The information below is from ConsumerLab.com, a 21-year-old company that independently evaluates all major supplement companies in the United States. Their mission statement: To identify the best quality health and nutritional products through independent testing.
They test supplements for quality, dosage, and purity. They will also call out a company that puts a higher dosage than stated as well as a lower dosage because they believe you should know exactly what you are taking. They make money by charging a monthly fee, to be a member and get all this data on hundreds of companies. I became a member for a year just to evaluate the company. Tod Cooperman, M.D. is president and founder, he seems to be an honest and knowledgeable guy who is a bit on the conservative side, which is probably good, considering what he is doing.
I think his analysis of his list of 18 supplements that can help to beat Coronavirus is accurate, but a bit conservative.
An Example: Vitamin C, which is important to fight Coronavirus, is stated to have a normal dosage of 75 to 120mgs. That is archaic information that the United States put out in 1941, 79 years ago which is still the government standard . Tens of thousands of research projects later in 2020, most of us know that vitamin C is sold in pills of 500 to 1,000 mgs.
Neither animals nor plants can live without vitamin C so most animals can make their own. All mammals make their own vitamin C except humans, apes, monkeys, bats, and guinea pigs. At least we have good company as exceptions.
I am writing another article about how and why vitamin C works against Coronavirus which we will publish right after this piece. I have some interesting information I am putting together about how vitamin C will work directly against Coronavirus.
Recent research with animals is proving that vitamin C is much more important than originally thought. A goat can make 14,000mgs (14 grams) of vitamin C per day. A racehorse can make 72,000mgs (72 grams) of vitamin C per day. The owners of these very expensive horses give them an extra 14,000mgs (14 grams) of vitamin C every day because they know they need more because of the stress of traveling and the exertion of the race. If you follow the money you will find the truth. The people that say that Vitamin C does nothing are lying and there is a reason for that, which is another story.
Animals don’t get sick, the Chinese doctors have been testing vitamin C to fight Coronavirus with critically ill patients who are on ventilators, giving them 26,000mgs (26 grams) intravenously, with good results. There are reports that some doctors in New York are using vitamin C also. I am taking a buffered vitamin C powder and I am up to 6,000mgs per day.
A 140-pound goat is making 140 times the vitamin C that we are supposed to be ingesting according to the government standard. So, if we could make our own vitamin C we would be making 10,000mgs to 20,000mgs per day when we are being attacked by viruses, bacteria or are under tremendous stress.
The takeaway from all of this is that we can build up our health and improve our immune system so that if we do get the Coronavirus, it will be a mild case and not a lethal one.
Check out the 18 supplements below to find more ways to stay healthy and avoid the Coronavirus.
We are all in this together, if you have any questions email me at joe.hammond@HammondLifeExtension.com
Call my direct line at 786-478-4200
Share this information if you would like and give us questions or your thoughts below.
Natural Remedies and Supplements for Coronavirus (COVID-19)
What are natural remedies for coronavirus (COVID-19)? Do supplements like zinc, vitamin C, or herbals work?
Many supplements and natural or other alternative treatments are being promoted to prevent or treat coronavirus (COVID-19). None have been proven to work, but some have potential benefit. Here’s what you need to know, and we’ve grouped these approaches in the following categories:
If you are planning to try any of these supplements, be aware that ConsumerLab has tested and reviewed many of these products and it may be worthwhile to check ConsumerLab’s Top Picks in each category — based on best quality, appropriateness of strength and dosing, and value — using the links provided below.
Of course, the most important thing you can do to avoid infection with coronavirus is to prevent exposure by following the latest recommendations of the CDC and World Health Organization and take steps to stay healthy, including getting adequate sleep and exercise and eating a healthful diet that includes adequate (but not excessive) intakes of essential nutrients, such as vitamins C and D, as described below. Also take steps to control hypertension and blood sugar fluctuations with diabetes, as these conditions are associated with more severe disease if infected.
