Grandma's remedy may not hurt, but here's what you really need to beat the coronavirus

  • Turmeric curcumin pills, boiled fresh garlic water and herbal teas are among the natural remedies being circulated on social media as potential cures for the coronavirus.

      Turmeric curcumin pills, boiled fresh garlic water and herbal teas are among the natural remedies being circulated on social media as potential cures for the coronavirus. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Experts say turmeric, garlic and herbal teas can help boost the immune system, but they aren't cures for the coronavirus.

      Experts say turmeric, garlic and herbal teas can help boost the immune system, but they aren't cures for the coronavirus. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 3/6/2020 5:47 PM

Grandma's signature herbal concoctions might offer some comfort when combating a cough, cold or malaise, but they're not a cure for the coronavirus, experts warn.

An "infodemic" of unconventional treatments is circulating via social media, purporting to prevent or cure the COVID-19 illness that has infected more than 100,000 people and caused a few thousand deaths globally.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Turmeric curcumin, boiled fresh garlic water, and herbal therapies and teas are among the alternative remedies touted as miracle cures. Scientists and suburban health experts have been debunking such claims as fears about the virus spread.

"Garlic is great for your immune system, but it's not going to cure anything in particular," said Kathrine Alsop, a naturopathic doctor who teaches microbiology at College of DuPage and Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Heights.

Alsop said alternative therapies become attractive because they give people a sense of control over their health.

"The biggest things that help your immune system are the things we already kind of know to do -- diet and exercise, eat your vegetables, fruits, lean protein, a nutrient-dense diet -- giving your immune system all of the tools that it needs to actually fight the fight," she said.

Other false cure claims health officials have rejected include chugging colloidal silver (comprising silver particles suspended in liquid -- an ancient remedy for treating bacterial, viral and fungal infections), swallowing or gargling bleach (a definite no-no), taking acetic acid or steroids, or using essential oils, salt water, ethanol or other substances.

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"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," say scientists at the National Institutes of Health.

China, where COVID-19 was first detected, has dozens of running or pending clinical trials on potential treatments involving new pharmaceutical drugs and thousand-year-old traditional therapies.

Myriad herbal remedies, some scientifically supported, are used to treat cold and flu symptoms, but research on natural treatments for the coronavirus isn't yet available.

Herbs with active anti-viral properties, such as lemon balm and licorice, have been used against colds but are not effective in preventing or curing COVID-19, said William Thor Conner, a naturopathic doctor based in Oakbrook Terrace.

The best defense against the coronavirus is being healthy when the infection hits, he said.

Conner emphasizes general hygiene and having "a solid immune system" to minimize the chances of catching COVID-19 and helping the body's defenses shut down the virus quickly once infected. For that, he recommends sleep, exercise and proper hydration.

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