Decolonize the World Health Organisation (WHO)

There is now much peer-reviewed science on the medicinal benefits of various natural foods. Which is obvious as humans have been healthy and recovering from disease since… um… well… prehistory. 

So science is playing catch up with traditional and community knowledge on how to help stay healthy and recover when we get sick. But that wisdom is studiously ignored by medical bureaucracies that have been trained to only accept large clinical trials of the type that (mostly Western) pharmaceutical companies can pay for. It means that esteemed institutions like the World Health Organisation (WHO) mostly ignore what is being done with healing plants in many countries. Worse, their staff devoutly and proudly ignore it as a matter of professional and personal identity as being strictly “scientific.” I know that because I worked as a consultant with them before. And there is evidence that millions are suffering as a result of their conceit. 

First let’s look at their response to something many enjoy from their Swiss chefs in Geneva – l’ail. That’s garlic. Unfortunately the WHO misleads the world on the issue of the therapeutic antiviral benefits of garlic by debunking its use as prevention rather than therapy (see their blue info card below). I do not know people claiming it stops infection rather than helping people once sick. It is a bit odd to focus on that as stopping infection has not been a reason for WHO disqualifying compounds altogether, has it?  

Fortunately, my own professional ego is not dependent on an ideological framework paid for by big Pharma – and neither is my Mum’s – and so garlic is something I have often used since childhood when unwell. I talked about using it during my fever last year, which was strangely caught on film as my friend was bored at the time. 

Let’s take a second example – the herb Sambiloto. Heard about it before?

Remember your answer, as we will come back to that. 

Sambiloto is used in Thailand’s hospitals as part of the treatment protocol for many fevers including this year’s most famous one. Other Asian nations have followed their lead. In June last year, the Chairman of the Association of Doctors of Traditional Medicine and Herbal Medicine Indonesia, Inggrid Tania, explained that Indonesian hospitals are using the herb after research done in Thailand. “The Thai government agreed to the use of the extract while it is beneficial in lowering the severity of the (Covid-19) outbreak and cutting medical costs.” According to Inggrid, the results of preclinical research on Sambiloto in Indonesia are in line with clinical trials of efficacy and safety that have been conducted on patients with symptoms of Covid-19 in Thailand. “Improvement occurred within 3 days of intervention without side effects if the patient was treated within 72 hours of the onset of symptoms.” There are various ideas about how it works for a range of fevers. Laboratory tests have shown that active compounds in Sambiloto, especially andrographolidae, can bind to the SARS-CoV-2 protein. 

What is it about the Western corporate media and the Western medical establishment that makes them ignore this evidence of cheap and safe therapies from non-Western countries? 

Some might call it racism. Others might call it ‘regulatory capture’ by the pharmaceutical companies. Some might say both. 

So what of the World Health Organisation – which is meant to be representing the international medical profession and international medical systems? What does WHO say about Sambiloto? 

Can you guess? Take a look.

Nada. Zilch. Nothing. It is not even worthy of a mention. That is despite many member states of the WHO using it in their hospitals and recommending it for outpatient treatment. 

It is time to decolonize the World Health Organisation. 

In defence of the WHO, we might hear about the diverse origin of its staff. But what matters is the destination of those staff – into the narrow confines of a medical ideology that profits massive corporations. Just like there were lots of non-white people administering European empires, diversity of personnel would not mean less oppression if they are administering a global empire of medical profiteering. Being based in the last country of the world to stop murdering women as witches (aka medicine women), we might think they would be self-conscious of this issue of how to embrace and promote traditional knowledge of health and wellbeing. 

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As I used to live in Geneva and knew many WHO staff over the years, I know that many of them use traditional non-pharmaceutical methods to treat themselves when sick. Just like many of us do. I also know some WHO staff use alternative non-Western therapies when they have chronic health conditions. Which their large tax free salaries help them afford, unlike many of us because neither the state nor insurance companies cover the costs due to, wait for it, a narrow medical ideology. Being able to afford such alternative therapeutic support means WHO staff can then get back to work on maintaining that hegemonic ideology, which makes such healing opportunities more difficult for the rest of us to discover, assess and afford. 

My guess is that half the staff at the WHO also believe that it is way past time to decolonize the WHO. So to begin with, more of their staff could start listening to some of their colleagues who are aware of community approaches to health. Here is my little contribution to that: 

I wonder if any one will do a study on how many lives might have been saved and how much ‘long Covid’ could have been prevented if the institutions of West hadn’t been so racist that they did not even hear of the potential of Sambiloto? Which is why you probably only knew of it before now as the name of an amazing rock band. Could the lack of embrace of traditional supplements for treating fevers be one reason why the West fared the worst on the pandemic? We have to allow that question to be asked before knowing anything. But it won’t be asked amongst the establishment because then there is the risk that the public will want to hold a myopic and defensive medical establishment accountable for failing them.

Sadly, unless that introspection begins, the situation could become even more dumb and dangerous to public health. We might have to pass through a phase of herbalists being seen as domestic terrorists duped by Russia to undermine Western civilization, before we get beyond this peak-idiot period and have more normal conversations about public health. By then, the collateral damage could be immense.  

Just a quick note for any Pharma-flunkies amongst you who are already dismissing me as anti-science – below are some of the many scientific papers on the medical herbs that I mention in the trailer to my forthcoming film #FeveredFolk. Despite everything, and because you are still human, I hope the evidence will help you realise the benefits from some of these herbs so you can help yourself and other people. However, reading those papers won’t affect any colonialist bias – that will take some more introspection where you allow yourself to realise you might not be as logical, ethical and racially-aware as you had wished to assume. Which is OK: we are all shaped by the oppressive systems of our cultures. It is wonderful that some of us want to do better than that. 

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Garlic has an antiviral effect

Rodrigo Arreola, Saray Quintero-Fabián, Rocío Ivette López-Roa et al, ‘Immunomodulation and anti-inflammatory effects of garlic compounds’, Journal of Immunology Research, 19 April 2021; DOI: 10.1155/2015/401630. Available at

Sambiloto has an antiviral effect

Agbonlahor Okhuarobo, Joyce Ehizogie Falodun, Osayemwenre Erharuyi et al, ‘Harnessing the medicinal properties of Andrographis paniculata for diseases and beyond: a review of its phytochemistry and pharmacology’, Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Diseases, 4 (3), 2014: 213–22; DOI: 10.1016/S2222-1808(14)60509-0. Available at

Ginger has an antiviral effect

Jung San Chang, Kuo Chih Wang, Chia Feng Yeh, Den En Shieh, Lien Chai Chiang (2013) Fresh ginger (Zingiber officinale) has anti-viral activity against human respiratory syncytial virus in human respiratory tract cell lines, Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Volume 145, Issue 1, 2013, Pages 146-151, ISSN 0378-8741,

Turmeric has anti-inflammatory benefits that help immunity

Singletary, K. (2020)  Turmeric, Nutrition Today: 1/2 2020 – Volume 55 – Issue 1 – p 45-56. 

On Sambiloto in Thailand and Indonesia (yes you can use a translation function in your browser)

Perkuat Imun Hadapi Covid-19, Begini Sambiloto Teruji Klinis di Thailand – Tekno