Coronavirus, a respiratory illness which originated in Wuhan in Hubei Province, China, has now caused the death of 490 people and infected more than 24,500 people across 25 countries. This week, the virus has been reported onboard cruise ships – passengers have been quarantined on liners in Japan and Hong Kong.
Chinese scientists have claimed a liquid made with honeysuckle and flowering plants could help fight the virus, sparking a frenzy in people buying the traditional medicine.
But what do experts make of the claim?
Professor Stephen Turner at Monash University told Express.co.uk: “No doubt that some components of natural herbal remedies might have effects, penicillin is from a fungi.
“However, the science behind any claim that a remedy can help fight virus infection would need to be carefully reviewed (how were the experiments done, on what, what dose etc.).”
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Associate Professor Ken Harvey from Monash University’s Department of Epidemiology and Preventative Medicine added: “There is no scientific evidence that Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), western herbal medicine, homeopathic medicine, Vitamin C, or other proposed remedies are effective against the Wuhan coronavirus (now named 2019-nCoV).
“This is despite the Chinese National Health Commission suggesting TCM as a treatment approach, listing Chinese herbal prescriptions for use on patients depending on which of the four Chinese medicine categories their conditions fell into – ‘damp, hot, toxic, bruised.’”
So is there anything people can do to ease symptoms?
Professor Turner advised anything people might do for the flu would be good, for example having lots of fluids, getting plenty of rest and taking aspirin.
Similarly Professor Harvey advised: “If flu-like symptoms are mild, over-the counter medicines such as paracetamol and ibuprofen can relieve fever, aches and pains.
“Keeping up fluid intake is important if there is fever and sweating. For cough in adults and children over 5 years of age honey might help.
“For more serious symptoms caused by viral pneumonia and sepsis, hospitalisation is required and supportive treatment such as IV fluids and assisted respiration can help.”
A 25-year-old English teacher from Wales who contracted coronavirus in Wuhan claimed to have cured his illness with a hot toddy – a combination of whisky, honey and lemon.
Professor Harvey said honey in a lemon drink has some evidence of effectiveness for a cough, but the same can’t be said for whisky.
Professor Turner responded: “I think the individual is underestimating their immune system function.
“There is no evidence that hot whiskey with honey in it would directly control infection.
“It might have been more the ‘placebo’ effect, but without controlled studies (i.e he would have likely been fine if he hadn’t had the whiskey) you can’t conclude this.