When misinformation comes from the top
The novel coronavirus is, fundamentally, a wicked cold, and there is no cure for the common cold. The novel coronavirus is also novel, it’s so new that any treatment cannot have been tested. Anyone peddling a magic solution is lying.
Sadly, that now includes the Indian government.
India Recommends A Little Arsenic
India’s AYUSH (Ayurveda, yoga, etc) Ministry has published a set of recommendations that are a terrible WhatsApp forward come to life. Their recommendation is a small daily dose of arsenic.
Arsenic is a poison that disrupts basic cellular function, leading to multiple organ failure and death. Your cells literally hemorrhage at a high dose.
Homeopathy is a pseudoscience which dilutes elements until there’s technically none left, and calls that a medicine. You are basically consuming nothing, so the best case is that it does nothing.
Prepared incorrectly, however, it’s arsenic. In one study of Ayurvedic medicines, 20% contained toxic levels of heavy metals. And this is where the Indian government is directing people. Best case it does nothing. Worse case, arsenic poisoning.
This is a general course of treatment (homeopathy) which is widely known as a pseudoscience, and a specific course of treatment (arsenic) which has not in any way been tested against this novel coronavirus. This is standard coming from WhatsApp University, but very dangerous coming from a government.
What amazes me is how detailed the treatment is. We know very little about this novel coronavirus, yet this government department has a very complicated treatment regimen all ready.
Boil 10 gm of Shadang Paniya powder into 1 liter of water and drink constantly. Take 5 gm of Agastya Harityaki twice a day. Drop Anu taila/sesame oil in each nostril every morning. I’m summarizing, there’s much more.
God forbid you actually get coronavirus, because then the treatments double. Massage on scalp and chest with Kafoori balm. Chew two tablets of Qurs e Suaal twice daily. It goes on. And on. How do these treatments interact with each other? How do they interact with any real treatment? Who knows?
I mention this not to laugh at Ayurvedic treatments. They can make patients feel better, and a good Ayurvedic doctor can listen and give support. This sort of care, however, is not good for a serious health emergency. You don’t go to an Ayurvedic hospital for a heart attack, and you should not consult a homeopathic ‘doctor’ for coronavirus. A government officially recommending this is deeply irresponsible.
But these treatments are for general health, you might say, they’ll boost the immune system of anyone. But no. Because ‘boosting’ your immune system isn’t a thing.
Your immune system is insanely complicated and no particular medicine or superfood can ‘boost’ it in any measurable way. My immune system gets ‘boosted’ if I eat peanut, it reacts violently and I can go into shock. If you have a hyperactive immune system it doesn’t extra-kill diseases, it just kills you.
The key to a healthy immune system is just sleeping, drinking water, and eating healthy. Breathing clean air, getting exercise, avoiding stress. None of these are tinctures you can drop in your nostrils. Your immune system is not sitting there waiting for some special root to unleash its superpowers. It just doesn’t work like that.
In the same way, preventing coronavirus is a matter of basic hygiene and a lot of public health management. The best prevention is still soap and water. Just washing your hands regularly. Masks also help, but mainly by preventing people from touching their face 20 times an hour as we usually do.
What ultimately beat coronaviruses like SARS and MERS in the past wasn’t a miracle cure, or even a vaccine, it was public health management. Which is why government responses are so important. The government needs to be a trusted source of information, and this is where the Indian government falls so dangerously flat.
They now look no more intelligent than a random WhatsApp uncle, and yet they have much more responsibility. People will literally go out and take arsenic because of this advice. At the time when public information is the only proven resource we have, the Indian government has gone and poisoned the well.