Vitamin and minerals that can help with coronavirus if you’re not getting enough
Potassium will not prevent coronavirus infection but it can play a very important role in the treatment of COVID-19 if symptoms become severe. Doctors in China reported that among a group of 175 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, 69 (39%) had hypokalemia (low potassium in the blood) and another 39 (22%) had severe hypokalemia. Supplementing with about 3 grams of potassium daily helped correct these deficiencies in most patients.
Hypokalemia can cause heart dysfunction, one of the major problems seen in COVID-19. High levels of markers of heart muscle damage were associated with more severe hypokalemia. The presence of underlying disease, particularly hypertension, was associated with the severity of hypokalemia. On the other hand, there was no association between hypokalemia and common upper respiratory symptoms, such as cough and runny nose (i.e., if those are your only symptoms, you probably don’t have to worry about your potassium level.) (Chen, preprint in medRxiv 2020 — Not yet peer-reviewed).
The apparent reason for hypokalemia in COVID-19 is that the point of entry into cells for the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is an enzyme on cell surfaces called angiotensin I converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). ACE2 is found on many types of cells, including those in the lungs, intestines, kidneys, and heart. It normally helps regulate blood pressure through effects on sodium and potassium. The virus inactivates ACE2, leading to excretion of potassium. This explanation was further supported by the finding of excess potassium in the urine of patients with hypokalemia, indicating that the potassium loss is mainly through the kidneys (from potassium it normally filters from the blood) as opposed to diarrhea — which is also common in COVID-19.
Normally, potassium is easily obtained from foods, such as beans, squash, potatoes, and deficiency is uncommon other than in people taking certain drugs or with conditions affecting the kidneys or gut. For treating deficiency, supplements are commonly used. Individuals taking potassium-sparing diuretics (such as spironolactone), ACE inhibitors (such as captopril), or trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole should not take potassium supplements without medical supervision as dangerous levels of potassium may develop. [Note: There are hypothetical concerns that taking prescription ACE-inhibitors and angiotensin receptor-blockers (ARBs) may increase ACE2 on cell surfaces, potentially increasing the risk of developing severe COVID-19 (Fang, Lancet 2020; Diaz, J Trav Med 2020) but there are also cautions not to stop taking such medications as they not only control high blood pressure but may helpful in treating COVID-19 (Danser, Hypertension 2020; de Simone, Eur Soc Cardio 2020).]
ConsumerLab.com has tested the quality of a variety of potassium supplements. Its results and Top Picks are found in the Potassium Supplements Review, which includes additional information about what potassium does, how it is used, and potential side effects.
Vitamin C is vital to the function of leukocytes (white blood cells that help to fight infections) and overall immune system health. Vitamin C is also important for iron absorption, and being deficient in iron can make you more vulnerable to infections in general. The recommended daily intake of vitamin C for adults from the diet and/or supplements is 75 to 120 mg. It is easy to get this amount and most people do. You can get about 80 to 90 mg from just a cup of orange juice or sliced orange, or even more from a cup of sweet peppers, tomato juice, or cut kiwi fruit.
Taking high-dose vitamin C (e.g., 500 mg twice daily) before getting a cold may slightly reduce the severity and duration of a cold but won’t stop one from getting a cold. The evidence is inconclusive as to whether taking vitamin C will help after cold symptoms develop.
There is no evidence that getting more than the daily requirement of vitamin C can protect people from infection from coronavirus. This strategy is being promoted on various websites and in videos on YouTube. For example, one video recommended taking a daily dose of 5,000 mg of vitamin C. It has since been removed for violating YouTube’s community guidelines (likely as part of an effort by YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites to eliminate misinformation about COVID-19 online, although new posts and promotions for fake coronavirus cures and scams seem to appear daily).
Higher intakes of vitamin C may potentially help people who are critically ill with COVID-19 and on ventilators. A review of several studies performed prior to the emergence of COVID-19 found a dose of 1,000 to 6,000 mg of vitamin C daily (intravenously or by mouth) shortened the time on ventilation by about 25% for people who required ventilation for over 10 hours, but it appeared to be less helpful for those on ventilators for shorter periods (Hemila J Intens Care 2020). High doses of vitamin C, given intravenously, are currently being tested in COVID-19 patients in China who have developed pneumonia, but the benefit of this approach has yet to be proven.
