New virus, same humans —

No, essential oils and silver solutions won’t ward off COVID-19.


CALGARY - DECEMBER 23: LITTLE BIG MAN, theatrical movie originally released December 23, 1970.  The film was directed by Arthur Penn. Pictured, Martin Balsam (as Mr. Allardyce T. Meriweather), a traveling swindler and snake oil salesman.

Enlarge / CALGARY – DECEMBER 23: LITTLE BIG MAN, theatrical movie originally released December 23, 1970. The film was directed by Arthur Penn. Pictured, Martin Balsam (as Mr. Allardyce T. Meriweather), a traveling swindler and snake oil salesman.

As the new coronavirus sweeps the US, federal regulators this week began cracking down on companies fraudulently claiming that their products prevent or treat COVID-19.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent joint warning letters to seven companies making false claims.

“There already is a high level of anxiety over the potential spread of coronavirus,” FTC Chairperson Joe Simons said in a statement. “What we don’t need in this situation are companies preying on consumers by promoting products with fraudulent prevention and treatment claims.”

“These warning letters are just the first step,” he said. “We’re prepared to take enforcement actions against companies that continue to market this type of scam.”

Collectively, the companies have suggested that colloidal silver, essential oils, herbal tinctures, and teas can prevent or treat COVID-19. As the FDA and FTC point out, they have used a potpourri of terms and pseudoscientific explanations to make their fraudulent claims.

Herbal Amy Inc., for instance, wrote on its website: “Corona virus treatment. Stephen Buhner [a self-proclaimed “herbal medicine” expert] has analyzed how corona viruses infect tissues, what tissues they infect, and the herbs that are useful to interrupt that process, as well as the herbs useful to shut down the cytokine cascade they create.”

Herbal Amy sells the three-tincture “Buhner Coronavirus Kit” for $155 on its website. It is currently said to be sold out on the site.

A company called Xephyr, LLC dba N-Ergetics wrote on its website that its colloidal silver product can treat “Coronavirus 2019-NCoVat [sic]… This Chinese Wuhan Flu Pneumonia has a non-traditional remedy that has successfully killed coronaviruses from the flu virus to pandemic diseases, in vitro, for over 100 years.”

As the FDA notes, there are currently no vaccines or drugs approved to treat or prevent COVID-19.

“Although there are investigational COVID-19 vaccines and treatments under development, these investigational products are in the early stages of product development and have not yet been fully tested for safety or effectiveness,” the agency says.

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