BISHKEK -- A Kyrgyz man suspected of consuming a toxic root that had been promoted by President Sadyr Japarov as an "effective" cure to treat COVID-19 has been hospitalized.
Officials from the Bishkek Ambulance Center said on April 20 that a 63-year-old resident of the capital was rushed to the National Cardiology and Therapy Center (UKTB) in serious condition after possibly ingesting aconite root.
On April 15, Japarov said on Facebook that the root has proven to be an "effective" method to treat COVID-19.
The entry contained a video showing men without protective equipment bottling a solution with extracts from the aconite root, warning that drinking the solution while it is cold might result in death.
The next day, Health Minister Alymkadyr Beishenaliev announced at a press conference that such a concoction had been given to 300 coronavirus-infected patients.
He also sipped from a cup containing the poisonous root's extract in front of journalists and said that "the solution is not dangerous to one's health," if it is consumed hot.
The World Health Organization’s mission in the former Soviet republic harshly criticized the idea, saying that there’s no proof aconite root is safe for treatment of any illnesses, including coronavirus infection.
Several physicians who spoke with RFE/RL said use of the root to treat COVID-19 violates Kyrgyzstan’s law on public safety, while a Facebook spokesperson told RFE/RL on April 19 that Japarov's post promoting the toxic root had been deleted.
“We’ve removed this post as we do not allow anyone, including elected officials, to share misinformation that could lead to imminent physical harm or spread false claims about how to cure or prevent COVID-19," Facebook said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Japarov's press service said hours after Facebook's statement that the post was removed by the account's owner and "without external interference," adding that possibilities to use aconite root to treat COVID-19 will be studied by the country’s medical experts.
Aconite root is found in China's northwestern region of Xinjiang and some parts of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.
Some people use the root in soups and other meals, believing in its health benefits. But aconite roots contain aconitine, a cardiotoxin and neurotoxin. Consuming aconite root can lead to sickness or even death.