Viewpoint: Coronavirus fears spark claims of ‘bogus remedies’ from alternative medicine peddlers

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An employee works at a traditional Chinese medicine store in Beijing. Image: Noel Celis/AFP
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The news is full of alarming reports about the new coronavirus that originated in China and is spreading throughout the world. There is no treatment other than supportive measures, and there is no vaccine to prevent it.

I was just thinking it wouldn’t be long before CAM (complementary and alternative medicine) stepped in to allay fears by offering bogus remedies, and sure enough, I started seeing them everywhere.

The Herbal Prepper Academy lists herbs and essential oils to fight coronaviruses. The 37 herbs include cayenne, ginger, cinnamon, garlic, horseradish, kudzu, Dyers Woad, gingko biloba, and many more. Six essential oils that “assist the respiratory system” are listed: thyme, oregano, eucalyptus, rosemary, lavender, and sage.

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I suppose I shouldn’t object to people taking bogus remedies if it makes them worry less, since science doesn’t yet have anything effective to offer, and reassurance can make people feel better. But I certainly can’t condone the suggestions for things known to be harmful like MMS. And there is always the danger that people who accept this kind of CAM advice today may go on to use other bogus remedies tomorrow and may die unnecessarily from a life-threatening illness that could have been effectively treated with mainstream science-based methods.

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