Health minister Zweli Mkhize has reacted to the use of umhlonyane to defeat flu, saying indeed this was true as he also grew up drinking it. However, he cautioned against beliefs that the plant known as artemisia could cure Covid-19.
The popularity of umhlonyane has risen to prominence during the Covid-19 outbreak after claims emanating from Madagascar that the plant can defeat the coronavirus.
In South Africa, following the reports from the Island, debate has been raging on social media about umhlonyane. The first high-profile South African to back it was Saftu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, who had contracted coronavirus and revealed that umhlonyane was among the remedies that helped him recover.
UDM MP Nqabayomzi Kwankwa took it to parliament by posing the question about umhlonyane and Covid-19 to Mkhize.
The health minister, answering Kwankwa during a virtual national assembly question and answer session, said while there was no scientific evidence to back up the claims, people who want to consume umhlonyane are not prohibited from doing so.
“Umhlonyane is an old African herb which we grew up consuming. Even I, growing up, I never went to hospital. I would just drink umhlonyane to deal with fever and flu,” said Mkhize – to random shouts of “Viva umhlonyane!” from some MPs.
“Therefore no one can dispute the fact that umhlonyane has healing abilities when one has flu – but whether or not it can defeat coronavirus, we really do not have evidence in this regard,” Mkhize went on.
“But we cannot stand in the way of people who want to drink umhlonyane or any other traditional herbs if they have knowledge that it has helped them before.
“All I can say is that many people who have contracted Covid-19 are asymptomatic and then you find others who did not necessarily get infected with coronavirus praising umhlonyane because they consume it.
“We cannot argue forever whether or not umhlonyane works, but we are ready to conduct scientific tests on it. This is the same kindness we extended to the people of Madagascar.
“Whoever want to drink umhlonyane, you are welcome to do so – but we have no evidence on it as it relates to Covid-19.”-SowetoLive