The Tamil Nadu government has been vehemently promoting `nilavembu kudineer,' a concoction of nine herbs possessing some antiviral properties to help prevent flu and boost the immune system.
However, doctors have made some shocking revelations against the herbal powder. They say that the ingredients can primarily cause infertility.
Nilavembu is considered a ‘Siddha drug’ (traditional medicine originating in ancient Tamilakam in South India) and is prescribed to cure all fevers, including dengue.
“It is a matter of concern when studies are contradictory,“ said Indian Medical Association state president Dr T N Ravishankar to the Times of India.
What is nilavembu?
Nilavembu is a poly herbal formula that controls fever in a comprehensive way through its healing effects of temperature regulation, inflammation control and body pain relief. It exhibits potent antiviral activity against viruses causing Dengue and Chikungunya fever.
The powder’s main ingredients are:
Two or three teaspoons of the powder is mixed in water and set to boil. It forms a decoction which is taken twice on empty stomach.
Nilavembu becomes a cause of infertility when the powder is consumed in its raw form, said Dr Selvin Innocent Dhas, president of the Indian Siddha Medical Graduates Association. It also causes problems in its decoction form for women.
"If you give the decoction to pregnant women or people with stomach ulcers, acidity or digestive problems, it can trigger vomiting. In severe dengue, where patients are already dehydrated, this medicine can be deadly,” he told the Times of India.
“It's an herbal medicine that should not be used indiscriminately," he further added.
The Tamil Nadu government had decided to provide nilavembu free of cost to all eateries through the designated officers of the food safety department in every district, such was their belief on the positive effects of the siddha drug.
However, a five-member committee sent to the state by the Centre to investigate the outbreak of dengue said they would not recommend mass administration of nilavembu.
“There is no proven, clinically useful anti-viral component effective against dengue,” told Dr Dilip Mathai, dean and professor of medicine at Apollo Institute of Medical Science and Research to the Times of India. “If the government is asking doctors to give herbs with a promise of helping patients, it will be unethical and illegal,” he said.