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Debunked: No, drinking tea is not a cure for Covid-19

False claims being shared on WhatsApp claim that drinking tea can stop the coronavirus.

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A NUMBER OF rumours have been shared on WhatsApp which claim that drinking tea can help cure Covid-19.

These claims are not true

There is no evidence that drinking tea can help mitigate the effects of the coronavirus. In fact, there’s no known cure at all for Covid-19, because the virus is so new and we are still only learning how it works.

One false claim, which purports to be from a CNN news report, refers to the Chinese doctor Li Wenliang, who first raised concerns about the virus in China and later died of the illness.

Here it is in full:

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The claim alleges that Wenliang documented evidence in his case files that chemicals known as methylxanthines, which are regularly found in tea, can cure or “significantly decrease” the impact of the virus.

It says that Chinese hospitals have given Covid-19 patients tea three times a day to help them, and that the positive effect of this was evidenced by the how the virus had been contained in Wuhan.

“Who would have known that all the solution to these virus [sic] would be a simple cup of TEA and that is the reason so many patients in China are being cured,” it reads.

First of all, it’s true that methylxanthines are found in tea and other everyday things like coffee and chocolate.

It’s also true that theophylline and dyphylline, the methylxanthines mentioned in the article, can be used to help treat respiratory illnesses such as asthma and chronic bronchitis – but only at much higher doses like those found in proven medical treatments.

Furthermore, official advice from the World Health Organisation states that there is no specific medicine that can prevent or treat Covid-19.

There is also no evidence that Dr Li Wenliang was researching the effect of methylxanthines, and the fact that he was an eye specialist and not a virus specialist makes that particular claim unlikely.

Another claim also suggests that making your own tea using lemon and bicarbonate, based on an Israeli recipe, and drinking it daily can also help cure the virus. Here it is in full:

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Once again, it’s important to state: there is no evidence that drinking tea can help mitigate the effects of the coronavirus. The WHO says there is no specific treatment for Covid-19.

The combination of lemon and bicarbonate is an oft-quoted home remedy for everything from teeth whitening, to helping you lose belly fat, to giving you clearer skin.

But there’s no science to back any of these up, let alone any proof that lemon and bicorbonate tea can help reduce symptoms of the coronavirus.

The claim also mentions that the tea will “alkalize” a person’s diet – similar to a debunked claim that the tea can prevent cancer because cancer thrives in acidic environments.

That claim likely stems from another discredited theory, known as the ‘Alkaline Diet’, which claimed that our bodies are too acidic and need to be fixed by eating more alkaline foods. This does not stand up to scientific reason. 

Finally, there is no proof that everyone in Israel is drinking the tea to stave off Covid-19. The coronavirus is continuing to spread in Israel, which has now reported more than 2,500 cases and eight deaths from the illness.

If you want to avoid the virus and combat the spread of it here, the best thing you can do is to regularly wash your hands and to reduce touching your face.

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Misinfo Graphic 2603 Tea Version 1

 

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There is a lot of false news and scaremongering  being spread in Ireland at the moment about coronavirus. Here are some practical ways for you to assess whether the messages that you’re seeing – especially on WhatsApp – are true or not. 

STOP, THINK AND CHECK 

Look at where it’s coming from. Is it someone you know? Do they have a source for the information (e.g. the HSE website) or are they just saying that the information comes from someone they know? A lot of the false news being spread right now is from people claiming that messages are from ‘a friend’ of theirs. Have a look yourself – do a quick Google search and see if the information is being reported elsewhere. 

Secondly, get the whole story, not just a headline. A lot of these messages have got vague information (“all the doctors at this hospital are panicking”) and don’t mention specific details. This is often – but not always a sign – that it may not be accurate. 

Finally, see how you feel after reading it. A lot of these false messages are designed to make people feel panicked. They’re deliberately manipulating your feelings to make you more likely to share it. If you feel panicked after reading something, check it out and see if it really is true.

TheJournal.ie’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here. For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here. You can read about the team of editors and reporters who work on the factchecks here.

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