Written by Daniel Edgar exclusively for South Front
The traditional healers on the Pacific coast in Colombia have long used the leaves of a medicinal plant to cure a wide range of illnesses, among them viral infections such as yellow fever, Dengue and malaria. When the first COVID-19 cases appeared in the region, they decided to try the treatment against the latest viral infection. The results have been excellent, with the symptoms of infection in patients receding within days of commencing the treatment. However, although the existence of a possible cure for COVID has been widely known for over a year, and there are numerous healers who are prepared to participate in formal studies to investigate the effectiveness and limitations of the treatment method, no medical or scientific institutions, in Colombia or elsewhere, have been willing to accept the offer to initiate a series of scientific and clinical studies to confirm or disprove the effectiveness of the treatment.
With all of the hysteria and propaganda surrounding the pandemic, it is impossible to know what to think with any certainty. Even the nature of the origin and early evolution of the virus remains the subject of contention, and the development and implementation of treatments and vaccines is shrouded in secrecy or contradictory, unverified and unverifiable claims and counter-claims as different countries and financial-corporate combines vie to secure a greater part of the vaccine market.
In the midst of the confusion, even the reports and accounts as to the number of cases and victims is subject to controversy and vast discrepancies (not only in terms of the victims of the virus, but also in terms of the number of fatalities and severe illnesses caused by the experimental pharmaceutical injections that are being rolled out at ‘warp speed’ under the cover of ‘emergency authorization’ and with complete immunity from legal or financial liability for any injuries or deaths that might be caused by the experimental products), some claiming that the number of casualties is being under-counted and others that the number of deaths and injuries is being greatly exaggerated.
Large numbers of highly qualified and experienced doctors and scientists and health authorities are telling us that everyone must take the injections immediately or the consequences will be catastrophic. A smaller number of doctors and scientists, many of whom however have at least as impressive credentials and experience, are questioning the mainstream narrative that has been developed and are urging much more caution be taken in implementing the program of mass-injections, emphasizing that much more research needs to be done into the claims that there have been a high number of adverse reactions, among many other concerns. See, for example, the research by Dr Peter McCullough in the United States.
In this context, it is with some trepidation but also with a sense of hope and urgency that we make our affirmation – we are confident that we have a very safe, low-risk treatment for COVID. At the outset, I make clear that I am not an expert in health care or the sciences, however I have been researching a form of treatment that has been used by many people on the Pacific coast of Colombia since the pandemic arrived to the region last year, a natural remedy based on the leaves of a medicinal plant (Gliricidia sepium) that has long been used to treat a large variety of illnesses, particularly viral infections.
For most of this year I have been collaborating with numerous medical practitioners and traditional healers in the region who have been applying the treatment to COVID patients (both confirmed cases according to the ‘rapid test’, and people who showed the symptoms but did not take the rapid test to confirm infection). They assure me that in all the people they have treated (ambulatory patients), all the symptoms of COVID infection have receded almost immediately after the treatment process was initiated and the patients have fully recovered.
Numerous people have told me – that doesn’t prove anything, only a small percentage of people die from the virus, most recover, etc. That may well be true, we acknowledge that we urgently need more information and evidence on the treatment procedure and the patients’ condition. But that argument doesn’t acknowledge or address the fact that all of the people that have been treated by the healers with the leaves of Gliricidia sepium have completely recovered from all of the visible signs and symptoms of COVID very rapidly.
We do not ask that anyone believe a word we say, only that more studies be undertaken openly, honestly and without prejudice as a matter of urgency to verify the treatment method and determine its effectiveness, capabilities and limitations. If the treatment is as effective as we are convinced that it is, we would only ask that the Afro-Colombian and Indigenous communities of the region be prioritized in the sourcing of the product, and that their territorial and cultural rights and heritage be respected in terms of obtaining access to the raw material for mass production (the treatment is derived from the knowledge and practices of the ‘curanderos’, the traditional healers of the region, and is an integral part of their cultural and scientific heritage).
And, definitely, no COMMERCIAL IN CONFIDENCE, no TRADE SECRETS. The confusion and proliferation of inaccurate and contradictory information is probably at least as harmful as the disease itself, and people must have access to all relevant information if we are to have any chance of understanding what is happening and devising the best responses to address the multiple crises that the pandemic has caused. Moreover, people deserve to know what is being put into medicinal and pharmaceutical products, how they are being prepared, and how much people are paying for them, and how this compares with the costs of research, development and production, as well as having access to all relevant efficacy and safety data, which should also be openly available for comparison, analysis and peer review as a matter of course.
Before proceeding further, I will provide a short summary about my interest in the subject of the medicinal plant known locally as ‘matarratón’ (Gliricidia sepium), which is the primary constituent of the treatment, and the use of the leaves from the plant to treat people infected with COVID-19.
