In the News: Coronavirus and “Alternative” Treatments

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Last Updated: September 15, 2020

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 new strain of coronavirus that causes coronavirus disease 2019, or 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.

The media has reported that some people are seeking “alternative” remedies to prevent or to treat COVID-19. Some of these purported remedies include herbal therapies such as oleander/oleandrin, teas, essential oils, tinctures, and silver products such as colloidal silver. 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.1,2,3 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 it’s 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. 

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. Researchers are studying new drugs, and drugs that are already approved for other health conditions, as possible treatments for COVID-19. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid exposure to the 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:

  • Clean your hands often.
  • Avoid close contact.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.

Follow the instructions of your state and local authorities and current guidance regarding social distancing and other measures to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

If you have a fever or cough, you might have COVID-19. Most people have mild illness and are able to recover at home. If you have traveled to high risk countries or regions or were in close contact with someone with COVID-19 or think you may have been exposed to COVID-19, contact your health care provider immediately.  

  • Keep track of your symptoms.
  • If you have an emergency warning sign (including trouble breathing), get medical attention right away.

More Resources

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

1U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Coronavirus Update: FDA and FTC Warn Seven Companies Selling Fraudulent Products That Claim To Treat or Prevent COVID-19. March 9, 2020.
2Coghlan 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.
3 Langford SD, Boor PJ. Oleander toxicity: an examination of human and animal toxic exposures. Toxicology. 1996;109(1):1-13.