HUD Secretary and neurosurgeon Ben Carson says he took unapproved herbal extract from a toxic plant for COVID-19 after hearing about it from the MyPillow CEO
- Carson revealed in an interview that he took unapproved extract oleander
- Said it was on the recommendation of MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell
- Lindell has a financial stake in the company that makes the herbal extract
- Oleander has not been studied in human trials and experts caution against it
- The herbal extract is derived from a toxic shrub native to Africa
- Boosters also claim it cures cancer, AIDS, hepatitis C and heart failure
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, a medical doctor and former practicing neurosurgeon, has said he took a dubious herbal extract to treat COVID-19 earlier this month.
Carson, 69, told the Washington Post that he took oleander extract, which has not been approved for such use by the FDA and which experts say may be dangerous, when he fell ill earlier this month.
‘I heard about the oleander extract from Mike,’ Carson said, referring to MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, an oleander booster who has a financial stake in Phoenix Biotech, which manufactures the extract.
Carson claimed that his symptoms disappeared within hours of taking the supplement, which has not been tested as a treatment for coronavirus in human trials.
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, a medical doctor and former practicing neurosurgeon, has said he took a dubious herbal extract to treat COVID-19
‘I heard about the oleander extract from Mike,’ Carson said, referring to MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell (above), an oleander booster
On November 9, Carson had tweeted: ‘Thankfully I have access to a very powerful therapeutic, so I was only sick for a very short period of time,’ though he did not reveal at the time what the ‘powerful therapeutic’ was.
Carson and Lindell reportedly teamed up in August to meet with President Donald Trump and urge him to push for FDA approval of oleander extract, also known as oleandrin.
‘Anybody who has ever gotten COVID and taken it, they are fine in five hours, and the next day are running around playing floor hockey in the hallway,’ Lindell has previously said.
Carson has previously been more cautious in his public statements about the herbal remedy.
‘It’s not time for it yet,’ Carson told ABC News in August, adding that it should go through human trials.
‘What hopefully will happen is that clinical trials will occur. This should go the same route as other things do. We shouldn’t, you know, skip the process,’ he said.
Close-up of Oleander flowers in the fortified city of Aigues-Mortes in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of southern France. The plant is toxic to humans
Oleander is derived from the plant Nerium oleander, a shrub native to Africa, all parts of which are considered toxic to humans. Boosters of the extract claim it can cure cancer and AIDS as well.
The extract was shown to inhibit the coronavirus in the kidneys of monkeys, in a July study by University of Texas at Galveston — but the study has not been peer-reviewed and one of the authors is Robert Newman, a director at Phoenix Biotechnology, the company developing oleandrin.
Phoenix Biotech’s Vice Chairman, Andrew Whitney, told Axios that oleandrin had been tested on humans but the results of that had not yet been published.
Medical experts have advised strongly against taking oleader.
‘Though renowned for its beauty and use in landscaping, this Mediterranean shrub is responsible for cases of accidental poisoning across the globe. All parts of the plant are poisonous,’ said Cassandra Quave, PhD, an expert in the use of indigenous plants for medical treatments, and curator of preserved plant specimens at Emory University, in The Conversation.
MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell is a huge supporter of Trump (pictured: speaking outside the White House during a coronavirus briefing in March)
Lindell sparred with CNN host Anderson Cooper over his oleander claims in August
‘Accidentally ingesting even small amounts can kill you,’ cautioned Matthew Heinz, a physician caring for COVID-19 patients, according to ABC News.
‘This is not a friendly plant … don’t go near this plant,’ he said.
In August, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper called Lindell a ‘snake oil salesman’ for pushing oleander extract as a therapeutic treatment for COVID-19.
‘This thing works, and it is the miracle of all time,’ insisted Lindell, a born-again Christian and recovered crack addict.
When Cooper called him a ‘snake oil salesman’ again, Lindell reacted by saying he does ‘what Jesus has me do.’
OLEANDER PLANT AND COVID-19
Oleandrin, the extract of the oleander plant being touted as a cure for coronavirus, has been used in various scientific trials over the last decade.
In one study it was shown to inhibit the growth of human pancreatic cancer and in another as ‘a novel inhibitor of HIV infectivity.’
Oleandrin is a cardiac glycoside – an organic compound which increases the output of the heart and increases the rate of its contractions.
Antiviral effects of cardiac glycosides have been shown against a range of viruses, including Herpes, Ebola, influenza and chikungunya virus.
In July, the University of Texas published a paper which described its effects on the kidney cells of monkeys infected by coronavirus.
The paper said that their tests showed ‘the strong inhibitory profile of oleandrin in greatly reducing infectious virus production.’
Professor Sharon Lewin, an antiviral drugs expert at the University of Melbourne, said that a lot more work needed to be done.
She told Axios: ‘Oleandrin looks to have antiviral activity at high doses in a test tube model. You’d certainly want to see more work done on this before even contemplating a human trial.’