Be aware that there are side effects and risks associated with taking high doses of vitamin C. People sometimes assume there is no harm in taking large doses because vitamin C is water-soluble (i.e. excess vitamin C is excreted from the body), but this is not the case. In addition to causing gastric distress and diarrhea, high doses of vitamin C (over 500 mg per day) over the long-term may increase the risk of cataracts. High-dose vitamin C can also reduce the effectiveness of certain medications and interfere with certain blood tests.
There are many vitamin C supplements on the market. ConsumerLab has tested many of these and has found several to contain almost 50% more vitamin C than listed on the label (potentially increasing the risk of adverse effects). ConsumerLab has published its Top Picks in its Vitamin C Supplements Review, which contains additional information about using vitamin C, its benefits, dosing, and potential side effects.
Vitamin D supplements, taken daily in moderate doses, may help to reduce the risk of respiratory infections and viruses such as influenza A in children and adults who are deficient (< 20 ng/mL) or severely deficient (< 10 ng/mL) in vitamin D.
Although there is not currently any research suggesting vitamin D supplements decrease the risk of coronavirus infection specifically, maintaining an adequate blood level of vitamin D (20 to 30 ng/mL — although best not to exceed 39 ng/mL) by getting proper sun exposure (at least three times a week for about 30 minutes exposing your hands, arms, legs, and face), consuming vitamin D-fortified products (such as most milks, certain other dairy foods and some plant-based milks), or taking a vitamin D supplement is a good, safe, preventative measure for protecting against respiratory infections in general. To maintain healthy levels, only 400 to 800 IU (15 to 20 mcg) of vitamin D is required daily, but, to boost low levels, higher doses, such as 2,000 IU daily, are used and are generally safe. Very large doses, which have been taken periodically (such as 100,000 IU taken monthly) may not be as helpful and could even increase the risk of respiratory infections in some people.
There are many vitamin D supplements on the market. ConsumerLab has tested a wide variety and has published its Top Picks in its Vitamin D Supplements Review, which contains additional information about using vitamin D, as well as its benefits, dosing, and potential side effects.
Zinc (and Selenium) Pills and Liquids
(See separate discussion of Zinc Lozenges)
Supplementing with zinc (such as with regular tablets) would not benefit most people unless they are deficient in zinc, which is more common in elderly people due to reduced zinc absorption. In such people, supplementing with zinc (e.g. 20 mg per day) may improve the chance of avoiding respiratory tract infection, as suggested by a study of elderly people in nursing facilities in France. (People in that study were also deficient in selenium — which is uncommon in the U.S. — and were given 100 mcg per day, which is about twice the daily requirement.) Others who may be low in zinc include vegetarians and people taking certain medications, such as those that reduce stomach acid and ACE inhibitors, on a long-term basis. The daily requirement for zinc varies by age, but, for adults, is about 11 mg.
If you are deficient in zinc, you might consider increasing intake of zinc-containing foods or taking a zinc pill (also covered in the Zinc Review) or, as discussed below, a zinc-containing multivitamin. ConsumerLab.com has tested many zinc supplements and has published its Top Picks in its Zinc Review, which contains additional information about using zinc, zinc lozenges, zinc benefits, dosing, and potential side effects.
Supplements that may possibly help reduce symptoms of coronavirus
Astragalus (or Huang qi) has been promoted on some websites to help protect against COVID-19. Astragalus is an herb that has traditionally been used in Chinese medicine to strengthen the immune system and to treat colds, among many other uses. It may be sold as a root powder, extract or tea, as a single ingredient or as part of an “immune boosting” formula.
Laboratory and animal studies suggest polysaccharides, astragalosides and other compounds in astragalus increase the production of white blood cells, particularly T cells and macrophages, and other cells important for immune system function (Block, Integr Cancer Ther 2003). It has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-viral effects, including activity against a particular type of coronavirus that commonly infects poultry (Jin, Int J Biol Macromol 2014; Zhang, Microb Pathog 2018). In China, astragalus, alone and in combination with other herbs, has been suggested to potentially help prevent COVID-19 infections (Yang, Int J Biol Sci 2020).
