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Monday Jun 08 2020
Web Desk

Fact-check: 'Sanna Makki' NOT a cure for coronavirus, overdose can be harmful

Web Desk

Sanna Makki is a herb that is primarily used as a potent laxative but lately, it is being touted as a treatment for the deadly coronavirus on social media and WhatsApp groups.

Alternatively known as sennoside, senna glycoside or just senna, the medicinal plant has suddenly experienced high demand and its price ricocheted after such unverified and unscientific claims started circulating on social media and on chat groups.

Various such reports have emerged on the Internet, such as in a video here, a Facebook post here, as claimed by Sindh Governor Imran Ismail in two reports here and here, in a tabloid here, and in a trending news aggregator here.

However, a US-based public health expert has written about Sanna Makki and warned of major side effects from consuming the herb without clinical guidance or prescriptions.

Dr Faheem Younus, the chief of infectious diseases at University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health, wrote a Twitter thread explaining why it was not advisable to consume Sanna Makki.

Claim: Sanna Makki is harmless and can treat coronavirus; what's the harm in taking it?

Working on the frontlines against the deadly coronavirus, Dr Younus noted that the benefits of such substances were "unclear" but their occasional side effects "well-documented".

"Traditional Asian/Chinese herbs can cause kidney or liver damage," the doctor said. "High concentrations of arsenic, lead, cadmium were found in 61% of herbs."

"Vitamins are helpful if you’re deficient. But taking them blindly, risks overdose," he added, explaining that an overdose of Vitamin B or Vitamin C could cause nerve or liver damage, while an overdose of Vitamins A, D, E, and K could lead to nausea, irregular heart beat, and stroke.

He said Sanna Makki was sometimes used in the preparation for colonoscopy. However, it was important to know when its use becomes excessive.

Sanna Makki "can cause abdominal cramps, diarrhea, pain, nausea, [and] electrolyte imbalance", Dr Yousuf explained. "Omega-3, garlic, mangoes, green tea etc have no documented or measurable effect on immunity or protecting against COVID," he added.

The specialist underscored that such herbs and 'treatments' for coronavirus circulating on WhasApp groups and social media were only "distractions and [give] false sense of security".

"Zinc overdose can cause not just nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain but also REDUCE immunity and bone density. Zinc can also impact the absorption of your regular potentially lifesaving medications," he added.

Dr Younus, towards the end of his Twitter thread, stressed that any person should only take a nutrient if they were deficient in it.

Blind and excessive use may cause medical side effects, can be a waste of money and energy and cause distraction, may give people a false sense of security, and could possibly lead to sustainability issues, he added.

The top doctor then said it was crucial for people to maintain a six-feet distance with each other, avoid crowds, wash hands, and wear face masks — all of which works and has been proven to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

Furthermore, a young medic currently working at the Field Isolation Center in Karachi, also shared a crucial message, saying coronavirus "is respiratory" and that "no amount of herbal medication will flush a virus that lives in your lungs".

"It may precipitate severe diarrhea which could cause a drop in BP and be quite fatal," wrote Baakh Nusrat. "A respiratory virus can’t be cured by a gastrointestinal medication," she added.

Verdict: There is no evidence of Sanna Makki curing coronavirus, the benefits of such substances were "unclear", and using them may cause medical side effects that could be long-term.