Can Alternative Medicines Treat COVID-19?

Any time there is a public health crisis a number of people emerge from the ether to tout the efficacy of some kind of alternative to “mainstream medicine”. 

Social media may be one of our most useful tools for keeping in touch with friends while social distancing, but it’s also the greatest disseminator of misinformation around. Facebook, YouTube and other social media platforms have been endeavouring to flag false information or block accounts disseminating potentially dangerous disinformation, but there are still a great number of supposed alternative cures for COVID-19 being spread online.

Vitamin D

A recent study published in the Journal-Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, has demonstrated a link between low levels of vitamin D and a greater risk for the more serious complications of COVID-19. This was purely a study examining blood levels and there was no suggestion from this study that taking vitamin D supplements can treat or prevent the condition.

Another study published in the Journal-Nutrients, examined the mechanisms through which adequate levels of vitamin D in the bloodstream may improve the immune response. The suggestion from this study was that taking Vitamin D 5000 I.U. daily may reduce the risk for respiratory infections, such as COVID-19 & influenza. Again, this is pure speculation and has not been proven in a randomised controlled trial using vitamin D for either COVID-19 or influenza.

Vitamin K2

A study from the Netherlands, published in the Journal-Nutrients, has also demonstrated that those patients with the lowest levels of vitamin K2 had more severe complications of COVID-19. The suggested therapeutic dose of vitamin K2 is 180 µg daily. Again it is vital to stress that there are no randomised controlled trials using vitamin K2 for this condition but equally, this daily dose has not been shown in any studies to have any significant toxicity. 

Polyphenols are the ubiquitous natural chemicals found in plants and one of the reasons it is suggested that consuming 2 to 3 pieces of fruit per day and 3 to 5 servings of vegetables per day is extremely good for your health and your immune system. Before reaching for the supplement bottle, it is vital that each individual living in our modern world consumes this amount of fruit & vegetables on a daily basis. But, during pandemics such as COVID-19, our immune system needs all the help it can get so it certainly won't hurt to supplement your daily dose of fruit and vegetables with added polyphenols. There are a number of high-quality supplements containing healthy doses of polyphenols.


The claim that cocaine kills the coronavirus seems to have started as a prank on social media. These types of claims are nonsense & should be dismissed. 

The initial post appears to have been created using Break Your Own News and claimed that scientists were shocked to discover that cocaine cured the virus. While Facebook was quick to flag the post and image as false information, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health in Paris jumped on Twitter to assure citizens that cocaine was in no way a cure. Naturally this prompted the conspiracy-minded to assume that it was a cure because officials were quick to condemn it.

Needless to say, cocaine has no curative effects when it comes to the coronavirus. That’s lucky - given the massive reduction in international travel and countries locking down their borders, the drug trade has been upended worldwide . Any illegal drug has the potential to cause serious health issues, along with addiction. 

Colloidal Silver

Colloidal silver is apparently the most versatile cure in the world if you believe the hype. Proponents of the cure, or those standing to make money from it claim that the colloid (a suspension of particles suspended in a liquid) can kill bacteria, fungus and viruses and cure hundreds of conditions, as varied as autism and COVID-19. 

Silver has been used in medicine for hundreds of years and has shown some antibacterial properties (silver infused dressings can aid in the healing of lesions), but there is no scientific evidence that colloidal silver can have any beneficial medical effect. 

Ingesting colloidal silver can also have marked negative consequences - namely argyria, a condition caused by having too many silver ions in your body. This buildup causes your skin to turn a deep blue/grey and may also cause kidney damage and a loss of night vision.

Drinking Cow Urine

Seriously? No. 

Drinking Methanol and other alcohols

Drinking alcohol is ethanol. While it can have detrimental effects, ethanol is relatively safe for consumption. Methanol, on the other hand, is highly toxic and can be fatal if ingested. As of the end of March 2020, nearly 300 people in Iran died and more were injured due to methanol poisoning as a result of fraudulent information being disseminated via social media touting it as a cure for COVID-19. Methanol can be absorbed through the skin, so should never be used as a hand sanitiser.

