This picture taken on December 25, 2018 shows an Indonesian Kratom grower displaying leaves of the plant. (AFP / Louis Anderson)

Social media posts share misleading claim that traditional herb prevents Covid-19

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Multiple social media posts in Thailand have shared a claim that Kratom, a tree leaf used to treat various ailments, prevents Covid-19. The posts are misleading: health experts say there is no scientific evidence that Kratom leaves can be used to prevent or cure Covid-19. They also warn against unregulated use of the plant as it contains addictive substances.

The claim was posted on Facebook here on June 6, 2021.

The Thai-language post reads in part: “Kratom leaf prevents Covid.

“This case is not only for just one family, up to 3-4 families have experienced this.

“However, the medical industry will not confirm this, because if they announced it, the vaccines they have ordered would be unsellable.”

Screenshot of the misleading Facebook post, taken on June 10, 2021

Kratom has been used for centuries in Southeast Asia and Papua New Guinea for its pain-relieving and mildly stimulating effects, AFP reported.

But its popularity is causing concern as compounds found in Kratom are opioids, which expose users to risks of addiction.

The Thai government issued an order to declassify Kratom from a list of harmful drugs from August 27, 2021, in a move that will effectively legalise the plant.

Kratom was previously approved for medical use in 2019.

A similar claim promoting Kratom as a way to ward off Covid-19 was shared here, here, and here.

These posts, however, are misleading.

Dr. Kajornsak Kaewjaras, Deputy Director-General of Thailand’s Department of Disease Control said there was no scientific evidence that taking Kratom leaves could prevent Covid-19.

“In the context of Covid protection, it is impossible, and not advised as it is an addictive substance,” he told AFP. “There have not been any trials in any groups at all.”

He said there was “no research” to support the plant’s use in Covid prevention, adding that it was still illegal in Thailand when the misleading social media posts surfaced online.

Scientists warn little research has been done into the drug, and US authorities have launched a clampdown as the country struggles with an opioid epidemic.

Thailand’s Anti-Fake News Center debunked a similar claim in this report from March 2020.

The report’s headline translates to English as: “Fake news don’t share! Kratom plants can prevent the virus which causes Covid-19.”

AFP has previously debunked multiple other claims for purported cures for Covid-19.