However, there is no clinical evidence at this time that astragalus can prevent or treat coronavirus infections in people.
Many of the studies of astragalus supplementation in people have been conducted in China, and in some cases, complete translations of these studies, or details about the formulations used, are not available. An observational study of 1,000 people in China reported that astragalus given orally, or as a nasal spray, was associated with reduced the incidence and duration of colds, but the exact preparation and dosage of astragalus is not known — nor do observational studies prove a cause-and-effect relationship (Chang, Pharmacology and Applications of Chinese Materia Medica 1987). A very small study (14 individuals in China) found that astragalus extract (equivalent to 8 grams of root powder per day) increased the production of interferon and leukocytes (which typically increase in response to exposure to viruses) compared to placebo (Hou, Zhonghua Weisheng Wuxue Hemian Yixue Zazhi 1981). There appears to be insufficient research to determine whether astragalus can help prevent viral respiratory tract infections in children (Su, Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2016).
Some researchers have advised that a daily dose of 4 to 7 grams of root powder may be the best dosage for increasing macrophage activity while higher dosages (28 grams or more per day) may suppress the immune system.
In patients with viral myocarditis (inflammation of the heart), astragalus injections combined with standard treatment showed modest improvements in recovery in adults, but these injections showed no significant reduction in the number of patients who died from cardiac failure (Lui, Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2013).
Due to its immune-stimulating effects, people with autoimmune disease and those taking immunosuppressant drugs (such as after organ transplantation) should not take astragalus. Astragalus polysaccharides may stimulate histamine release, which could increase allergic reactions in some people (Upton, Astragalus Root Monograph American Herbal Pharmacopoeia 1999). With regard to COVID-19, an immune-stimulating effect may be helpful in fighting infection, but it could, theoretically, accelerate the lower respiratory “cytokine storm” believed to ravage the lungs in severe cases.
This herb may also lower blood pressure, and so should be used with caution in people with low blood pressure and those taking blood pressure-lowering medications. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take astragalus. The development of liver and kidney cysts associated with drinking astragalus tea and taking astragalus powder has been reported in one woman in China (Tond, J Clin Pharm Ther 2014).
Two researchers have highlighted preliminary research on the anti-viral effects of lauric acid, found in coconut oil, and the metabolite of lauric acid — monolaurin. They have proposed a clinical trial using virgin coconut oil (3 tablespoons daily), monolaurin (800 mg daily), and/or monocaprin (800 mg daily) in patients with COVID-19. Their suggestion was published on the Integrated Chemists of the Philippines website. They note that coconut oil, lauric acid, and monolaurin have been used to help prevent viruses in farm animals, and two small trials in people with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) given coconut oil showed some improvements in immune system blood cell counts. However, there is no evidence to date that consuming coconut oil can prevent or treat coronavirus infections in people.
There are many coconut oils on the market and ConsumerLab has tested several popular brands. Note that large amounts of lauric acid were found only in coconut oils that have not been refined, such as several virgin and extra virgin coconut oils, while refined coconut oils do not contain much lauric acid, and MCT oils contain virtually no lauric acid (they are mainly caprylic and/or capric acids).ConsumerLab has published its Top Picks for virgin and extra virgin coconut oils in its Coconut and MCT Oils Review showing, among other things, their lauric acid content and providing additional information about using coconut oil as well its benefits, dosing, and potential side effects. Monolaurin and monocaprin are sold as supplements but, to date, have not been tested by ConsumerLab.
Studies in laboratories (but not in people) have shown that certain species of echinacea may inhibit coronaviruses. However, there is no evidence at this time that taking this or any other echinacea product can prevent or treat coronavirus infections in people.
