With no approved drugs for the new coronavirus, some people are turning to alternative medicines, often at their governments’ urging. (April 17)

With no approved drugs for the new coronavirus, some people are turning to alternative medicines, often with governments promoting them.

This is most evident in India and China, densely-populated countries with a deep history and tradition of touting such treatments, and where there’s sometimes limited access to conventional medicine.

In China, where the outbreak began, officials made unsubstantiated claims that traditional medicine was key to fighting the virus.

The Chinese government has claimed that combining herbal medicine with conventional medicine has helped the country deal with the outbreak.

Ma XIntong, a clinical specialist at the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine and Practitioner of Bo Ai Tang says they looked closely at China’s past experiences with fighting disease.

“We also learnt a lot from these experiences. The measures we have taken now have all been used in ancient times,” said Xintong.

Some of these practices have existed for centuries. But with little or no scientific evidence that they work against COVID-19, attempts have been made to frame it as a cultural issue and not a scientific one.

Some experts say there is no scientific basis for these treatments.

“There are scientific ways to determine whether something works for an illness. And without that, you could go also look at whether the theory behind it makes sense. If it doesn’t hasn’t been proven and it doesn’t make sense, stop there,” said Dr. Stephen Barrett, founder of the website Quackwatch.org, a website, according to Barrett, that focuses on health frauds, myths, fads and fallacies.

In India, where a lockdown of its 1.3 billion residents is underway, the government faced criticism after claiming some treatments might help prevent infections

India is steeped in Ayurveda, a Hindu system of medicine that revolves around herbal medicines and dietary restrictions.

As the outbreak spread outside China earlier this year, India’s health arm that promotes alternative medicine pushed unproven remedies that would “strengthen the immune system,” according to an online post by the Ministry of AYUSH.

Criticism prompted the government to clarify that these remedies were not a cure.

The government also recommended a single dose of a homeopathic drug, according to Anu Kapoor, who heads a government-run homeopathic hospital in New Delhi.

The Indian government’s push for alternative treatments for COVID-19, combined with bizarre claims by the elected representatives of the ruling Bhartiya Janta Party that cow urine or dung could offer cures, has also resulted in misinformation.

Experts like Barrett say in the end, to look at the science.

“This is something I think scientists will solve. In the meantime, will anything else be useful, I wouldn’t spend any money on it. The useful thing at the moment is to stay away from people that have it and that is what the world is doing”

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