Coronavirus and “Alternative” Treatments

By | March 3, 2020

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses found in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, and bats. A new strain of coronavirus has been identified as the cause of the outbreak of respiratory illness in people first detected in Wuhan, China. On February 11, 2020 the World Health Organization named the disease COVID-19. (Formerly, it was referred to as 2019-nCoV.) Rarely, animal coronaviruses jump species and infect people, and then possibly spread between people, such as with MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, and now with this new virus (named SARS-CoV-2).

The media has reported that some people are seeking “alternative” remedies to prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2 or to treat the 2019 coronavirus disease now called COVID-19. Some of these purported remedies include herbal therapies and teas. There is no scientific evidence that any of these alternative remedies can prevent or cure the illness caused by this virus. In fact, some of them may not be safe to consume.1  

While scientists at NIH and elsewhere are evaluating candidate therapies and vaccines to treat and prevent the novel coronavirus, currently there are no treatments or vaccines for COVID-19 approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid exposure to this virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of this and other respiratory viruses, including the following:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick, and keep children home from school when they are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

If you feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, and have traveled to China or were in close contact with someone with COVID-19 in the 14 days before you began to feel sick, seek medical care. Before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel or exposure and your symptoms.

For more information about what everyone can do to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S., including the general public, health care professionals, and travelers, visit What CDC Recommends. For more information on NIH research on coronaviruses, visit the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.


  1Coghlan ML, Maker G, Crighton E, et al. Combined DNA, toxicological and heavy metal analyses provides an auditing toolkit to improve pharmacovigilance of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Scientific Reports. 2015;5:17475.
 

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