Information accurate as of 17th May 2020.

Claims of treating the new coronavirus using steam therapy with the additions of various plants such as neem have been circulating on social media. 

There is no cure or vaccine for the new coronavirus yet. We can only take preventative measures to reduce the chance of infection such as: 

  • Social Distancing
  • Washing your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds at a time or using alcohol-based hand gel if you cannot use running water
  • Keeping your immune system up
  • Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces

Several different posts as well as a live video stream shared on Facebook claim that using steam therapy with added ingredients such as lemon, peppermint oil, ginger or neem will kill the coronavirus,,

Inhaling steam from a bowl of hot water or the shower can help ease the feeling of irritation in the lungs during a chest infection. Importantly, however, this will not cure coronavirus. Steam therapy offers only symptomatic relief, not a cure.

Furthermore, this can also carry a significant risk of burn injuries – particularly for children – if you come into direct contact with water which is too hot. The American Burn Association states that it only takes 3 seconds of exposure to  60°C water to cause a scald serious enough to require surgery. 

Neem, or Indian Lilac, is a natural herb that has been used extensively in Ayurveda, Unani and Homoeopathic medicine. Neem has over 140 biologically active compounds that have been isolated from different parts of the neem tree. Various parts of the neem tree have been demonstrated to exhibit anti-inflammatory, antihyperglycemic, antiulcer, antimalarial, antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidant and anticarcinogenic properties , but none of these compounds have been proven to treat coronavirus.

Social media posts and some traditional medicine practitioners claim that neem can help with flu, cough and fever and therefore can kill the new coronavirus when neem leaves are coupled with hot steam therapy. There is no evidence to support this claim. There has been no research showing that neem leaves, essential oils or other traditional forms of medicine can treat or cure the new coronavirus. 

The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus is to wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds, and practice social distancing if you are able to.