Chula Pharmaceutical Science urges consumers to pay attention to “medicine labels” to choose and use green chiretta (Andrographis paniculata) effectively and safely. They also cautioned that the government should modify the labels, and control the price of herbal medicines that help in curbing the current pandemic.
Green chiretta (Andrographis paniculata) or “Fah Talai Jone” is the herb that has become more popular during the COVID-19 crisis. Since the Ministry of Public Health announced that green chiretta is one of the drugs that can be used to treat COVID-19, there has been a surge in the demand, causing the product to be in short supply. Stories and news about the herb flood social media claim that the herb can cure COVID-19 while some say it only relieves the symptoms. There are also warnings that it may be harmful to the liver, etc. All the conflicting information confuses consumers and may lead to misuse and harm.
So, the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Science, Chulalongkorn University opened a forum “Listen carefully to the use of green chiretta (Fah Talay Jone) in crisis – quality, price and safety” to answer questions and concerns about the herb so that people can take care of themselves, and take the herb properly. On the panel were lecturers from the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Science, Chulalongkorn University — Assoc. Prof. Dr. Vorasit Vongsutilers, Asst. Prof. Dr. Suntharee Chaisumritchoke, and Asst. Prof. Dr. Bodin Tuesuwan, together with Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mayuree Tangkiatkumjai, from the Faculty of Pharmacy, Srinakharinwirot University, and a consumer representative, Ms. Saree Ongsomwang, Secretary-General of Thailand Consumers Council.
How to use green chiretta effectively and safely
Green chiretta is a medicinal plant that is found in ancient Thai traditional medicine recipes. It is used to treat and relieve common cold symptoms. During the COVID-19 pandemic, reference is made to the study of andrographolide, the main active ingredient found in green chiretta while andrographolide is effective in inhibiting viral replication, and it is anti-inflammation. However, COVID-19 is a novel disease, so as yet there is not enough research to conclusively confirm that Andrographis paniculata can prevent and treat COVID- 19.
In Thailand, one study that may be cited on the effectiveness of Andrographis paniculata is a study on its use in COVID-19 patients at the Bangkok Central Prison by Anek, Moongaomklang, M.D.
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mayuree Tangkiatkumjai, the Faculty of Pharmacy, Srinakharinwirot University elaborated that “30 COVID-19 patients in prison were each given four 12-mg encapsulated green chiretta powder, three times a day for five days. They received RT-PCR testing every two days. After eight days of taking the herb, COVID-19 was no longer found.”
The results of the study indicated that the dose is a total of 144 mg of andrographolide powder per day, divided and given times a day, but the Department of Medical Services prescribes 180 mg per day, divided and given three times a day as well.
“Although the optimal dosage of andrographolide remains controversial, and its efficacy and side effects still need to be monitored, but the use of green chiretta to relieve the COVID-19 symptoms is possible,” Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mayuree said.
“Preliminarily, we recommend taking green chiretta for five consecutive days. If symptoms do not improve and there is no risk of liver disease, then you may continue taking it, but not more than 14 consecutive days, and under the doctor’s supervision. Most importantly, you do not take green chiretta with Favipiravir,” Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mayuree warned while stressing that green chiretta should not be taken as prophylactics.
“Studies showed that prolonged use of green chiretta can increase the levels of certain liver enzymes which can cause liver toxicity.”
How to know if the green chiretta is “genuine and meets the standards”
Green chiretta has been registered as a generic home remedy, so it can be sold over-the-counter, to allow people to have easy access. But when the demand for this herbal medicine increased, there was a problem of drug shortages, allowing some manufacturers to take advantage and make fake labels, produce substandard drugs, or overcharge for the herb.
“Some brands of green chiretta do not contain information on andrographolide content. Some labels or information in brochures or social media contain misleading information, deliberately deceitful, or plain ignorance of the manufacturers. Moreover, some brands avoid regulations by registering the product as a dietary supplement, or other types of non-drug product, and often does not contain green chiretta.” Asst.Prof. Dr. Soontree Chaisamritchok, the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Chulalongkorn University detailed the problems with green chiretta labels often found in the market.
“When buying green chiretta, consumers must check the product label for the correct amount of andrographolide suitable for consumption. More importantly, look for the FDA registration number. As green chiretta is classified as herbal product, the label must have a registration number beginning with letter ‘G’,” Asst. Prof. Dr. Suntree advised and added that consumers can check the FDA’s website for products with inaccurate labels at https://www.fda.moph.go.th/.
Apart from consumers having to pay attention to the labels, government agencies such as the Ministry of Public Health should give importance to “labels” to ensure that consumers get quality and safe green chiretta products.
“Green chiretta is no longer a cure for just the flu. The relevant authorities should change the requirements on what must be specified on the drug label, so that consumers can use the product safely and get through the crisis together,” Asst.Prof.Dr. Soontree concluded.
Listen to the recorded forum “Listen carefully to the use of green chiretta (Fah Talay Jone) in crisis – quality, price and safety” (in Thai) at https://www.facebook.com/Pharmacy.CU/videos/568836930954422.
By Chulalongkorn University