There’s nothing like a pandemic to bring out the snake oil salesmen preying on the fears of the public. As you may have noticed, all over the Internet, products are for sale claiming to treat or prevent COVID-19 from herbal remedies, to vitamins and supplements, to even silver-based concoctions. The FDA has noticed, sending out a slew of warning letters to companies peddling these bogus remedies.
Not only are these products ineffective for treating or preventing COVID-19, many can be hazardous to your health.
“People may try unproven treatments that have harmful side effects,” warns Leana Wen, MD, a former health commissioner for Baltimore and currently a visiting professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University. “They could also be lulled into a false sense of security.”
Colloidal silver liquid or spray
A good example is colloidal silver, which consists small particles of silver in a liquid solution. Several months ago, televangelist Jim Bakker and a guest, a “neuropathic doctor,” were touting a bottle of the stuff, dubbed Silver Sol, for $40 a bottle as a COVID-19 treatment. That didn’t sit well with both the FDA, which sent Bakker a warning letter and New York Attorney General Letitia Adams, who sent Bakker a cease and desist order over misleading claims.
You should know that there are no known studies that have been conducted and published in scientific journals to substantiate claims for colloidal silver’s purported health benefits. Regular use of the substance can also lead to the discoloration of the skin, eyes and even internal organs, a condition known as argyria, according to the Mayo Clinic. Colloidal silver may also interact with some medications, including certain some antibiotics like tetracycline, quinolones such as Cipro (ciprofloxacin) and Levaquin (levofloxacin), and the thyroid medication Synthroid (thyroxine).
Can Vitamin C prevent or cure COVID-19?
Another remedy that has been peddled as a COVID-19 treatment are products containing vitamin C. The FDA cited DrJockers.com in a warning letter over claims its vitamin C supplement could be used for both protection against and treatment of the disease.
While vitamin C is certainly an important nutrient for your body (and may shorten the duration of the common cold), there is no conclusive evidence it is beneficial against COVID-19, according to Alexander Michels, PhD, a research associate at the Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute whose research has focused on vitamin C.
“People like to take the information [on a treatment for] other viruses and just say, hey it works on that virus, why won’t it work on this virus,” he says. “There’s some validity to that approach as that’s how we set up research experiments.”
Michels notes that while he and colleagues are aware of several case reports of people improving while taking vitamin C, those results need to be corroborated by large trials.
Michels adds that there can also be negative consequences to taking too much of a vitamin or supplement. Most vitamins and supplements have established daily upper intake limits which establish the highest daily dose, though the type of side effect and degree of harm for going above that level depends on the dose and substance, he says. For example, the side effects of too much vitamin C are fairly benign – gas, bloating and diarrhea, though it can increase the risk for kidney stones in some.
Can Zinc prevent or cure COVID-19?
Zinc, like Vitamin C, might be helpful in building your immune system. There’s no research testing it for COVID-19 that we could fined. Taking too much zinc can interfere with iron and copper absorption, potentially leaving you deficient in these other important minerals.
When it comes to COVID-19 product claims on the Internet, Michels advises consumers to be skeptical. “What I’ve been telling people is there’s no proven research that any of these are going to be effective against COVID-19. Anyone who tells you differently is trying to sell you something. Or lying.”
If you are considering buying a COVID-19 testing kit, or one to test for COVID-19 antibodies, read: Don’t Trust At-home COVID19 Tests.