Indonesia President Joko stokes speculation herbs can fight coronavirus

An Indonesian vendor serves jamu, an Indonesian traditional herbal drink, in Jakarta, on March 5, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA (BLOOMBERG) - Indonesia's President Joko Widodo has been bolstering speculation that a herb concoction can ward against being infected with the coronavirus.

He said in a statement posted on a government website that he's been drinking a mixture of red ginger, lemongrass, turmeric and curcuma, a type of tumeric native to South-east Asia, three times a day since the spread of the virus.

"I drink the mixture instead of tea now," Mr Joko said in the statement.

"I give the drinks to my guests, be it the morning, afternoon or evening."

The brew is called Jamu, and is widely used as a herbal medicine in Indonesia on claims that it can cure various diseases, from the common flu and stomach aches to uric acid. It's even believed to increase sexual stamina for men.

Industries are built around it and listed companies, such as PT Industri Jamu dan Farmasi Sido Muncul, produce it.

However, its use as a deterrent against the coronavirus is yet to be proven.

Despite this, Mr Joko isn't the only one who's turned to the herb mixture amid growing fears over the virus. Demand for the blend has risen so much that prices of red ginger, turmeric and curcuma jumped fivefold, the President said.

Citizens should take it upon themselves to grow the herbs themselves, he said.

Within more conventional medicine, investors have been placing bets on who will be the first to develop an antiviral for the coronavirus. Shares of United States drugmakers and biotech companies have been defying a market rout, though there is no treatment or vaccine as yet.

The World Health Organisation declared the coronavirus a pandemic as the disease, officially named Covid-19, has spread to 110 countries and regions, killing more than 4,700 people and infecting over 128,000 globally.

Indonesia reported its first death this week, while the number of confirmed cases reached 34.

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