Coronavirus myth busted: Drinking tea will not prevent COVID-19

Preventing or curing COVID-19 is not something tea can do. In theory, it may ease some of the symptoms, but it can’t fight off the infection or disease.

Myupchar March 26, 2020 16:41:53 IST
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Coronavirus myth busted: Drinking tea will not prevent COVID-19

With COVID-19 cases in India on the rise and the 21-day lockdown in full effect, misinformation about the novel coronavirus is blowing up on social media. People are finding new and innovative ways of sharing advice that has no scientific backing at all. Some of it may seem extremely convincing too, so it becomes hard to separate fact from fiction. 

The latest theory is about tea and how it could prevent COVID-19. The packaging is impressive. The message claims that Dr Li Wenliang — the Chinese doctor who raised the alarm about a new pneumonia-like infection in Wuhan and who eventually died of COVID-19 — had conducted his own research and proposed a cure. This cure included Methylxanthine, Theobromine and Theophylline, which are found in tea. The recoveries in China are credited to this “cure” and the source of this “news” is cited as CNN. 

Coronavirus myth busted Drinking tea will not prevent COVID19

Representational image. Image source: Getty Images.

No cure yet

Research hasn’t even fully established if warm tea can help you fight off or prevent the common cold - what it can do in some cases is ease the symptoms, like congestions and throat pain. Many warm liquids are recommended for this.

As for the compounds that are supposed to give tea its curative powers against COVID-19 — methylxanthines are organic compounds found in tea, coffee and chocolate; theophylline is a type of methylxanthine; theobromine works as a bronchodilator (dilates the bronchi in the lungs) to soothe some respiratory symptoms — is present only in black tea in small amounts.

And they do have benefits. Theobromine could lower blood pressure, act as a mild stimulant, and may even help in suppressing a cough. Theophylline has similar benefits as well, like the potential to make breathing easier and improve blood flow. Theophylline is also used to treat asthma - but in much larger amounts than is present in tea. 

But preventing or curing COVID-19 is not something tea can do. In theory, it may ease some of the symptoms, but it can’t fight off the infection or disease itself. There is also no sign of an article by CNN in which they claim it could. 

Also, Dr Li Wenliang is being hailed a hero in China - but for a different reason. In December 2019, he tried to warn medical professionals about a virus similar to SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome). He was asked to stop spreading these “rumours” by the police. He later succumbed to COVID-19.

Only prevention

We have to understand this - there is no cure, medication or vaccine as of now. Once there is, you probably won’t find out about it through a forwarded message but instead from top medical institutions and trustworthy media channels. 

The only way to prevent contraction of the novel coronavirus is to maintain hand hygiene, practise social distancing, coughing in your elbow or a tissue, not touching your face and self-isolating if possible. 

Something to keep in mind

What we all need to remember is that COVID-19 is a very new disease. It takes many years to understand a particular disease and even then there are many aspects of it that could remain a mystery. While research is being conducted at breakneck speed, there is a lot that is unknown at this point. We must not blindly believe any piece of news we come across. Ask and look for the source of the information, run it by fact check accounts - at least google the information you receive as some experts may have already debunked it. 

For more tips, read our article on Myths about COVID-19.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.

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