A woman waits in line to purchase multiple boxes of fah talai jone capsules March 16, 2020 in Prachinburi.

PRACHINBURI — Health experts on Tuesday said a herbal medicine currently flying off the shelves across the country will not help protect against the novel strain of coronavirus.

Thais are stocking up on fah talai jone, which is proven to the ward off common cold, while health officials said the herb will not provide any benefit in combating the coronavirus. Still, experts’ warnings did not stop shoppers from hoarding stocks of fah talai jone all over the country.

“We can’t say that it cures Covid-19,” said a person answering the phone at the pharmacy inside the Chao Phraya Abhaibhubejhr Hospital in Prachinburi, which produces the most popular brand of fah talai jone.

“Perhaps people who are buying just want to strengthen their immune system just in case, and don’t want to get infections of any kind,” the person added.

Since Monday, the hospital’s herbal shop has been crowded with queues of people buying multiple bottles of the herb, which is known as andrographis or green chiretta in the West.

Signs in the Chao Phraya Abhaibhubejhr herbal medicine shop about andrographis’ “anti-viral properties.”

Rungwittaya Tangkaprasert, a customer who bought multiple boxes, said she was giving her employees at her motor shop one box each, as well as tamarind lozenges “to help against Covid-19 sore throats.”

Saliltip Julsiriwattanakul, the store manager at Aden Organic herbal medicine shop in Korat city, also said that her entire stock of fah talai jone was wiped out within two hours on Monday by people buying dozens of boxes each. A box of 60 capsules sell for 80 baht.

But claims of the herb’s benefit against Covid-19 were dismissed as false by both the government’s Anti-Fake News Center and medical experts alike.

Chulalongkorn University biologist Jessada Denduangboripant also posted on his widely-followed Facebook page urging people not to use fah talai jone as a preventative measure.

Fah talai jone capsules at Chao Phraya Abhaibhubehjr Hospital on March 16, 2020 in Prachinburi.

Despite expert insistence, signs at the Chao Phraya Abhaibhubejhr Hospital shop still laud benefits of the herb as being able to “prevent virus from entering cells, stop the division of virus in cells, increase immunity against viruses” and “decrease lung inflammation from viral infections.”

By Tuesday afternoon, the hospital’s official Facebook warned resellers that price-gouging their fah talai jone capsules is illegal.

Fah talai jone, scientific name Andrographis paniculata, has long been used as a treatment for the common cold. According to a study by the University of Singapore, the main active ingredient in fah talai jone has antiviral activity against the chikungunya virus. 

A nurse waits in line to purchase multiple boxes of fah talai jone capsules March 16, 2020 in Prachinburi.
Fah talai jone capsules at Chao Phraya Abhaibhubehjr Hospital on March 16, 2020 in Prachinburi.
Abhaibhubejhr brand fah talai jone capsules.
The queue at Chao Phraya Abhaibhubehjr Hospital on March 16, 2020 in Prachinburi.
Fah talai jone capsules at Chao Phraya Abhaibhubehjr Hospital on March 16, 2020 in Prachinburi.
Customers at Aden Organic shop on March 17, 2020 in Korat.