Though Nepal is experiencing a deadly second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, social media users have been sharing posts containing various Ayurvedic medicines.
Among such articles is a video clip of a man named Prem Gautam, who describes himself as a natural medicine expert, stating that eating a herb called “Narahari buti” strengthens the human immune system.
Prem Kaidi, a disciple of the late historian and writer Yogi Naraharinath (1915-2003), has also shared video clips about the herb on Facebook. Both Gautam and Kaidi have clarified how the plant should be harvested and consumed in the video clips, and they have declared that if any Covid-19 patient wants their medication, they will deliver it to their door.
A Facebook post posted on May 12 has been shared approximately 4,400 times as of May 25. Another video clip has been viewed over 7,600 times and posted by over 2,000 users on Facebook.
Several other video clips of the two have been shared more than 100 times. The two appear to have fed the herb to relatives of their family members.
Similarly, Kaidi reported a year ago on Yoho Television in an interview with journalist Jibram Bhandari that the plant could be used to treat Covid-19. The interview is still available on the official Yoho television Facebook page.
Similar statements can also be seen in video clips on the PNP TV and Everest Nepal YouTube channels. Kaidi claims in those videos, which have been viewed thousands of times, that the plant can cure 1,008 different diseases. South Asia Check consulted botanists and Ayurvedic experts before writing this article to educate readers about the herb.
What kind of herb is ‘Narahari buti’?
Individuals who said the herb had medicinal properties showed us the herb growing on the banks of the Bagmati in Kathmandu.
We brought the herb and contacted botanists.
During the process, we sent images of the herb to the Godavari-based National Herbarium and Plant Laboratories. Suvash Khatri, the lab’s president, said that the herb was Chenopodium ambrosionides and that it was in the lab’s stock. “Chenopodium ambrosionides is similar to bethe leaves (Chenopodium album), which are used as a vegetable. The herb can be categorized more precisely based on its seeds and flowers.”
According to another botanist, Kamal Maden, the plant is also known as Dysphania ambrosionides. “This is, indeed, a medicinal plant,” he said. According to Maden, the book titled ‘Plants and People of Nepal’ has detailed its medicinal uses. According to Maden, who quoted the novel, the herb’s seed is ground into powder and four teaspoons of the powder is taken at bedtime for four days as a deworming medicine. “This herb is also thought to be beneficial in the treatment of stomach ulcers.” It is also used as a tonic, according to Maden.
Prem Kaidi, who has long promoted the herb as Narahari buti, claimed to have learned about it from Yogi Naraharinath. However, he also mentioned that he does not have any documentation pertaining to the herb. He said that after using the herb, he realized its significance.
What do the Ayurveda doctors say?
Prakash Gyawali, an Ayurvedic doctor, mentioned that he has not come across any Ayurvedic books that list the herb as a treatment for Covid-19.
“There hasn’t been any official study. Some people may have benefited from its use, but we don’t use it as medicine because Ayurveda hasn’t identified the herb as such,” he explained.
Similarly, Dr Shyam Mani Adhikari, a former chief of the Nepal Sanskrit University’s Central Ayurveda Campus, said that he does not have any knowledge on the herb and thus cannot comment. He said that if the herb had different names, he might recognise it. “In Ayurveda, one plant species is known by many names. Everyone has heard of gurjo (Tinospora cordifolia), but it goes by many different names. However, Ayurveda has not yet produced a single medicine to treat Covid,” he said.
“Some people may have found some relief from such herbs. Using unproven treatments, on the other hand, can be fatal,” Dr Adhikari added.
What happens if herbs are taken randomly?
According to researchers, the consequences of indiscriminate herb intake may not be visible right away, but they can be harmful in the long run.
“People are not aware of the harm caused by herbs since they do not have immediate side effects, unlike other [allopathic] medicines,” said Dr. Gyawali. People with high uric acid levels, for example, should not drink amala in large quantities, according to him. Experts warn that if people with chronic illnesses take herbs in the wrong doses, it may be fatal.
“We use a variety of medications to regulate blood pressure and blood sugar. However, if the drugs are taken in the wrong quantities, it can be fatal,” Gyawali warned. Excessive intake of pepper and ginger by piles sufferers is said to cause bleeding problems. Some people with Covid-19 try steam therapy, but Ayurvedic experts warn that inhaling too much steam can cause nosebleeds and other problems. “Even Ayurvedic medicines can cause adverse effects if they are substandard,” Dr. Adhikari said. Adulterated turmeric, honey, and so on, for example, can not have the desired effect.”
What has been done to prevent the misuse?
The Department of Ayurveda and Alternative Medicine of the government has released the Ayurveda and Alternative Medicine Guidelines in an effort to ‘prevent and treat Covid-19′ via Ayurveda and alternative medicine. The department released a circular to the social development ministries in all seven provinces on April 25 directing them to obey the guidelines. The recommendations include the names of different medications as well as the dosages that should be taken.
How to use Ayurvedic medicines?
According to experts, before taking Ayurvedic drugs, one should consult Ayurvedic doctors or experts.
“In Ayurveda, too, the medicines provided to patients with mild symptoms and severe patients differ,” Dr. Gyawali said, adding, “Medicines for pregnant women, infants, and the elderly are all different.” The Ayurvedic Hospital gives various medicines to Covid-19 patients with moderate and serious symptoms in different doses.” Similarly, depending on an individual’s health and the condition of the disease, only medicines used as prescribed by doctors provide the desired results, both Ayurveda experts told South Asia Check.