Madagascar's President Andry Rajoelina drinks a sample of the "Covid Organics" or CVO remedy.
JOHANNESBURG - The World Health Organization (WHO) advised governments to clinically test a herbal drink touted by Madagascar's President Andry Rajoelina as a remedy against coronavirus.
The COVID-Organics infusion is derived from artemisia -- a plant with proven anti-malarial properties -- and other indigenous herbs.
Rajoelina hopes to distribute the infusion across West Africa and beyond, claiming it cures COVID-19 patients within 10 days.
Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and Niger have already received consignments of the potion. Others such as Tanzania have expressed interest.
But the WHO has repeatedly warned that there are no published scientific studies of the herbal tea and that its effects have not been tested.
"We would caution and advise countries against adopting a product that has not been taken through tests to see its efficacy," WHO Africa Director Matshidiso Moeti said in a press briefing on Thursday, calling on Madagascar to take the drink "through a clinical trial".
"I can understand the need, the drive to find something that can help," Moeti said. "But we would very much like to encourage this scientific process in which the governments themselves made a commitment."
South Africa's Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on Wednesday said Madagascar had reached out for "help" with scientific research.
"Our scientists would be able to assist with this research," Mkhize tweeted, adding that South Africa would only "get involved in a scientific analysis of the herb".
Neighbouring eSwatini -- a tiny landlocked nation wedged between South Africa and Mozambique -- said it would not consider Rajoelina's tonic for the time being.
"It is important as a country to first ascertain where such herbal products have been tested," said Health Minister Lizzie Nkosi on Thursday.
"We have to do adequate proper research and be sure that the product works."