Unproven treatment methods against COVID-19
There are many fake and unproven medical products and methods that claim to diagnose, prevent and cure COVID-19. Fake medicines sold for COVID-19 may not contain the ingredients they claim to contain, and may even contain harmful ingredients.
No vaccine for COVID-19 prevention is currently available, as of 2020, thought there are many worldwide efforts to develop one as soon as possible.
WHO has requested member countries to immediately notify them if any fake medicines or other falsified products are discovered. There are also many claims that existing products help against COVID; these spread through rumours online rather than conventional advertising.
- Eating cow dung has been said to cure coronavirus.
- Snake oil, a traditional Chinese medicine, was advertised by the Xinhua News Agency as being able to treat the coronavirus. In the US and China, the product sold out in stores across the country.
- Drinking cow urine and applying cow dung on the body was claimed to cure coronavirus by Indian politician Swami Chakrapani. He also stated that only Indian cows must be used. MP Suman Haripriya also promoted cow dung and urine. Dr Shailendra Saxena of the Indian Virological Society stated that there is no evidence that cow urine has any anti-viral effect, and eating cow dung might even create a new zoonosis.
- Consuming garlic, ginger and onions circulated as a preventive measure against COVID-19 on Facebook.
- Steam inhalation was suggested as a cure for coronavirus infection that circulated on Facebook.
- Juice of bittergourd, a vegetable used in traditional medicine, was suggested as a cure for COVID-19 on social media.
- Drinking water every 15 minutes was claimed to prevent coronavirus infection.
- Neem leaves (Azadirachta indica) were claimed to be remedies for COVID-19 in rumours that circulated in India.
- Bananas were claimed to be able to strengthen the immune system and prevent and cure COVID-19.
- Taking six deep breaths and then coughing by covering one’s mouth was circulated as a treatment for COVID-19 infection in social media, including by celebrities.
- Tea was said to be effective against COVID-19 in claims circulating on social media, which said that since tea contained the stimulants methylxanthine, theobromine and theophylline, it was capable of warding off the virus. These claims were falsely attributed to Dr Li Wenliang.
- Posts on social media claimed that volcanic ash from the eruption of the Taal Volcano on January 12, 2020 in the Philippines was the cause of low infection rates in the country, stating that it could kill the virus and had “anti-viral” and “disinfectant qualities”.
- Andrographis paniculata was claimed to boost the immune systems and relieve symptoms of coronavirus by a Thai media website. Dr. Pakakrong Kwankao, Head of the Empirical Evidence Centre at Chao Phraya Abhaibhubehjr Hospital, and Dr. Richard Brown, Programme Manager of Health Emergencies and Antimicrobial Resistance at the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Thailand, said that there was no evidence to back these claims.
- Sap from Tinospora crispa (makabuhay) plants was claimed to serve as an antibiotic against the coronavirus when used as an eye drop; it was also claimed that the coronavirus is from the skin and crawls to the eyes. These rumours circulated in the Philippines. Dr. Jaime Purificacion from the University of the Philippines’ Institute of Herbal Medicine said that while there was evidence for makabuhay as a treatment for scabies, there was no evidence that it was useful for treating coronavirus, and no evidence that putting the sap in your eyes was safe. He strongly advised against putting plant sap in the eyes, saying it could be dangerous. The WHO has stated that antibiotics do not kill the coronavirus, as they kill bacteria, not viruses.
- Saline solutions were said to kill the coronavirus in claims originating from China.
- Colloidal silver is falsely marketed as a cure for COVID-19 infection.
- Industrial methanol was claimed to cure the coronavirus. Drinking alcohol is ethanol, while methanol is acutely poisonous. Contrary to some reports, drinking ethanol alcohol also does not protect against COVID-19, and can increase health risks (short term and long term).
- A YouTuber claimed that ‘a miracle mineral solution’, which effectively only contained chlorine dioxide, can ‘wipe out’ coronavirus. The FDA has warned that drinking chlorine dioxide can cause serious health problems.
- A person living in California marketed pills for curing coronavirus, although the contents of the pill were not made public. He was arrested for attempted fraud, which carries up to 20 years of prison.
- Cocaine was projected as a cure for the coronavirus. When this news appeared on social media, Facebook flagged this as misinformation and French officials were required to release an official statement confirming that cocaine could not cure the virus.
- Toothpastes, dietary supplements and creams were being sold illegally in the US, with claims that they could cure coronavirus infection.