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Fact check: Calamansi does not cure COVID-19

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
Fact check: Calamansi does not cure COVID-19
Stock photo shows a calamansi plant in a garden against an orange textured wall.
Photo by Sara Erasmo on Unsplash

MANILA, Philippines — Posts from small businesses selling calamansi juice concentrate are claiming again that similar acidic products like lemon and honey can be used to cure the coronavirus. 

Like most other diet myths claimed to effectively treat the coronavirus, this is misleading. 

What they're saying: This one post sourced from a Viber group of community sellers labels a calamansi juice concentrate product as being "Anti-COVID Delta Variant."

It adds that the product can "reduce the incidence and duration of respiratory infections."

Photo shows a calamansi product claiming to be "Anti-COVID Delta Variant."
Sourced

Another post encourages users to boost their immune systems amid the spread of the Delta variant in the country. 

A quick search with CrowdTangle, a social media tracking and monitoring tool, shows almost 9,000 posts in the past 30 days that use the same caption and image.

The claim has circulated around the world.

In the West, one iteration of this misinformation was that drinking or gargling with lemon juice or lemon water could kill the virus. Elsewhere, consuming ginger was said to have the same effect.

Screenshot of CrowdTangle search shows the same post being published in a number of Facebook groups catering to families in quarantine.
Screenshot

What is left out: Though a popular claim earlier on in the pandemic, that lemon and other acidic juices can supposedly treat the virus has long been debunked. 

While the properties of similar juices can alleviate mild symptoms, doctors and academics alike say that there is no evidence that they actually prevent or cure the virus. 

According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, the collective scientific national academy of the United States, no evidence backing this claim exists. 

"There is no evidence that ginger or other dietary supplements can “boost” or “supercharge” your immune system to protect you from infections. There are no foods, drinks, or supplements that will protect you from COVID-19," they said in a fact check.

Why does this matter?: Vaccine misinformation is becoming increasingly common, among other spaces, in products and online communities looking to convince consumers to buy them for protection against the virus. 

Diet misinformation in particular has been quite potent even outside of online businesses. 

In February of this year, Sadanga, Mountain Province Mayor Gabino Ganggangan mandated the use of calamansi and “soob” or steam inhalation for COVID-19 cases in the locality.

"It is promulgated that [...] everyone should take a glass of warm water with lemon or calamansi squeeze every day," he is quoted as saying in a graphic by the Baguio Chronicle.

But the claim that high-alkaline foods can counteract the virus is one that has been lingering since the very onset of the pandemic. 

It makes sense on its face: foods that have a higher pH value than the virus can survive in.

Raising your body's pH level should then be able to flush the virus out, or so they say. 

Even in March 2020, the Palace claimed that gargling warm water mixed with salt or vinegar eliminates the virus.

RELATED: Fact check: Panelo says Korea did total lockdown; eating bananas and gargling prevent COVID-19

Essential context: The claim that highly acidic foods can cure the pathogen stems from another false claim: that COVID-19 has its own pH value. 

Online misinformation as far back as April 2020 claimed that the virus had a pH, which measures how acidic or basic a substance or liquid solution is, ranging from 5.5 to 8.5. 

As early as January, then-Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo said, "I don’t think there is any evidence that it will kill a virus. I think this is a home remedy that has been followed for many, many generations and I don’t think there’s going to be any harm in doing it."

"Saline gargle has always been advocated to improve mostly symptoms of sore throat,” he added. 

Dr. Sharad Kale, a veteran scientist from Bhabha Atomic Research Center, is quoted in a separate fact check by Indian group Fact Crescendo as saying that the viral message is false and "riddled with scientific misinformation."

“The coronavirus does not have a pH. The statement itself is baseless. The information given in the message is scientifically wrong. That’s why it is pointless to say that alkaline food items can prevent coronavirus infection," he says in this fact check.

___

This story is part of the Philippine Fact-check Incubator, an Internews initiative to build the fact-checking capacity of news organizations in the Philippines and encourage participation in global fact-checking efforts

Have a claim you want fact-checked? Reach out to us at editor@philstar.com.

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