Over the last few days, the potential use of oleandrin for treatment of COVID-19 has received significant media attention.
The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) strongly discourages sales or marketing of dietary supplements that contain any part of the oleander plant (Nerium oleander) or its constituent, oleandrin. AHPA also urges physical and online retailers to refrain from offering any such products for sale, and AHPA cautions consumers to avoid oral consumption of oleander or oleandrin.
Oleandrin is a cardiac glycoside found in the oleander plant. Oleander is a highly toxic plant, and death has been associated with oral ingestion of even small amounts of oleander leaf.
Of particular interest to dietary supplement marketers, a new dietary ingredient (NDI) notification was submitted to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for an oleander extract in 1998. FDA responded to this notification by noting, in part, “All parts of the oleander plant are poisonous to man and animals … [due to] the cardiac glycosides in oleander … [including] oleandrin….” In reviewing the NDI notification records, AHPA notes it is exceedingly rare for the agency to essentially reject a notification due to known safety concerns. Indeed, among the responses to the more than 1,000 NDI notifications released by FDA to date, AHPA identified only seven expressing known safety concerns in this manner.
AHPA advises that anyone who believes they may have contracted COVID-19 should contact a healthcare professional immediately. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more information on the novel coronavirus and the proper actions to take if you suspect you are ill.