March 21, 2020 / 2:42 PM / 20 days ago

Bolivians look to traditional medicine to fight coronavirus spread

LA PAZ (Reuters) - Bolivians are looking to traditional medicine, such as coca leaves, eucalyptus and indigenous herbs native to the South American country, to ward off the coronavirus that has killed more than 11,000 people worldwide.

Senators approved a motion this week that promotes use of the traditional medicine, which has long played a role for indigenous communities throughout Bolivia.

“The message that we want to give is for the Bolivian population to take up consumption (of traditional medicine) again because this strengthens the immune system and prevents against a variety of illnesses, especially coronavirus,” said Deputy Minister for Traditional Medicine Felipe Quilla.

“We have an immense array of medicinal plants of different ecological categories,” he said, after chewing on some coca leaves for the cameras.

However, scientific evidence of traditional medicine being effective against coronavirus is lacking, and, doctors have warned patients against depending solely on it.

Still, Lucia Herrera, a street vendor in La Paz, touted her medicine, saying: “Everyone come and buy for coronavirus. I recommend chamomile, eucalyptus, khea khea (a local plant), rosemary, there is every type of herb to ward off coronavirus.”

Bolivia has so far confirmed 16 cases of the disease. La Paz has announced a series of measures to stop the pandemic, schools across the country are closed and a curfew after 6:00 p.m. has been put in place.

Reporting by Santiago Limachi, Santiago Limachi, Monica Machicao, Paul Vieira; Writing by Diane Craft; Editing by Daniel Wallis

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