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Fact check: ‘Ewedu’ or jute leaves can’t stop coronavirus spreading in the body

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Molokhia leaves help curb reproduction of coronavirus,” claims a screenshot shared on WhatsApp in Nigeria.

“Krain krain has flavonoids that aid the absorption of zinc in the body. Zinc can enter the virus-infected cells and stops coronavirus from reproducing. Good news. Eat African! Ewedu.”

The screenshot comes from an article on the site Arab Times, published on 6 April 2020. It’s been shared on Facebook and Twitter.

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The article claims that “molokhia leaves whose scientific name (corchorus olitorius) contain a 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”.

Corchorus olitorius is an edible plant found across Africa and Asia, as well as some parts of Europe, North America and Australia. It has many local names, including jute, bush okra, molokhia, ewedu, ahihara, malafiya and krinkrin.

The plant is rich in some vitamins and can help the body absorb the mineral zinc. But does it stop the coronavirus from spreading in the body?

Not scientifically or medically proven
Gabriel Oyeyinka, professor of chemical pathology and immunology at Nigeria’s University of Ilorin, told Africa Check the claim had not been medically proven.

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“Zinc is important for improving immune responses along with vitamin C and vitamin D. I would say ewedu leaves should be consumed if one wants to boost one’s immune system,” he said.

“The pathogenesis of Covid-19 is new. There are theories about Covid-19 which have not been scientifically proven.”

But he added that zinc should not be used to treat Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. “I don’t believe zinc can stop Covid-19 from replicating itself.”

Unproven remedies put people in danger
The World Health Organization says it supports scientifically proven traditional medicine. But people must be careful of misinformation, especially on social media, that certain remedies can cure Covid-19.

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“Many plants and substances are being proposed without the minimum requirements and evidence of quality, safety and efficacy,” the WHO warns.

“The use of products to treat Covid-19, which have not been robustly investigated, can put people in danger.”

This, the organisation says, can give “a false sense of security” and distract people from “hand washing and physical distancing which are cardinal in Covid-19 prevention”. It “may also increase self-medication and the risk to patient safety”. – Motunrayo Joel

This content is produced under collaboration between The Guardian Newspaper and Africa Check to fight health misinformation

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