A laboratory study that has not yet been peer-reviewed or published found that a particular branded form of echinacea inhibited specific coronaviruses, including (HCoV) 229E, MERS- and SARS-CoVs, and the researchers suggested it could potentially have a similar effect on SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, although it was not tested. The study was funded by a distributor of the product and authored, in part, by an employee of the manufacturer. Clinical trials of echinacea suggest a possible modest benefit for other types of viral respiratory infections, like colds, although results have been mixed, at best. In addition, as shown in tests by ConsumerLab, the amounts of potentially beneficial compounds vary widely across products.
ConsumerLab has tested and reviewed many echinacea supplements on the market (including the product noted above for its inhibition of viruses in a laboratory). You can find its reviews and Top Picks in its Echinacea Supplements Review, which contains additional information about using echinacea, its benefits, dosing, and potential drug interactions and side effects.
Elderberry extract has been shown in laboratory studies to inhibit the replication and hemagglutination of human flu viruses, including certain strains of Influenza A and B, and H1N1. Small, preliminary trials in people with the flu suggest that, taken within the first day or so of experiencing symptoms, elderberry shortens the duration of the flu, but more studies are needed to corroborate this. There is no evidence that elderberry extract can prevent COVID-19 or reduce symptoms in people who have been infected.
Concern has been raised on some websites about the potential for elderberry extract to cause a cytokine storm in reaction to a COVID-19 infection. A cytokine storm is an “overreaction” to infection in the body, in which the immune system overproduces the cytokines and immune system cells that help to fight infection. This overreaction is very damaging, particularly to the lungs, and is suspected to play a role in some cases of severe COVID-19 (Mehta, Lancet 2020).
The concern with elderberry is based on a small study using blood from 12 healthy individuals that showed a particular elderberry extract increased levels of inflammatory cytokines in a dose-dependent manner (i.e. a higher dose of extract resulted in higher levels of cytokines). However, another study found an elderberry tincture decreased levels of inflammatory cytokines. There do not appear to be studies on the effects of elderberry extract on cytokine levels in people with severe respiratory infections, and there are no published reports of elderberry extract being associated with, or suspected of causing or worsening, a cytokine storm in people.
ConsumerLab’s tests of elderberry extracts and supplements found that the amounts of elderberry compounds in marketed products ranged more than 2,000-fold — from as little as 0.03 mg to 69.3 mg per suggested serving, although due to lack of research, it’s not clear what amount, if any, would be effective.
For people who do choose to try elderberry extract, it’s helpful to know that it appears to be generally well-tolerated. However, people who are allergic to grass pollen may have allergic reactions to elderberry. Never consume raw elderberries, as these contain toxic compounds that can cause nausea, vomiting, dizziness and diarrhea.
Based on its tests and review, ConsumerLab has published its Top Pick in its Elderberry Supplements Review, which contains additional information about using elderberry, its benefits, dosing, and potential side effects.
Garlic has been shown in laboratory studies to inhibit certain flu and cold viruses, and one clinical trial suggests garlic supplements may help to prevent colds. However, there is no current evidence that eating garlic or taking a garlic supplement can help prevent or treat COVID-19, as noted on the World Health Organization’s Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Myth busters website.
There are many garlic supplements on the market. ConsumerLab has tested many of these and has published its Top Picks in its Garlic Supplements & Spices Review, which contains additional information about using garlic, its benefits, dosing, and potential side effects.
Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate sleep and can trigger sleep in people with sleep disorders. Melatonin has also been suggested on some websites as a potential treatment in COVID-19, although there are no reports of such use or of a proven benefit.
Rationale for use of melatonin in COVID-19 appears to stem from the fact that it can affect immune responses. Experiments in mice, for example, have shown melatonin to increase levels of certain cytokines (immune-regulating molecules) in those infected with various viruses and to reduce virus-related mortality, but this benefit has yet to be demonstrated in human clinical trials. Another rationale given for use of melatonin in treating COVID-19 is that melatonin levels fall with older age, and older age is a risk factor for COVID-19 (as it is for many diseases). Interestingly, studies have shown decreased melatonin levels in people with various advanced diseases, but melatonin has not been shown to decrease with age in healthy individuals.
