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COVID-19 and “Alternative” Treatments: What You Need To Know

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Last Updated: October 15, 2021

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some cause illness in people, and others cause illness in certain types of animals. Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the strain of coronavirus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Sometimes coronaviruses that infect animals can evolve and make people sick and become a new human coronavirus. Three recent examples of this are SARS-CoV-2, SARS-CoV, and MERS-CoV.

Some people have sought “alternative” remedies to prevent or to treat COVID-19. Some of these purported remedies include teas, essential oils, vitamins, tinctures, herbal therapies such as oleander/oleandrin, and silver products such as colloidal silver. The Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has detailed fact sheets for consumers and health professionals about specific dietary supplements and COVID-19. But there is no scientific evidence that any of these alternative remedies can prevent or cure COVID-19. In fact, some of them may not be safe to consume. It’s important to understand that although many herbal or dietary supplements (and some prescription drugs) come from natural sources, “natural” does not always mean that a product is a safer or better option for your health. For tips on how to find accurate, reliable information about health, visit our Know the Science resources. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved one drug treatment for COVID-19 and has authorized other drugs for emergency use against COVID-19. Researchers are studying a variety of drugs as possible treatments for COVID-19. NIH is supporting many clinical trials to test possible treatments.

COVID-19 vaccination helps protect people from getting sick or severely ill with COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the FDA have information on the vaccines that are approved and authorized in the United States to prevent COVID-19. Visit the CDC website for more information on vaccination and other steps you can take to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

If you have a fever, cough, or other symptoms, you might have COVID-19. Most people have mild illness and are able to recover at home. If you are sick:

Keep track of your symptoms.

Take the steps the CDC recommends to reduce the chances of spreading COVID-19 to others.

If you have an emergency warning sign (including trouble breathing), call 911.

Older adults and people who have severe underlying medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness.

More Resources

For more information about what everyone can do to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the United States, visit CDC’s COVID-19 webpage. For more information on NIH research on COVID-19, visit NIH’s COVID-19 webpage. You can find SARS-CoV-2 literature, sequence, and clinical content from the National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Library of Medicine. You can also subscribe to receive coronavirus updates from NIH.

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