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For the last several days, a message circulating on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger claims that an Indian student from Pondicherry University has found a cure for COVID-19. The message claims that the World Health Organization (WHO) also has approved the ‘home remedy’ for the disease, which is caused by a coronavirus.

The message reads:

“Finally a INDIAN student from PONDICHERRY university, named RAMU found a home remedy cure for Covid-19 which is for the very first time accepted by WHO. He proved that by adding 1 tablespoon of black pepper powder to 2 table spoons of honey and some ginger juice for consecutive 5 days would suppress the effects of corona. And eventually go away 100%. Entire world is starting to accept this remedy. Finally a good news in 2020!! PLEASE CIRCULATE THIS INFORMATION TO ALL YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS AND FRIENDS.”

A message circulating on WhatsApp.

After Facebook and Twitter started tackling misinformation related to COVID-19 by flagging suspicious posts, such claims are now being spread through closed chat apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. These apps are used in Nepal for chatting especially with family members and friends.

Like many posts that go viral on social media, it is difficult to determine the source and origin of the message. Most Nepali social media users have forwarded and shared a WhatsApp message from someone called ‘Lilyan Thomas’. The same message has also been shared on Facebook Messenger. It has also been uploaded to Reddit, a website for news and discussions.

The WHO has said trials for COVID-19 drugs and vaccines are ongoing. The UN body has said there’s no evidence that any home remedy can cure the disease. The US-based National Academies of Science Engineering Medicine has said mixing ginger with other ingredients does not cure COVID-19.  “Combining ginger with other ingredients, such as lemon, garlic, honey, or vinegar, will not destroy the virus. Drinking hot ginger tea, with or without these additional ingredients, will not prevent or cure COVID-19,” the organization says on its website.

We asked Dr Prabhat Adhikari, an infectious diseases specialist, to review the claim and whether it has any scientific basis. “It is not proven that drinking a combination of ginger and honey can cure COVID-19. Ayurvedic medicine may advocate this, but I don’t think they have scientific evidence yet,” he told South Asia Check.

Experts say a concoction of black pepper powder, honey and ginger is used as a home remedy for cough in Nepal, but its effectiveness against COVID-19 is unproven. Therefore, the claim circulating on chat apps is misleading.

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This article was originally published in South Asia Check – an independent, non-partisan, non-profit initiative by Panos South Asia, aiming to promote accuracy and accountability in public debate.