BEIJING — The new coronavirus has killed more than 300 people in China and infected thousands more. As the virus spreads and with no cure in sight, some people are looking to alternative remedies to protect them from infection or cure themselves if they’ve already contracted it.

Here are some of the theories floating around. Some of these have been proposed by medical doctors, and some of them are just common sense. Others, not so much.

As the ads say: If your symptoms persist or get worse, see your physician.


Traditional Chinese medicine for humans (and cows and chickens)

Chinese people have been flocking to buy Shuanghuanglian — literally “double yellow connect” — an herbal remedy that follows the principles of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).

The liquid is made from the bud of the Lonicera japonica flower, and the fruit of Forsythia suspensa and Scutellaria baicalensis plants.

The Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica, part of the state-run Chinese Academy of Sciences, has said that the medicine could help inhibit the coronavirus.

State media including the Xinhua News Agency and CCTV have reported that clinical trials suggested the medicine might be effective, leading to long queues at TCM outlets around the country. Major Chinese e-commerce platforms including and are out of stock of Shuanghuanglian.

After some criticism about its endorsement of the product, the Shanghai Institute doubled down, saying its findings were endorsed by the Wuhan Institute of Virology as accurate.

Not all eager customers have found the right product, however. It turns out there are brands of medicine for poultry and livestock called Shuanghuanglian, and some consumers bought the wrong ones.

One Taobao vendor of the livestock remedy happily told local media he never expected so many people would support his veterinary medicine business, while the makers of the product for birds had to urge consumers not to ingest their product.

Chicken soup for the lungs

Speaking of poultry, chicken soup is not just good for the soul. It’s also good for mystery viruses, according to one Wuhan doctor. Zhang Jinnong of Wuhan Union Hospital contracted coronavirus and said he nursed himself back to health with standard medication and chicken soup, all in the comfort of his self-quarantine.

“In terms of diet, you should drink chicken soup often,” Zhang said in an interview with the Changjiang Daily and Wuhan Evening Daily. “When you drink it, you should sweat. The rise in body temperature is good for fighting the virus.”

'Herbs that expel parasites'

The areca nut, or betel nut — usually used to get rid of hookworms, tapeworms and other intestinal parasites — are known as “purgative herbs that drain downward,” according to the TCM site Me and Qi.

The areca nut branch of the China Fruit Association says the nut can also be used to treat coronavirus. Well, it would say that, wouldn’t it? Its claims are, however, backed up by China’s National Health Commission, which has included areca nut in its recommended prescription for the pneumonia-like illness.

The National Health Commission and National Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine recommended many TCM remedies to help alleviate symptoms of coronavirus, although they stressed they could not cure the virus.

One of the TCM ingredients was the areca nut, which they said could help detoxify and clear the lungs.

Putting the tea in TCM

A respiratory expert from Hubei People’s Hospital, Hu Ke, recommended people make prevention tea following the principles of traditional Chinese medicine. At a news conference at the provincial government buildings, he gave two precise recipes, which have been listed in Hubei’s recommended treatment for the coronavirus.

One: make a tea bag comprising atractylodes root (three grams), dried bunga mas flower (fice grams), sun-dried tangerine peel (three grams), reed rhizome (two grams), mulberry leaf (two grams) and astragalus root (10 grams).

Two: boil astragalus root (10 grams), tuber of white atractylodes rhizome (10 grams), siler (10 grams), fern rhizome (six grams), dried bunga mas flower (10 grams), eupatorium (10 grams), sun-dried tangerine peel (six grams).

They should be consumed twice a day for seven to 10 days, Hu said.

Warm salty water

The renowned 83-year old pulmonologist Zhong Nanshan, a veteran of the SARS crisis who is considered a national hero, has recommended swishing warm salty water around in your throat and nasal cavities a few times every morning and night to prevent infection.

But experts said this was bogus and that saline would not “kill” the new virus, according to Agence France-Presse. The World Health Organization also told AFP there was no evidence that saline solution would protect against infection from the new coronavirus. 

South Korea

Kimchi finds its limits

Koreans have long claimed that kimchi, the spicy fermented cabbage dish that is a requirement at every meal, cures all manner of illnesses. SARS, bird flu, regular flu, you name it. But kimchi appears to have met its match.

“Eating kimchi does not prevent coronavirus infection,” South Korea’s Health Ministry said in a news release, disseminated to quell talk that, on the one hand, eating kimchi could boost immunity against coronavirus and that, on the other, it could spread the virus.

There had been rumors in some corners of the South Korean Internet that kimchi, much of which is made from Chinese cabbage, could contain the virus. The Health Ministry said that the illness could not be contracted from eating kimchi imported from China or receiving a parcel from China.

“The best way to prevent the novel coronavirus is to wash hands frequently,” it said.


Cow waste

The urine and dung of cows can be used for treating coronavirus infections, according to Swami Chakrapani Maharaj, president of Hindu Mahasabha, an Indian political party.

“Consuming cow urine and cow dung will stop the effect of infectious coronavirus,” Chakrapani said. If accompanied by a special yagna — or Hindu ritual, performed in front of a fire — it can “kill the novel coronavirus and end its effects on the world,” he said, according to Outlook India.

“A person who chants Om Namah Shivay and applies cow dung on body, will be saved. A special yagna ritual will soon be performed to kill coronavirus,” said Chakrapani.

Beyond that, however, he did not provide any specific recipes to make the cow excretions more, erm, palatable.

Ayurveda and homeopathy

The Indian government released a health advisory based on the traditional medicine practices of Ayurveda, homeopathy and Unani.

The main gist of the ayurvedic recommendations was, well, universal: maintain personal hygiene and wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, cover your face while coughing or sneezing and stay home when you are sick.

The Indian authorities also prescribed Shadang Paniya, a concoction given to fight headache and fever, along with other traditional remedies that included putting two drops of sesame oil in each nostril every morning.

Other suggestions included rubbing roghan baboona, a classical Unani oil-based concoction considered beneficial in treating gout, joint pain and backache, and the scalp and chest.

United States

For some more orthodox information from our public health correspondent in Washington, here’s: “What we know about the mysterious, pneumonia-like coronavirus spreading in China and elsewhere.”

Lyric Li and Liu Yang in Beijing, and Min Joo Kim in Seoul contributed to this report.