Although not as poisonous as methanol, isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) also has multiple negative health effects without having any efficacy in fighting COVID-19. All alcohols can work as surface disinfectants, as they can disrupt the proteins in the coronavirus, but ingestion causes the alcohols to be metabolised and broken down into other chemicals that are then diffused throughout the body. COVID-19 takes root in the lungs, so by the time alcohol has been digested none of the active ingredients that disinfect will make it to the lungs. Inhaling alcohol won’t help with COVID-19 either, but will damage your esophagus and lungs.

Extreme Cold/Heat

Despite what some world leaders would have you believe, the coronavirus will not go away with warm weather - something we should be all too aware of in Australia. Likewise, cold weather has no effect on the virus. Extreme heat and cold can kill viruses, but raising a person’s body temperature high enough to damage a virus would kill them faster than an infection could.


Homeopathic cures revolve around the idea that like cures like, the body heals itself, that diluting a solution somehow strengthens it, and that water has a memory.  Suffice to say there is no scientific evidence that homeopathy has any medical benefit whatsoever, so it stands to reason that supposed homeopathic COVID-19 cures are just as effective.


An Australian celebrity chef and proponent of pseudoscience was recently fined $25k for promoting a supposed coronavirus cure during a Facebook live stream. This device supposedly replicates the light, electromagnetic frequency and “harmonics” of nature somehow energising the body and fighting the virus. Needless to say, any claims of efficacy were entirely unfounded.

While UV light is used for sterilisation, that light is dangerous to humans. There are three bands of UV light, UVA, B and C. UVA makes up the majority of sunlight. UVB can cause DNA damage in the skin leading to burning and eventually cancer. UVC is a shorter and more energetic wavelength and can destroy genetic material. While this ability to destroy genetic material makes UVC excellent for sterilisation, it doesn’t differentiate between human and viral genetic material, so everything is damaged.

If you think you might have COVID-19, rather than searching the Internet for a miracle cure, use it to book an appointment with a medical professional through COVID19

Miracle Medical Solution (MMS) - Chlorine Dioxide/Sodium Chlorite/Bleach

Chlorine dioxide is a safe and effective method of disinfecting water. It can kill bacteria, fungus and viruses in water such as giardia, cryptosporidium and adenovirus. It’s what you use to disinfect a pool, and is also frequently used to purify drinking water when sanitary water supplies are unavailable. Sodium Chlorite (not to be confused with sodium chloride, or common table salt) is also used to purify water. It is also commonly used as a surface disinfectant and sometimes as an antimicrobial treatment for food. 

A number of people and companies have marketed MMS (Miracle Mineral Solution) drinks, drops and sprays as COVID-19 cures and these have turned out to be chlorine dioxide or sodium chlorite solutions. While a small amount of either disinfectant is harmless, larger quantities can lead to vomiting and nausea , diarrhea and severe dehydration.

While chlorine dioxide and sodium chlorite do have their uses in medicine - sterilising equipment - there is no scientific evidence they have any use in combating any illness, let alone COVID-19, no matter what any world leaders may think.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

A number of studies have been proposed to investigate the efficacy of Traditional Chinese Medicine in treating the coronavirus and there is some evidence that TCM can be used to lessen symptoms in mild cases of COVID-19. TCM is best considered a complementary medicine - to be practiced alongside modern medical practices.

There is no silver bullet for COVID-19, and until there is an effective, tested treatment or vaccine then the best thing we can do is follow the advice of medical professionals, maintain social distancing and observe proper hand hygiene. Even if an alternative treatment or medicine isn’t actively dangerous it can have a passively dangerous effect, giving you a false sense of security, potentially causing you to ignore health advice or symptoms, and spreading the virus to others.

Cigarette Smoking

There have been some claims out of France, a place known for its high smoking habits, that smokers have less COVID-19. The reverse has been demonstrated with smokers having higher levels of ACE2 receptors in their lungs predisposing them to higher rates of COVID-19. Please don’t even consider this as possible therapy.

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