Madagascar’s President Andry Rajoelina gave a long, televised address last weekend praising the benefits of artemisia, a herbal remedy increasingly promoted as a treatment for Covid-19. “Clinical trials of artemisia-based injections on new Covid-19 patients will start next week,” said Rajoelina, saying that any criticism of the plant-based remedy must stop, according to RFI’s correspondent in Antananarivo. The plant materials for the test are being provided by ArtemiLife Inc, a Delaware-based company, that says it has fields growing artemisia outside Lexington, Kentucky. The research, known as Project 523, involved two groups pursuing antimalarial drug development: one investigating synthetic medicine, the other examining traditional remedies.Researchers later identified the molecular structure of artemisinin and discovered more derivatives, eventually producing the first artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) for malaria, known as Coartem. Chinese researchers in July 2005 published a study exploring the use of herbal extracts for antiviral properties in treatment of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), a respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus.
Artemisia’s use in treating malaria is clearly beneficial in the fight against the deadly parasite, although some raise questions about the exact nature of the treatment. The WHO is careful not to rule out the possible use of artemisia as a treatment for Covid-19, saying it should be tested for its efficacy and adverse side effects. 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 which are cardinal in Covid-19 prevention,” the WHO added.