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Sri Lanka invites indigenous medical practitioners to help fight COVID-19; GMOA chief recommends “dum elleema” to contain spread

Koththamalli or coriander

ECONOMYNEXT – As Sri Lanka’s confirmed COVID-19 cases reach the 180s, the government has invited indigenous medical practitioners to explore “alternative” medical solutions to the global pandemic.

A group of over 60 such practitioners met health officials at the National Operation Centre for Prevention of COVID-19 Outbreak (NOCPCO) in Rajagiriya on April 5 to discuss traditional Sri Lankan remedies.

The discussion was chaired by Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi, a Sri Lanka Army press release said.

“A presentation, submitted by Ayurvedic practitioners explained how indigenous medical practices could be applied in the treatment of this deadly epidemic and other associated preventive measures, inclusive of the conduct of precautionary, curative and post -treatment phases of the indigenous practices, etc,” the army said.

Officials have urged the assembled practitioners to “find an alternative indigenous medicine at the earliest, identical to how China has now discovered.”

China did, in fact, encourage the use of traditional medicine for the treatment and prevention of COVID-19. However, experts had warned that such a move could “give the public a false sense of security amid the pandemic”.

NBC News reported on April 5, quoting a Chinese official who spoke at a press conference in Wuhan, that traditional remedies have “alleviated symptoms, reduced the severity of the virus, improved recovery rates and reduced mortality rate”.

However, a UK expert has warned that herbal remedies could pose direct and indirect risks to patients.

“Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) mixtures can be toxic, contaminated or adulterated with prescription drugs; they can also interact with prescription drugs,” Dr. Edzard Ernst, a professor emeritus of complementary medicine at the United Kingdom’s University of Exeter had told NBC.

Meanwhile, Dr Anuruddha Padeniya, the head of Sri Lanka’s Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA), went on record yesterday calling for the use of medicinal smoke/vapour (දුම් ඇල්ලීම) in households to boost immunity.

He told a private television channel yesterday that the fumes or vapour from a pot filled with boiled water and unnamed herbs may be spread around a person (taking care to keep their eyes closed) for this purpose.

Padeniya said a committee headed by him has unanimously endorsed the practice in the fight against COVID-19. His statement comes amid a flurry of social media posts of dubious authenticity or expertise recommending various home remedies against the novel coronavirus.

The GMOA chief further said that the Ministry of Science and Technology has studied the medicinal properties of such Auryvedic staples as kohthamalli (coriander) and venivelgeta (Coscinium fenestratum or tree turmeric) whose scientific value, he said, is well documented.

“In western medicine, we learn about immunity in membranes as well as humoral immunity and cell-mediated immunity. The value of kottamalli in fighting bacteria infections and the use of venivelgeta for viral infections is clearly mentioned,” he said. (Colombo/April7/2020)

UPDATE: Sri Lanka has decided to import koththamalli, venivelgeta and ginger, the prime minister’s office said.

In a meeting held with ayurvedic doctors today, the Presidential Task Force on Essential Services headed by Former Minister Basil Rajapaksa decided to keep all ayurvedic hospitals open during the ongoing COVID-19 curfew.

Permission has also been granted for at least one registered ayurvedic dispensary in a divisional secretariat to operate a mobile unit.

Other decisions include permission for ayurvedic doctors to visit patients at their residences during the curfew and to deliver by posts medicine to patients registered at the Department of Ayurveda.

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