Currently, there are no effective pharmaceuticals that work against COVID-19. In efforts to defend themselves against the pandemic, the Maasai are boosting immune systems by returning to traditional medicine and relying on their indigenous knowledge.
Plants remain important not only for food but also for medicinal practice. At the Maasai Heritage Museum’s Medicinal Garden, MCV is working diligently with the Maasai to conserve traditional medicinal plants for clinical research and to preserve the Maasai medical plants for generations to come. MCV believes that honoring indigenous knowledge by investing in research into ethnobotany, phytochemistry, plant physiology, and ecology will be vital in protecting the global population and educating future generations on traditional indigenous medicine.
MCV is partnering with the Maasai in cultivating a plant that has sparked collaboration between both academic and private sector scientists. Called Artemisia Annua (or sweet wormwood), the plant is currently involved in cell study testing with hopes that it will be a powerful player in the global fight against COVID-19.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has long recognized that traditional medicine has many benefits, and Africa has a long history of using traditional medicine in health care. Over the past two decades, WHO has been working with countries to ensure safe and effective traditional medicine development by providing financial resources and technical support.
Anti-viral herbal medicines have been proven effective in health crises throughout history, including the Sars-CoV (2013) and Mers-CoV(2012) outbreaks and seasonal viruses like influenza and dengue. Artemisia Annua has been used in China to treat malaria for 2,000 years and has been used in Africa for centuries. On 4 May the World Health Organization issued a statement reporting that medicinal plants such as Artemisia annua “are being considered as possible treatments for Covid-19 and should be tested for efficacy and adverse side effects.”
Artemisia Annua, growing in the Maasai Medicinal Garden, is being considered as a possible treatment for COVID-19, with testing pending for adverse side effects and clinical efficacy. Plant therapies may be an indigenous and affordable solution in preventing the spread of COVID-19. With the production of a vaccine still distant, the Museum’s Medicinal Garden presents a unique and critical opportunity for the Maasai to defend themselves against COVID-19.