The latest bizarre claim surrounding the COVID-19 infodemic is that kalonji seeds (Nigella Sativa) can cure the life-threatening respiratory infection.
The viral claim further states that since kalonji has 100% hydroxychloroquine, it is effective in treating a coronavirus infection. The viral posts recommend consumption of half a teaspoon of kalonji seeds with honey to prevent a coronavirus infection.
The hoax is gaining popularity owing to the fact that US President Donald Trump has been cheerleading for Hydroxychloroquine for a while now.
Trump's constant recommendation of the drug has resulted in many Americans to stock up the drug, irrespective of whether they need it or not. China, Europe and South Korea recommend it as one of the effective treatments for COVID-19 patients.
Early in March, Trump promoted the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19, saying: "I sure as hell think we ought to give it a try." He also tweeted that the use of the drug in combination with azithromycin, an antibiotic, could be "one of the biggest game-changers in the history of medicine".
Kalonji or Nigella Sativa seeds have 100 per cent hydroxychloroquine, and its consumption with honey can prevent coronavirus.
The claim is misleading. The posts come with a video clip of a broadcast by Fox News. The news reporter speaks to a guest about the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine on coronavirus patients. There is an image attached to the clip which says kalonji seeds can prevent infection from Coronavirus.
What Are Kalonji (Nigella Sativa) Seeds?
According to a study titled 'A review on the therapeutic potential of Nigella sativa: A miracle herb' published on Asian Pacific Journal Of Biomedicine, Nigella sativa is a widely used medicinal plant throughout the world.
It is very popular in various traditional systems of medicine like Unani and Tibb, Ayurveda and Siddha. Seeds and oil have a long history of folklore usage in various systems of medicines and food.
The seeds of N. Sativa have been widely used in the treatment of different diseases and ailments. It has been widely used as antihypertensive, liver tonics, diuretics, digestive, anti-diarrheal, appetite stimulant, analgesics, anti-bacterial and skin disorders.
Can kalonji Prevent Infection From Coronavirus?
According to a study done in Algeria, the compounds nigellidine and alpha-hederin 'maybe' effective against SARS-CoV-2 virus.
However, it is just one lab study and many more studies including clinical trials would be needed to say for sure that these compounds and hence nigella seeds are indeed effective against COVID-19. The study is still in the preprint phase.
According to an article written by Dr Shakil Moidin, an Oral and Maxillofacial Pathologist from Saudi Arabia, Nigella Sativa seed oil extracts contain Thymoquinone (TQ) chemical compound which is known for its immune modulation capability.
TQ through immunomodulation and its other health benefits can be definitely considered to be a drug to prevent or to treat the viral infection caused by COVID-19 causing coronavirus SARS- CoV-2. Dr Moidin, however, writes that future clinical trials conducted using TQ will unravel how exactly we can use it in the current COVID-19 pandemic state.
Other studies suggest that Nigella Sativa can provide therapeutic relief from ailments such as cancer, diabetes, heart diseases, obesity, bacterial infections, pneumonia and skin disorders.
But nowhere is it found that kalonji or Nigella Sativa is the source of hydroxychloroquine. None of these studies could confirm that kalonji can prevent infection from coronavirus.
Can Hydroxychloroquine Work Against COVID-19?
The US health officials have clarified that use of Chloroquine as a drug against COVID-19 is only anecdotal and much more study is needed.
A new French study indicates that chloroquine might help. But even its authors have acknowledged the study is small and the findings are preliminary.
The study states that "hydroxychloroquine is efficient in clearing viral nasopharyngeal carriage of SARS-CoV-2 in COVID-19 patients in only three to six days, in most patients."
The study however also talks about its limitations. "Our study has some limitations including small sample size, limited long-term outcome follow-up, and dropout of six patients from the study, however in the current context, we believe that our results should be shared with the scientific community," it reads.
WHO maintains that it does not recommend self-medication with any medicines, including antibiotics, as a prevention or cure for COVID-19. However, there are several ongoing clinical trials that include both western and traditional medicines.
Antibiotics do not work against viruses, they only work on bacterial infections. COVID-19 is caused by a virus, so antibiotics do not work. Antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment of COVID-19. They should only be used as directed by a physician to treat a bacterial infection.
Therefore, there is no evidence yet that Kalonji seeds and prevent COVID-19.
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