ConsumerLab has tested the quality of a wide variety of melatonin supplements on the market and has published its Top Picks in its Melatonin Supplements Review, which contains additional information about using melatonin, including potential side effects. Typical dosage for sleep is 0.3 mg to 3 mg about 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime.
NAC (N-acetyl cysteine)
NAC (N-acetyl cysteine) is a synthetically modified form of the amino acid cysteine (cysteine occurs naturally in foods, whereas NAC does not). In the body, NAC is converted to the antioxidant glutathione. There is very preliminary evidence that NAC may improve certain blood markers of immune system health but there is not sufficient evidence to suggest that NAC supplementation improves the immune system to the extent that it will reduce the occurrence of illness, nor prevent coronavirus infection. A clinical study using 600 mg of NAC taken twice daily during flu season found that it did not prevent infection but fewer infected people were symptomatic. Evidence is weak for its purported ability to thin mucus during infections like colds.
ConsumerLab.com has tested and reviewed a variety of NAC supplements on the market and it has published its Top Pick in its NAC Supplements Review, which contains additional information about using NAC, its benefits, dosing, and potential side effects.
Quercetin and its major metabolites, such as quercetin 3-beta-O-d-glucoside (Q3G, also called isoquercetin), have been found in laboratory studies to inhibit a wide variety of viruses, including severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV), which is related to COVID-19). For example, one of these studies showed that when mice were injected with high doses of Q3G before being infected with a lethal dose of the Ebola virus, they survived Ebola infection, while none of the mice that did not receive Q3G survived. According to preliminary research, quercetin appears to work by preventing viruses from entering cells, thereby reducing “viral load.” A clinical trial that will investigate the use of oral quercetin in patients with COVID-19 has been planned, or may already be underway, in China. Details about the exact form (quercetin or 3-beta-O-d-glucoside) and dose of the formula (produced by Swiss drug manufacturer, Quercegen Pharmaceuticals) do not appear to have been made public, but in a February 2020 interview posted online by the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC News), researcher Michel Chrétien stated he hopes to have preliminary results in the upcoming months. However, he cautioned that he does not want to give “false hope” about the potential benefits of quercetin until more research is conducted.
Until more is known, it’s not clear if taking isoquercetin or quercetin supplements can help prevent or treat COVID-19 or what dosage would be effective.
ConsumerLab’s tests of popular quercetin supplements have found that some products contain less quercetin than listed on the label. Based on its tests and review, ConsumerLab has published its Top Picks in its Quercetin Supplements Review, which contains additional information about using quercetin, its benefits, dosing, potential side effects, and interactions with a variety of drugs including rosuvastatin (Crestor), atorvastatin (Lipitor) and pravastatin (Pravachol).
Turmeric and Curcumin
Turmeric and curcumin (a major constituent of turmeric) are best known for their modest anti-inflammatory effects. Curcumin has also been shown to inhibit certain viruses in laboratory studies, including a study published online (but not in a peer-reviewed journal) suggesting that curcumin may inhibit the virus that causes COVID-19. In animal studies, curcumin injections have been shown to protect the lungs from injury and infection, including viral-induced acute respiratory distress syndrome, possibly by reducing inflammatory cytokines and other mechanisms. However, there are no studies in people showing that turmeric or curcumin supplements can prevent or reduce the symptoms of viral infections such as colds, the flu, or COVID-19.
The maker of an intravenous form of liposomal curcumin indicated in March 2020 that it is “exploring opportunities” to utilize its product in patients with COVID-19. This formula has been investigated in at least one clinical trial in patients with advanced metastatic cancer, but be aware that some intravenous turmeric treatments have been associated with serious side effects.
ConsumerLab.com’s tests of popular turmeric and curcumin supplements have found that not all products contain the amount of curcumin claimed on the label, and its tests of turmeric spices show significant variability in their curcumin content. ConsumerLab has published the results of its tests, as well as its Top Picks among turmeric and curcumin supplements and Top Pick for turmeric spice, in its Turmeric and Curcumin Supplements and Spices Review.
