COVID-19: Excessive Consumption of ‘Kadha’ and Possible Side Effects
Excessive use of 'kadha' to cure or prevent COVID-19 has lead people to suffer side-effects.
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Home remedies such as inhaling steam and drinking 'kadha' (herbal decoction) have become famous since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, excessive use of kadha and steaming has lead people to suffer side-effects. At the same time, some people have fallen for misinformation relating to "treating" COVID-19 with these remedies and have ended up becoming seriously ill.
A recent report in The Times of India said that increased consumption of kadha has led to a rise in cases of constipation and anal fissures in patients with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Pune-based Healing Hands Clinic diagnosed 481 people with anal fissures between 10 April and 20 May, during the peak of the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic in India. Almost all of the patients admitted to consumed kadha in large quantities.
We spoke with doctors and nutritionists to find out how to correctly use kadha and protect oneself from serious side effects.
How Does Kadha Help During COVID-19?
It is important to note that consuming kadha does not cure one from COVID-19. Having kadha, in prescribed doses, only helps in symptomatic treatment of COVID-19.
The chief medical officer at Nirogstreet, Dr Abhishek Gupta, in an interaction with FIT explained the many benefits of having kadha.
When a person’s is infected by a virus, there is an accumulation of contaminated substances in the respiratory system, which is often seen in the form of cough or mucus. This blocks the channels in the body, causing cold, fever and other symptoms, making us sick. Kadha, containing hot water and Ayurvedic herbs helps with the digestion of these substances, which opens up these channels. This increases the body’s strength and resistance, and the viral infection starts reducing.Dr Abhishek Gupta, chief medical officer at Nirogstreet
Kadha is often recommended as a means to "boost" one's immunity. However, Geeta Shenoy, a Mumbai-based registered dietician and the founder of 'Nutrition & Wellness Clinic' says, "Taking Kadha for boosting immunity is totally a short-sighted version. Instead, one should learn to eat balanced diet, adequate sleep and water, optimal exercise, being physically active, exposure to sunlight and minimize stress in day-to-day life."
Dr Aviral Vatsa, a Physician with NHS, Scotland, UK also says that having kadha will not prevent or cure one from COVID-19.
"Immunity does not have an on and off switch, it is a complex system in our body which protects us from external and internal diseases. Immunity works on various levels and there are no medicine or vitamins that will boost your immunity so much that it will cure or prevent COVID-19," Dr Vatsa said.
How Much Kadha is Too Much?
Dr Anchal Maheshwari, a doctor a Nirogstreet, recommends taking 15 ml of kadha for adults and 10-12 ml for kids - two times in a day, mixed with water.
However, Dr Maheshwari also states that kadha should be consumed as prescribed by an Ayurvedic doctor because the various products used in the decoction act differently in different climate conditions. Having a lot of kadha can cause vomiting and nausea for a short period of time after consumption if it has been taken right after a meal, Dr Maheshwari said.
Shenoy also agrees that under normal circumstances, taking kadha once of twice a day should suffice. "While taking kadha in small amounts in case of fever, cold, cough certainly helps to alleviate symptoms and give relief, but taking excess amount can lead to harmful effects as well," she said.
Who Should Avoid Taking Kadha?
Doctors and other health experts advised that kadha should only be taken after consulting a doctor or a qualified dietician.
For example, Dr Gupta told FIT that ginger and black pepper should be avoided for people who have more heat in their body as it may cause stomach problems and menstrual-related issues.
Shenoy stated that consuming kadha in excess can especially be dangerous for people on multiple medications, blood thinners, pregnant ladies.
Some of the ill effects of kadha which I have seen in practice are gastric reflux and black stools which could be due to the ulcerations and intestinal bleeding. Most of these spices are heat generating, so people having acidity, GERD, or sensitive stomachs should avoid it. Women planning to conceive should not take high amount tulsi which contains ursolic acid which can hamper reproductive capacity. Similarly, large amounts of turmeric can be harmful for liver, increases bleeding tendency especially for people on blood thinners, yellow skin, and constipation.Geeta Shenoy, Dietitian
Dr Vatsa points out at the lack of research in the field and says, "People say that since kadha is made from natural herbs so it can't cause any harm. But we don't know how those individual herbs benefit or harm people as there has been no research or studies on consuming them individually or in the form of a mixture. Every person might react differently to kadha and it can be unpredictable."
Shenoy advises to immediately stop consuming products which might be irritating the gut lining or causing problems.
"People having problems with kadha, should include lot of water, frequent small meals, cooling foods such as vegetables and fruits, simple food (non-spicy or oily), pure ghee," she adds. She also recommends avoiding packaged foods, fizzy drinks and tea/coffee.
While kadha might provide one with temporary relief from symptoms, it will not cure or prevent COVID-19, nor will it "boost" one's immunity. It should only be consumed in limited quantities after consulting a doctor or a dietician.
(This story has been published as a part of The Quint’s COVID-19 fact-check project targeting rural women.)
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