Last Thursday, the Nicaraguan Police arrested a group of street vendors offering eucalyptus leaves prompted by them as a natural and preventive medicine against the coronavirus pandemic.
The arrest of four people, two men and two women, came after several days of fever for eucalyptus leaves.
On the streets of Managua, the leaves with their branches are sold at traffic lights, markets, along boulevards, and home delivery.
Eucalyptus trees were in full view and ignored for years in Nicaragua, but now no one can live without them.
Nicaraguans are buying them as it were a vaccine against the coronavirus. The leaves have become as desirable as toilet paper during the global coronavirus lockdowns.
Until last weekend Eucalyptus leaves were worth nothing, on Tuesday prices ranged from 30 cents to US$1.50.
“I am using eucalyptus with my family for prevention. We are not infected,” explained a Nicaraguan on his social networks. “That’s why I have my own eucalyptus tree in my backyard. Do you see why it is important to plant trees? We would have a better climate!” celebrated a female citizen, who is probably unaware that the species dries the soil around it.”
Recipes on social media promote the use of eucalyptus leaves mixed with ginger, lemon, garlic and other natural ingredients.
What encourages Nicaraguans with eucalyptus leaves is probably its properties. According to the National Center of Traditional Folk Medicine Foundation, eucalyptus is “decongestant, antiseptic, antibronchitic, anticatarrhal, antitussive, antibacterial and balsamic,” ideal characteristics against the flu and pneumonia, the killer in Nicaragua during the pandemic according to the government.
Experts agree that the properties of eucalyptus but a cup of tea with eucalyptus will not make a difference in a patient with the novel coronavirus.
“Actually what it (has) is a placebo effect. You think it will help you and suddenly you feel better. It is not important to face COVID-19, although there are patients who take eucalyptus and associate their improvement to that,” said doctor José Antonio Vásquez, a member of a team of specialists who provide free teleconsultations about COVID-19.
Eucalyptus fever good for street vendors
“I am now earning some money with the branch,” said a woman who sells the leaves at a traffic light in Managua.
Another street vendor claimed to have earned the equivalent of US$25 from selling leaves on his first day, a dream amount for most of the inhabitants of the second poorest country in Latin America (after Haiti).
The demand for the leaves has caused trees on the boulevards of Managua and other cities to lose their branches. This has caused the National Police to carry out nightly rounds to check on the trees.