Be aware that only a small percentage of curcumin taken orally is absorbed. Taking these supplements with food can improve absorption, and there are a number of formulations on the market to increase the bioavailability of curcumin from supplements. Turmeric and curcumin, as well as black pepper extract — a type of bioavailability enhancer, can interact with many medications.
(See separate discussion of Zinc Pills and Liquids)
Zinc has become one of the most popular suggestions for reducing symptoms of coronavirus. Notably, an email written by a pathologist, Dr. James Robb, that recommends using zinc lozenges such as Cold-Eeze to ward off the virus, along with other tips, has gone viral.
Although there is no direct evidence at this time to suggest that using zinc lozenges can prevent or treat COVID-19 in people, zinc does have anti-viral properties and was shown in a laboratory study to inhibit the replication of coronaviruses in cells (te Velthuis, PLoS Pathog 2010).
Zinc lozenges or other orally dissolving zinc formulas containing certain forms of zinc have been shown to reduce the severity and duration of colds, which are caused by viruses. They appear to do this by acting directly in the throat, which is why the timing and duration of use matters when treating colds with zinc. The connection with coronavirus and zinc lozenges is that the major cause of illness and death among people who are symptomatic with COVID-19 is respiratory disease and it is in the upper airway that zinc lozenges can have some activity. However, zinc from lozenges will not directly help with lower respiratory illness (i.e., in the lungs), which is of greatest concern in COVID-19, because the dissolved zinc leaves the respiratory system after the throat, moving to the gastrointestinal system.
Be aware that typical daily doses of zinc provided by zinc lozenges generally exceed tolerable upper limits for zinc, and for this reason, they should not be used for longer than about a week. Excessive intake of zinc can cause copper deficiency. Zinc can impair the absorption of antibiotics, and use of zinc nasal gels or swabs has been linked to temporary or permanent loss of smell.
There are several versions of Cold-Eeze and there are many other zinc-containing lozenges sold. ConsumerLab.com has tested many of these in its Zinc Supplements and Lozenges Review where it found that they often do not provide the type, amount, formulation, and recommended dosing shown to be effective. Among those that do, ConsumerLab has chosen Top Picks for zinc lozenges.
Supplements and products unlikely to help with coronavirus and could be dangerous
Apple Cider Vinegar
Some social media postings claim that gargling with vinegar can eliminate the coronavirus in the throat before it reaches the lungs. While all varieties of vinegar, including apple cider vinegar, contain acetic acid, which has antibacterial and antiviral properties, there is no evidence that gargling with vinegar is useful for preventing or treating colds, sore throats, or COVID-19. There is also concern about the safety of using vinegar this way. Regular consumption of apple cider vinegar can cause tooth enamel loss and low blood levels of potassium.
Vinegars may be used to clean surfaces but are not as effective a disinfectant as bleach and may take as long as 30 minutes sitting on a surface, particularly a porous one, to be effective. No research to date has shown that cleaning surfaces with vinegar can kill SARS-CoV-2 and vinegar is not listed on the EPA’s current list of products that meet the agency’s criteria for disinfectants for the virus. Do not combine vinegar with bleach or hydrogen peroxide, as this can create toxic vapors.
ConsumerLab has tested popular apple cider vinegars and apple cider vinegar pills (some of which were found to contain extremely high and potentially unsafe concentrations of acetic acid). You can see the results and ConsumerLab’s Top Picks in the Apple Cider Vinegar Review, which includes information about the evidence for other uses of apple cider vinegar, such as lowering blood sugar, improving digestion, “balancing pH,” and helping with weight loss, as well as dosage and safety.
CBD (cannabidiol) has been heavily promoted to prevent the coronavirus. For example, former NFL player Kyle Turley, who owns a line of CBD products, has tweeted that CBD can prevent and cure the coronavirus, and scammers have been sending text messages promoting CBD for the virus.
While CBD has been shown to inhibit certain viruses in laboratory studies, there is no evidence that it can prevent or treat COVID-19 in people. In a recently published review, researchers cited the lack of clinical evidence for CBD’s antiviral effects and cautioned “CBD sellers should stop promoting claims that are not backed by scientific evidence.” (Tagne, Cannabis Cannabinoid Res 2020).
