Claim: Cashew bark destroys snake venom.
Verdict: MISLEADING. Our findings show no scientific evidence suggests that Cashew bark can neutralise the effects of snake venom.
The cashew tree is a fascinating and useful plant widely cultivated in tropical regions. This tree is native to Brazil but is now grown in many parts of the world, including Nigeria, Vietnam, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Benin, Guinea-Bissau, and the Ivory Coast.
While the fruit and nuts of the cashew tree are well-known, the bark of the tree is also of great interest for its many potential benefits.
The cashew tree bark has been used for centuries in traditional medicine for its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic properties. It contains compounds such as anacardic acid, which has been shown to have potent antimicrobial activity against various bacteria.
Recently, a WhatsApp message in circulation claims that chewing the bark of a cashew tree will effectively treat a venomous snakebite. “It will neutralise every poisonous substance from the snake, even if it is black mamba,” part of the post reads.
Cashew bark has been touted as a potential cure for snake bites, and many people believe it can be used as an antivenom.
For example, Haruna Abdullahi commented on Danjuma Babeji’s post, saying it was very informative.
“Very informative and useful piece. May Allah Azza Wajalla bless you abundantly,” he wrote.
In another post on Uju Mmiri’s page, Udu Ego appreciated the user for sharing the information. “Daalu Nneoma for the teaching,” Mr Ego commented.
This misconception can lead to a lot of confusion and potentially dangerous situations, hence, the need to verify this claim.
We first observed that the additional information to the claim, which is the request to share the message, explains why the message is viral on WhatsApp.
The cashew tree is a tropical evergreen tree grown for its fruits. The scientific name of the cashew tree is Anacardium occidentale. The bark of the cashew tree, which is greyish-brown in colour and has a rough texture, contains a thick layer of tannins and is used for various purposes in traditional medicine.
The bark contains several compounds, including anacardic acid and cardol, that have been shown to have antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties.
An antivenom, a medication that is used to treat the effects of a venomous snake bite, is created by injecting a small amount of the venom into an animal, such as a horse or sheep, and then harvesting the antibodies produced by the animal’s immune system in response to the venom. These antibodies are then purified to treat snake bites as an antivenom.
Anti-venoms are specific to the type of venom involved, and attempting to use unproven remedies or treatments could be dangerous and potentially life-threatening.
A study on mice conducted by the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Mysore in India found that the extract from cashew tree bark prevented bleeding, swelling and muscle trauma at the snake bite site. The venom was still lethal, but it took longer for the mice that received the extract to die. The researchers concluded the extract was a “beneficial first-aid treatment in viper bites.”
A Zoologist, Eric Kuju, told DUBAWA that while cashew bark does contain certain chemical compounds that have been studied for their potential medicinal properties, there is no documented use of cashew bark as an anti-venom.
He said about the study on rats, “The study by the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Mysore in India was only tested on lab rats. The test did not go beyond the rats to larger mammals like monkeys, not to talk of human beings.”
He added, “At best, the cashew extract delays the action of the snake venom, it does not save lives.”
A pharmacist, Rachel Vincent, told DUBAWA there is nothing available about its anti-venom properties. “I have not heard of any of such,” she said.
While cashew bark may have some medicinal properties, it is ineffective as an antivenom. There is no scientific evidence to suggest cashew bark can neutralise the effects of snake venom, and no regulatory agencies have approved it as a treatment for snake bites.
The researcher produced this fact-check per the DUBAWA 2023 Kwame KariKari Fellowship partnership with BONews to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country.