SA diverts R15 million to trial cannabis and other traditional remedies against COVID-19

Traditional Remedies Cannabis
Photo by Matthew Sichkaruk on Unsplash

Marijuana and African wormwood are among the six traditional remedies that the government will be trialing against COVID-19 – a disease for which there is currently no vaccine or cure.

Traditional remedies have been a fundamental part of South Africa’s health care system for many years, with people making use of combined treatment programmes that involve both medicines from traditional healers and drugs prescribed by medical doctors.

The African Medicines Covid-19 Research Team began by evaluating 20 different “herbs”, but have shortlisted six remedies to focus on including cannabis and African wormwood. The remaining traditional remedies have not been publicly named to avoid locals harvesting plants in an unsustainable manner and ultimately using them incorrectly.

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In partnership with universities and traditional healers, the government will be evaluating whether these six “herbs” could be effective in fighting COVID-19 and will divert R15 million from its existing indigenous knowledge systems programmes to fund traditional research for Covid-19.

The research will also look into South Africa’s existing projects that evaluate antivirals, like those being tested against HIV, and immune modulators as possible COVID-19 treatments.

However, Dr Hlupheka Chabalala (who leads the indigenous knowledge-based technology innovation in the department of science and innovation) warns against using cannabis and African Wormwood to treat Covid-19 at home. “This is a new disease for the healers as well,” he warned. “No healer has said that [these plants in isolation] treat Covid-19.”

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