorus olitorius’, contain flavonoid that helps zinc to enter into the virus-infected cell and prevents the reproduction mechanism of its RNA genetic material to stop the virus from reproducing inside the body.
The edible plant found across Africa and Asia, as well as some parts of Europe, North America and Australia, has many local names, including ‘jute mallow’, ‘bush okra’, ‘molokhia’, ‘edewu’, ‘ahihara’, ‘malafiya’ and ‘krinkrin’. It is said to be rich in some vitamins, and can help the body absorb the mineral zinc. But, has it been scientifically and medically proven and accepted to cure the coronavirus?
A Clinical Herbalist who studied Botany and Ethnomedicine, Mrs Christiana -Olapade Ojo, told Dubawa that there is a lot of misconceptions about the use of herbal remedy for management and healing of so many conditions, which, in most cases, do not work that way.
Highlighting few complementary tips to fortify immune system on one of her Facebook posts, the Clinical herbalist, who is also the Managing Director of NARL Specialist Clinic, indicated that Ewedu (Corchorus olitorius, jute plant) should be included in a daily diet because “it is traditionally known for its antiviral properties and some recent reports are also attesting to its anticancer potentials…Which also points to its immune boosting properties.”
Speaking on some assumptions that a person can eat one thing and get well, Mrs Olapade Ojo explained that: “Those things don’t work like that, they work in synergy”; adding that: “Eating ewedu alone will not, and WILL NOT in capital letters, WILL NOT in anyway cure Coronavirus.” She noted that such leaves have to be used in synergy with some other things.
To a dietician and nutritionist, Miss Promise Chimuanya Ugochukwu, zinc, as a micronutrient, is not peculiar to Ewedu alone, there are other leaves or food with zinc. So, Coronavirus disease cure is not just by the micronutrient, rather, it has to do with claims that have been scientifically proven.
Miss Ugochukwu noted that other sources of zinc are meat, whole grains and nuts; adding that “Whatever nutrients you can find in ewedu can also be found in other foods; not that Ewedu has whatever special properties.”
Ewedu can not cure coronavirus disease. Although, WHO is working with research institutions to select traditional medicine products which can be investigated for clinical efficacy and safety for COVID-19 treatment, it has not approved ewedu as a cure.
The researcher produced this fact-check per the Dubawa 2020 Fellowship partnership with the Broadcastings Corporation of Oyo State, to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in Journalism and enhance Media Literacy in the Country.