Fact Check: COVID cures or remedies

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Editor’s note: A previous version of this article identified Simone Gold as the founder of the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance. She is the founder of America’s Frontline Doctors.

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC)— Every day hundreds of people are testing positive for COVID here in Monroe County. Many people are turning to alternative treatments, but do any of them work?

Ivermectin is one that has been getting a lot of attention. It’s a drug used to treat animals for parasites. The FDA says Ivermectin is not effective against COVID. It has received reports of people being hospitalized after taking it.

However, maybe you’ve seen things like this online from the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance. It claims to have a scientific rationale that justifies the use of Ivermectin to treat COVID.

Again, the FDA says Ivermectin is not effective against COVID, and there is no current approval for it to be used as a COVID therapy.

Early on in the pandemic, there was a lot of talk about the anti-malaria drug Hydroxychloroquine to prevent getting the virus. World Health Organization experts say the drug has no meaningful effect on deaths or hospitalizations due to COVID.

So what about other homeopathic cures or remedies?

Dr. Maryrose Laguio-Vila is an infectious disease specialist at Rochester Regional Health. She looked into claims of alternative treatments to see if any of them work.

Here’s what she found:

Vitamin C
There are some vitamins and minerals that are good for your body and helping to boost your immune system in general. At the same time, there is not enough evidence that Vitamin C is enough to prevent your immune system from being overtaken by COVID-19 – regardless of whether it’s taken on its own or as a combination of supplements.

Read more: Vitamins and COVID-19: Can They Protect Against Infection?

There are unproven claims that taking zinc supplements can reduce the severity and length of time for infections such as flu, viruses, and common colds, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Currently, there is insufficient data about whether zinc can harm or help your immune system as it fights against COVID-19. Doctors do not recommend taking more than the prescribed amount of the mineral as a way to boost your immune system.

Green tea
People claim that green tea contains properties that can help to improve a person’s immune system function. There is no evidence backed up by the CDC, FDA, or NIH showing green tea improves the body’s ability to ward off COVID-19 or reduce symptoms for someone who tests positive for the virus.

Elderberry syrup
This natural remedy is promoted in holistic medicine circles as a way to treat colds, influenza, and other diseases. There are claims that it may relieve symptoms of flu or upper respiratory infections. A small number of preliminary studies suggest there may be some relief with symptoms, but none of the studies focused on COVID-19. There is no published research on the use of elderberry with coronavirus.

"Raw and unripe elderberries, along with leaves and the stem, are toxic and can lead to nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, according to the NIH," Dr. Laguio-Vila said. "Avoid using any elderberry product as a way to prevent or treat COVID."

Essential oils
The movement touting essential oils claims aromatherapy based on plant extracts can support a person’s well-being and overall health. Some essential oils have been marketed as having "potent antiviral properties and a powerful antibiotic, particularly for RNA viruses, like the coronavirus responsible for acute respiratory syndromes," according to the FDA.

The FDA issued several letters in June 2020, warning essential oil companies that these are not effective or proven treatments that could help to treat or prevent COVID-19.

This one can be confusing at first because it has generally good health attributes. Clinical studies over the years have shown ginger can be helpful with nausea, vomiting, diabetes, and migraines. It also has some anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic and antioxidant properties, according to the NIH. However, studies have not demonstrated any link between ginger and a cure for COVID-19.

This drug has received a lot more public attention over the last several months.
The FDA recently issued a statement about the drug, which is primarily used in the U.S. to treat animals for parasites. A version of the drug is approved by the FDA for parasitic worms in humans, but only in very specific cases. It is not an anti-viral medication.

Doses of Ivermectin for animals are very different than human doses. Reports from across the U.S. show people being sickened by taking too high of a dose and having to call poison control. The CDC issued a statement on August 26, 2021, warning against taking the drug as a treatment or preventative therapy for COVID-19.

Initial research is underway for Ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19. However, there is no current approval for it to be used as a COVID therapy.

"Always consult your doctor or primary care provider about any new medications," Dr. Laguio-Vila said. "Just because someone on social media says treatment may show promise does not mean it will work. Do not take medications that have not been prescribed for you."

Back to our claim that these alternative treatments could prevent or cure COVID. Our local doctors and the FDA both say that is false.

Doctors say the best way to protect yourself against COVID is by following these four main health and safety guidelines:

  • Wear a mask at indoor public spaces
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Get a COVID-19 vaccine
  • Maintain social distancing


Check out other Fact Checks here. If you have an idea for Fact Check, email Nikki Rudd at nrudd@whec.com.