Inhalation of camphor, cloves (lavang), carron seeds (ajwain seeds) are the latest home remedies to increase oxygen levels to prevent COVID-19, according to viral messages doing the rounds on social media. But similar to all the other remedies, even this mixture of camphor and ajwain seeds wrapped in a handkerchief does not have any scientific evidence backing this claim.
BOOM spoke to a chest specialist who stated that the best solution is to keep an oximeter and approach medical professionals to avoid the debilitating side effects of ignoring the decrease in oxygen levels.
The viral message reads, "Camphor, lavang, ajwain , few drops eucalyptus oil. Make a potli and keep smelling it throughout the day and night. Helps increase oxygen levels and congestion. This potli is also given to tourists in Ladakh when oxygen levels are low. Many ambulances are now keeping these too. It's a home remedy. kindly share and help." This message comes at a time when India is ramping up its oxygen production due to widespread reports of oxygen shortage resulting in the death of patients.
BOOM received this message on its WhatsApp helpline with a request for verification.
BOOM could not find any scientific papers propagating the use of camphor, ajwain seeds on increasing oxygen levels. While camphor is used in Ladakh, its role in increasing oxygen there is due to the belief that as oxygen levels in higher altitudes decrease, the camphor helps in clearing the nasal pathway and assists in breathing. Several mountaineering and trekking groups insist that people carry adequate camphor with them.
In the case of COVID-19, however, the oxygen levels do not decrease because of moving to a higher terrain and this logic of increasing oxygen levels through camphor has no scientific evidence backing the claim.
BOOM spoke to Dr. Indu Bubna, chest specialist at Lung Care Clinic, Mumbai who said that the only thing camphor does is open the nasal pathway and breathe better but does not assist in increasing oxygen levels.
"In the current times, several people are coming with many different home remedies to keep the virus at bay. All of them do not necessarily have any scientific basis. Inhaling camphor is another such home remedy. It is always better to consult a doctor rather than trying home remedies. We have not seen any scientific impact of camphor on oxygen, breathing possibly. Camphor could lead to poisoning too," Dr. Bubna clarified.
Most of the balms that people use to clear blockage in their breathing such as Vicks Vapour rub, Tiger balm etc contain camphor in them. But there is no evidence of any of these balms raising oxygen levels.
"People have to understand that the virus is presenting itself differently. Gastro-intestinal problems, breathing issues, loss of taste and smell, fever, dry cough, as soon as somebody exhibits any symptoms get tested and start treatment. If the oxymeter shows that the oxygen levels are below 95 or 90, refer to a physician, get a CT scan and start treatment rather than delaying if they are feeling breathless," Dr. Bubna added.
"If the levels are low, there is no evidence that this will increase oxygen levels. Just breathing patterns will change," she concluded.
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