I had heard about the use of ‘matarratón’ by people in Tumaco to cure COVID since shortly after the virus arrived in the region. I had my own experience of the plant’s potency several years ago, when I developed the symptoms of yellow fever or possibly malaria. Over the course of about a month I tried various pills and conventional treatments, none of which had any effect. Then some friends recommended that I try the leaves of Gliricidia sepium, and literally by the next day the symptoms had disappeared and I began to regain my health.
The anecdotes I was hearing about the use of Gliricidia leaves to cure COVID were reinforced when I was informed of a medical practitioner from the region, Dr Jesús Rosero Ruano, who had conducted an interview with local media speaking about the plant’s medicinal properties for the treatment of Dengue fever and more recently for treating COVID. Dr Jesus Rosero is a medical practitioner with more than 30 years’ experience after graduating from medicine at the Universidad del Valle (Cali), specializing in malariology and tropical diseases. After over a year treating people, he is convinced that the treatment method is very effective for both curing ambulatory cases of COVID as well as for preventing infection in the first place (whilst still urging people to follow common sense precautions to minimize the risk of infection and to consult a medical expert if they show symptoms of infection).
I later reviewed the media articles in the national (Colombian) mass media that followed the announcement that it appears there is a natural and low risk cure for COVID that people on the Pacific coast are using. The reaction from the main national media agencies was astonishing (though not particularly surprising). A good part of the full weight of the Colombian ‘medical’ and ‘scientific’ Establishment rubbished the claim and dismissed Mr Rosero’s efforts and conclusions as unsubstantiated. Almost all major media agencies that covered the announcement that ‘matarratón’ appears to be an effective treatment for COVID denounced it as ‘fake news’, citing a variety of medical and scientific ‘experts’ saying that there is no evidence that the leaves of the plant can cure COVID, that the World Health Organization (WHO) has not announced that the plant is an effective form of treatment for COVID, etc.
None of the ‘experts’ consulted mentioned that there also is no evidence that the plant is NOT effective against COVID (as no official studies have been done), and none of them showed the slightest interest in investigating the possibility through a series of exploratory studies and clinical trials. I have since realized that there is no established natural medicine institute or college in Colombia, the country with according to some estimates the second highest level of plant diversity in the world. If something in the realm of health, science or technology doesn’t come from the United States or Europe, the medical and scientific Establishment in Colombia is not interested, if not outright disparaging and contemptuous. This is particularly the case for natural medicines and the cultural, medical and scientific knowledge and heritage of the country’s Indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities
For example, an article published by El Espectador (20 August 2020, “There is no evidence that matarratón cures COVID-19”) – with information and arguments repeated by Semana and many other high profile national and regional media agencies – among other things pronounced:
“Once again, disinformation is circulating promoting matarratón as a ‘cure’ against COVID-19. This time it arose in Tumaco, Nariño, where the tree is being promoted by the former governor of Nariño, the doctor Jesús Rosero Ruano, who assures us that the plant (Gliricidia Sepium) is effective against this viral disease and that its use is recommended at the onset of symptoms.
However, and as we have already said, the World Health Organization has repeatedly stated throughout the pandemic that “although some natural remedies of Western or traditional medicine or home remedies can be comforting and alleviate the mildest symptoms of COVID-19, so far no drug has been shown to prevent or cure the disease.” LINK
More recently, El Tiempo (18 January 2021, “Authorities ask residents to maintain self-care despite the decrease in infections in Tumaco”) published a more reasonable article on the topic, although it presented the announcement of the use of matarratón as a treatment for COVID as something of a quaint if somewhat primitive cultural curiosity rather than something that must be investigated and verified or disproven as soon as possible. Among other things the report noted:
“The manager of the Divino Niño Hospital in Tumaco, Carolina Farinango Hernández, told us that as a part of their culture, when the new coronavirus arrived many people opted to bathe with water soaked with matarratón leaves and to sleep with the leaves of the same plant scattered on their bed. Not content with that, they also drink boiled water with the leaves (like a herbal tea), accompanied by other natural products such as ginger and lemon. However, these self-care methods do not have scientific evidence to support the claim that it is the reason for the decline in COVID cases in the region.
At the same time that there was a sudden and prolonged drop in the number of COVID cases in Tumaco, on 15 May last year 394 positive cases were reported in the nearby province of Esmeraldas (Ecuador) and as of the 11th of June of the same year 1,339 cases had been registered…
During the same period, in the Colombian border region of Tumaco border villages there were no reported fatalities and a low number of infected people, usually showing very mild symptoms, the director of the regional hospital told us, attributing the phenomenon to a strictly cultural factor (of the Afro-Colombian and Indigenous communities) in the region.
