Back to Africa Check

Stick to doctor-prescribed TB medication, no evidence ‘giant milkweed’ can cure disease

IN SHORT: Ignore social media posts that claim the “giant milkweed” can cure tuberculosis. Treatment for the disease is available and if not treated properly, TB can be fatal.

The solution to curing tuberculosis lies in the leaves of the “giant milk weed,” says a claim doing the rounds on Facebook in South Africa.

Tuberculosis, shortened to TB, is an infectious disease which in most cases affects the lungs. It is caused by a type of bacteria and spreads through the air via an infected person’s cough, sneeze or spit.

The plant the Facebook post claims can cure TB is the Calotropis procera, part of the Apocynaceae family, and is a milkweed plant native to Asia and Africa.

The post claims that readers should put the leaves inside a pot without water, put the pot on fire until the leaves are “boiled”, add the leaves to a cup with a little bit of water and then “pound the leave with ur hand … make it smooth then drink it all”.

The claim says this is “very good to cure tuberculosis”.

The same and similar claims are also circulating on Facebook here and here. But can you really cure tuberculosis with this simple leaf-and-water mixture?

We investigated.

TBMilkweed_False

TB is preventable and curable

The common symptoms of TB include a cough lasting longer than three weeks, coughing up bloody mucus, feeling exhausted, a high temperature and weight loss, says the National Health Service, the UK’s publicly funded healthcare system.

While mostly affecting the lungs, TB can also spread to other parts of the body, including the glands, bones or brain.

Like many false miracle cures that use simple household ingredients to form a mixture, there is no evidence behind the claim that the Calotropis procera plant can cure tuberculosis.

And TB is a disease that is preventable and curable.

Treatment includes a course of drugs taken for four to nine months, depending on the medication regimen.

According to the World Health Organization, those with latent TB infection, where someone is infected with TB but not yet ill, the medicine can be taken for a shorter period of time.

The WHO warns that if TB treatment is not properly completed, the disease can become drug-resistant and can spread. If not treated properly, tuberculosis can be fatal.

Since medication to cure tuberculosis is available, it is important that those diagnosed with the disease visit a doctor for medication, rather than relying on miracle cures posted to social media. There is no evidence these work, but the drugs do.

Republish our content for free

We believe that everyone needs the facts.

You can republish the text of this article free of charge, both online and in print. However, we ask that you pay attention to these simple guidelines. In a nutshell:

1. Do not include images, as in most cases we do not own the copyright.

2. Please do not edit the article.

3. Make sure you credit "Africa Check" in the byline and don't forget to mention that the article was originally published on africacheck.org.

For publishers: what to do if your post is rated false

A fact-checker has rated your Facebook or Instagram post as “false”, “altered”, “partly false” or “missing context”. This could have serious consequences. What do you do?

Click on our guide for the steps you should follow.

Publishers guide

Africa Check teams up with Facebook

Africa Check is a partner in Meta's third-party fact-checking programme to help stop the spread of false information on social media.

The content we rate as “false” will be downgraded on Facebook and Instagram. This means fewer people will see it.

You can also help identify false information on Facebook. This guide explains how.

Add new comment

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
limit: 600 characters

Want to keep reading our fact-checks?

We will never charge you for verified, reliable information. Help us keep it that way by supporting our work.

Become a newsletter subscriber

Support independent fact-checking in Africa.