Diasporic Healers Embrace Controversial Coronavirus Treatment

Even as the World Health Organization (WHO) continues to question the efficacy of Madagascar’s Covid-Organics, the anti-coronavirus tonic has increased in appeal, not only among African leaders but with Afro-indigenous health practitioners throughout the Diaspora, some of whom have since attempted to use the key ingredient of artemisia in herbal remedies of their own.

For Breath Master Aaron Mottley, unlocking the healing properties of the plant known to many as wormwood further allows him, a respiratory practitioner and herbalist of more than two decades, to help his cadre of clients maintain the steady supply of the minerals and nutrients needed to avoid and, if necessary, combat COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

“Artemisia has been used for malaria [and] is a form of quinine. My awareness is that it’s a liver tonic and it stimulates the liver, the primary organ for filtering toxins and waste,” said Mottley, a student of recently deceased Dr. Llaila Afrika, an African holistic health practitioner.

Mottley expressed his disdain for what he described as a dominant media narrative that instilled fear inside of Black people about a process the body undergoes to fight against infection. He said lack of knowledge about the connection between having an appropriate diet and building immunity has prevented Black people from embracing natural remedies like artemisia.

“It gives the body extra strength to fight,” Mottley said. “This herb is also a blood cleanser. You [have to] allow the body to recuperate and regenerate. Depending on what you’re dealing with, [the illness] runs its course [between] two to three days and 12 to 14, depending on the person’s physical and neurological condition.”

Clinical trials have gone underway in Senegal and South Africa to determine artemisia’s effectiveness as a coronavirus treatment. Researchers in Germany have also joined forces with a U.S-based pharmaceutical company to conduct similar tests, while WHO officials have revealed their intentions to follow suit.

These developments arise just weeks after WHO and the West Africa Health Organization, among other public health entities, expressed skepticism that Madagascar developed a “miracle cure.”

In April, Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina and his aides promoted Coronavirus Organics as the first African cure for the illness to be distributed across the country and, eventually, the continent. At a press conference, Rajoelina, standing before reporters, diplomats and other government officials, credited the recovery of two COVID-19 patients to the herbal tonic. WHO later released a statement chastising what officials called the spread of misinformation on social media about untested coronavirus treatments.

Madagascar’s medical milestone, even if not heralded by the mainstream medical community, resonated with people of African descent who had long been wary of engaging Western medical institutions. Since before D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser declared a public health state of emergency, holistic medical practitioners and proponents of herbal remedies had already touted homemade remedies that infused leaves, spices and other natural ingredients as an ideal response to the coronavirus.

A local medical professional who asked not to be identified said she took such measures when she tested positive for the coronavirus in early March. In addition to sequestering herself, she drank lots of water and herbal teas chock-full of the nutrients she said would help the body heal itself.

Overall, her bout with COVID-19, as she recounted it, took nearly two weeks, some portions proving more gruesome than others.

“My daily routine included drinking lots of water, and hot herbal tea regimen,” she said. “I washed and cut up whole organic lemons, whole ginger roots, tablespoons of turmeric and added it to dandelion tea. Also, I took my temperature twice a day, at 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., and kept track of my blood pressure. Lastly, I boiled hot water to inhale the steam to loosen up the mucus in my chest and to help me breathe.”

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