“I think it is very important to highlight what has happened here, we still cannot understand why all the people who have been infected in the region have managed to recover,” she revealed. She did not rule out the possibility that the plant contains some components that have had a positive impact on the health of men and women who used the plant to cure the COVID infection. LINK
It must be emphasized, none of the reports noted that there is also no evidence that the treatment is NOT effective, because no medical or scientific institution with the resources and capacity to do so has been willing to initiate studies to verify or disprove the claims once and for all.
Although most mainstream media has been extremely dismissive and disparaging of Dr Jesus Rosero’s efforts, there have been some important exceptions including the local radio station Radio Mira, the local virtual news portal Informativo del Sur, and the journalists Luis Eduardo Carlosama of Caracol TV and Delfina Benavides of Magazin.
As I continued researching the respective claims and affirmations, I found a summary of an exploratory study of the use of the plant to cure Dengue fever that was conducted during 2007-2008, in which several scientists and medical experts from a university in the regional capital (la Universidad Cooperativa de Colombia, at its campus in Pasto) worked together with a traditional healer in Tumaco to investigate the plant’s effectiveness in the treatment of Dengue. All patients showed substantial if not complete recovery within a couple of days of commencing the treatment. The study was published in the journal ColCiencia (Revista Nacional de Investigación – Memorias, Volumen 8 (13), enero-junio de 2010) in 2010 (a copy of the original in Spanish is available HERE).
I have now translated the summary of the exploratory study into English, it is available at an internet page where I have published a selection of my research HERE.
Traditional healers in the Tumaco region are also convinced that the treatment with Gliricidia is just as effective to cure (and for the prevention of) yellow fever and malaria. I did a quick review of the statements of several medical associations and clinics, they assure that there is still no cure for the viral diseases yellow fever or Dengue, much less a form of treatment that is anywhere near as effective and rapid as the recovery of patients treated by the traditional healers in the Tumaco region.
In the course of my research, I have met numerous doctors and traditional healers in the Tumaco region (including Dr Jesus Rosero) who are using the plant as a treatment against COVID. Although there are some small variations among practitioners, the preparation method is generally very similar or identical to that described in the Dengue study mentioned above, and in all cases the results have been excellent.
Moreover, as the plant has a long history of medicinal uses, the risk of adverse reactions is as low as could be (after all, everything is a risk – getting up in the morning is a risk. Not getting up in the morning also has its risks…). Moreover, with every day that the initiation of exploratory studies with voluntary ambulatory patients is delayed, it is certain that many thousands more people will die from the virus or associated complications.
Tumaco aspires to become a tourist haven given its abundance of biological diversity and spectacular landscapes and ecosystems, however the prospects for realizing this potential are severely constricted by the ongoing persistence of armed conflict (apart from its prodigious supply of Gliricidia sepium, the municipality’s fertile floodplains also host the largest level of coca cultivation in Colombia, and the region is also a major strategic transport route for international shipments), as well as by the low quality of essential services, transport and tourism infrastructure and facilities. While the national government has launched numerous high profile regional development programs over the years, the region remains mired in poverty and overall economic and social abandonment and stagnation.
In this context, if the use of Gliricidia for the treatment of COVID (as well as yellow fever, Dengue, malaria and other diseases and afflictions) should prove to be as effective as we are convinced that it is, if production and supply systems are well organized and remain under the management and control of the local communities in the region they could provide a major boost to economic and social development in the region.
Although the species is abundant and widely distributed throughout its natural range (from the southern United States through Mexico and Central America to Colombia) and has also been introduced to other regions (including the Caribbean, Africa and Asia), it is possible that due to the particular ecological and climatic conditions of the region the phenotype that occurs along Colombia’s Pacific coast is particularly potent in terms of its anti-viral properties (this is just one of many aspects that urgently require further investigation and analysis). LINK
Method of preparation for the treatment
The method of preparation used by traditional healers in the Tumaco region is very simple (1) putting leaves around the bed before going to sleep (2) bathing with water in which leaves have been soaked (3) preparing a herbal tea with the leaves (around ten leaves per cup) and consuming 2 cups daily (one early in the morning and another about 2 hours later); many healers prefer fresh leaves for the latter step, blended and mixed with water and lemon, and the timing and quantity of doses also varies.
However, it is important to add that while appropriate use and consumption of the leaves has a very low risk, excessive consumption is not recommended, and some parts of the tree (such as the fruit, and possibly the bark and roots) do contain toxic substances (used to kill rodents and other pests in many places) and definitely should not be consumed at all.
Also, it has been reported that fermenting or mixing the leaves with cooked maize or rice for consumption can also be harmful.
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