Not being scientists we cannot assert and are not here asserting that Lengana can cure COVID-19. However, this indigenous anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and antidepressant herb, which some local pharmacies sell, has been known to treat a host of medical conditions, including respiratory ones.
There is now a respiratory disease from Wuhan, China called COVID-19 and in Madagascar, President Andry Rajoelina has announced that scientists at a national medical research centre have found a cure for it. Rajoelina said that some people who had tested positive for the disease were cured after drinking the herbal tonic from an indigenous plant called Artemisia Afra. Called African Wormwood in English, Wilde Als in Afrikaans, Umhlonyane in Zulu, Artemisia Afra is what Batswana and Basotho call Lengana. For years, a pharmaceuticals company called Thusano Lefatsheng has been farming, packaging and selling Lengana to pharmacies across Botswana. The writer has himself been using Lengana for two decades now and according to his knowledge, an infusion made from this herb, mosukujane herbal tea and ginger roots is highly effective against flu. The leaflet in the box in which Thusano Lefatsheng packages Lengana lists many more diseases that this herb cures.
When Jan Van Riebeck’s ships docked in what became Cape Town in 1652, the indigenous people that he found were already using Lengana as traditional medicine. Van Riebeck and his crew members would also use this herb, a fact he later noted in his diary. In that diary, the Dutch sailor wrote that they used Lengana for a variety of complaints, from gout to jaundice. While the United States has dismissed Rajoelina’s claims, in 2005 it donated millions of Rand to South African researchers to investigate Lenganafor its reputed benefits against Tuberculosis – which can resist western medicine.
At least from what has been reported in the press, Madagascar mixed Lengana with some indigenous herbs, whose names have yet to be revealed, to make a herbal tonic called COVID Organics. Western media refers to the latter as the Madagascan COVID-19 “cure.” The World Health Organisation, a United Nations body responsible for global health, has also dismissed COVID Organics as a quack cure. Ironically, WHO’s control by profit-oriented western commercial interests has dented its own credibility.
While most of the world has thumbed its nose at the Madagascan tonic, Tanzania, Equatorial Guinea, Congo-Brazzaville and Guinea-Bissau placed orders for it. In the particular case of Equatorial Guinea, a special flight flew to Antananarivo, the Madagascan capital, to collect a consignment. On social media, the Madagascan enterprise has also caused a spike in the marketing and sale of Umhlonyane in South Africa.
Lengana can grow up to 2 metres in height and is perennial.