Arrests and Myths Behind the “Fever” for Eucalyptus Leaves in Nicaragua

A man sells eucalyptus leaves, considered preventive against coronavirus, on an avenue in Managua (Nicaragua). EFE / Jorge Torres / Confidencial

After the fever for eucalyptus leaves began, the Police arrested a group of street sellers who offered them as a remedy against Covid-19

By Confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – The Nicaraguan Police arrested a group of street sellers offering eucalyptus leaves on Thursday. The detentions come after several days of fever for eucalyptus leaves advertised by sellers as a natural and preventive medicine against the coronavirus pandemic.

The detainees were four people, two women and two men, who were taken away in a police patrol, along with the eucalyptus leaves as evidence, to a station, according to images transmitted by the digital media outlet, “Articulo 66,” reported EFE.

The leaves with their branches are sold at traffic lights, markets, along boulevards, and are even offered for home delivery. And Nicaraguans are buying them, as if it were the long-awaited coronavirus vaccine, or as if they were inexpensive N95 masks.

As a preventive measure

The eucalyptus leaves fever, unleashed by the Covid-19 pandemic in Nicaragua, appears in a context in which according to the Ministry of Health (MINSA), says there are 279 infected and 17 dead. Although independent counts such as that of the Covid-19 Citizens Observatory now report 2,323 cases and 404 deaths from the virus.

Worth nothing up until last weekend, the eucalyptus leaves are being sold today at prices ranging from between ten to fifty Cordobas (US $0.3 to $1.5), the agency reported.

“I am using eucalyptus with my family for prevention. We are not infected,” explained a Nicaraguan on his social networks. “That’s why I have my own eucalyptus tree in my backyard. Do you see why it is important to plant trees? We would have a better climate!” celebrated a female citizen, who is probably unaware that the species dries the soil around it.

What encourages Nicaraguans to face the pandemic loaded with eucalyptus leaves is probably due to its properties. According to the National Center of Traditional Popular Medicine Foundation, eucalyptus is: “decongestant, antiseptic, anti-bronchitis, anti-catarrhal, antitussive, bactericidal and balsamic,” ideal characteristics against pneumonia and flu.

Eucalyptus and its “placebo effect”

“Actually, what it does is a placebo effect. You think that it will help you and, suddenly, you feel better. It is not significant against Covid-19, although there are patients that drink eucalyptus tea and associate their improvement to that,” Jose Antonio Vasquez, doctor and surgeon, points out.

Vasquez, who is a member of a team of specialists who provide free teleconsultations about Covid-19, recognizes the properties of eucalyptus, but explains that a cup of tea with that ingredient will not make a difference in a patient with the new coronavirus.

The speed with which the eucalyptus trees on some boulevards of Managua and other cities are losing their branches, shows how much Nicaraguans associate it as an effective weapon against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Vendors take advantage of eucalyptus fever

The eucalyptus leaf business attracts even children to traffic lights. But also, people who do not want to pay for something that until a few days ago they grabbed for free. “I am now earning some money with the branch,” said a woman who sells eucalyptus leaves at a traffic light in Managua to EFE.

Another street seller claims to have earned the equivalent of 25 dollars from eucalyptus leaves on his first day. A dream amount for the majority of the inhabitants of the second poorest country in Latin America, after Haiti.

This has caused the National Police to carry out nightly rounds, and more recently, arrests, to save the trees. This is something that the authorities have never done, not even when companies appear doing excessive illegal pruning (of trees) to safeguard electricity cables.

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