Pattaya residents are snapping up an Indian herb they wrongly believe will prevent or combat Covid-19 despite the risk of serious side effects.
Known locally as “green chiretta,” (Andrographis paniculata – Fah-talai-jone) the herb is commonly known as “Indian echinacea” or “bitter stick.” It is widely used in India and has seen limited use throughout Southeast Asia, but misinformation spread on social media has caused a run on the herb in Thailand, with backorders running several months.
There is no scientific evidence that chiretta has any effect on the coronavirus, but there is plenty of evidence that the herb can cause serious health ailments, especially if overused.
A pharmacist at a drugstore on Sukhumvit Road, said the store is out of stock and doesn’t expect more for months. The supplier has so many backorders it has stopped taking reservations, she said.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, the pharmacist said that chiretta was used as a remedy for the symptoms of the common cold and can lessen fever and sore throat. There are no scientific studies and too little evidence to support that claim.
The pharmacist said customers are told the herb cannot prevent Covid-19, but she claimed it can lessen symptoms such as sore throat and coughing.
The dosage she recommended for the common cold – 60 milligrams – is 12 times the dose recommended by medical studies and is not advised by global health authorities.
What is not in dispute is the potentially damaging side effects of self-medicating with an untested herbal remedy.
Use may trigger fatigue, headache, nausea, diarrhea, and an allergic reaction. It has been known to lower blood sugar levels to dangerous levels for diabetics and can cause bleeding ulcers and prevent blood clotting leading to excessive bleeding.