In fact, animal studies generally indicate that CBD dampens the immune system, and a study among children and young adults given large amounts of CBD to study its anti-seizure effects found that those given CBD reported more upper respiratory infections than those given placebo (11% vs. 8%, respectively). Although, theoretically, dampening the immune response could dampen the devastating “cytokine storm” that occurs in severe COVID-19, it is far too early to know if this would be the case or whether it might make the infection worse.
CBD may be helpful for anxiety and anxiety-related sleep disorders, making it useful for people struggling with anxiety due to the current pandemic. However, be aware that in a small percentage of individuals, CBD may worsen anxiety and insomnia.
ConsumerLab has tested many popular CBD supplements on the market, some of which contained much less, or much more CBD than listed on the label. It also tested products to see how much, if any, THC they contained. The results, including ConsumerLab’s Top Picks for CBD appear in the CBD & Hemp Extracts, Supplements, Lotions and Balms Review, which includes tests of supplements for people and pets, as well as topical products. The Review also discusses the evidence for other uses for CBD, such as for pain, sleep, glaucoma and seizures and movement disorders, as well as dosage, side effects and potential drug interactions.
Miracle Mineral Solution (Sodium Chlorite) and Chlorine Dioxide Kits
Miracle Mineral Solution (which contains 28% sodium chlorite in distilled water) and chlorine dioxide “kits” are not a solution for COVID-19 and are dangerous to drink. A number of websites and social media posts promote these products to combat coronavirus. For example, on her website, marketer Kerri Rivera touts Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS) as a “secret weapon” to fight coronavirus and keep illness from progressing. (She was banned in the state of Illinois in 2015 from making any earlier claim that MMS can cure autism.) Ingesting these products has not been shown to prevent or treat coronavirus.
These products typically contain sodium chlorite solution to be mixed with a citric acid, such as from lemon or lime juice, or another acid before drinking, or are sold with a citric acid “activator.” However, adding acid to sodium chlorite produces chlorine dioxide, a bleaching agent. Sodium chlorite and chlorine dioxide are active ingredients in disinfectants and should not be swallowed, as they can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and symptoms of severe dehydration. Such reactions are not evidence that the product is “working,” as claimed by some websites. In 2016, ABC’s 20/20 detailed the case of a woman who died hours after drinking liquid Miracle Mineral Solution, which, the woman’s husband believed, may have caused her death.
A strong warning from the FDA in 2019 advised that Miracle Mineral Solution consumers are “drinking bleach” and states: “If you’re drinking “Miracle” or “Master” Mineral Solution or other sodium chlorite products, stop now.”
Colloidal silver (a solution with silver particles) has antiseptic (disinfectant) activity on surfaces and has been promoted by several companies to prevent or treat coronavirus. However ingesting colloidal silver has not been shown to prevent or treat coronavirus, and there are serious potential risks.
See the FDA and FTC’s joint warning to companies selling colloidal silver and other products to treat coronavirus. The agencies emphasized “There currently are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).“
The bottom line on supplements for coronavirus:
Although several supplements may potentially reduce symptoms of a cold or flu, none can prevent infection with coronavirus or any other virus. Nevertheless, it is always worthwhile to fortify yourself to be in the best position to fight an infection. In addition to getting adequate sleep and general nutrition, the safest way to do this with supplements is to be sure you are getting sufficient vitamin C, vitamin D and zinc, as all are important for a well-functioning immune system. As described above, this can typically be done with foods and/or supplements (or, for vitamin D, adequate sun exposure if you’re able to get out in the sun for extended periods each week).
You can also get good amounts of vitamins C and D, zinc, and other essential vitamins and minerals from a basic multivitamin. ConsumerLab has tested a wide variety of multivitamins and has published its Top Picks in its Multivitamin Supplements Review, which contains extensive information about the benefits and risks of multivitamins and how they compare on ingredients, quality, and price.
This answer is being continually updated with new information about supplements being used for coronavirus. You can be alerted of the latest updates and our product tests by receiving our free newsletter.