Fact Check: Inhaling Steam From Citrusy Concoction Does NOT Prevent COVID-19

Fact Check

  • by: Ed Payne

STORY UPDATED: check for updates below.

Fact Check: Inhaling Steam From Citrusy Concoction Does NOT Prevent COVID-19 'No Evidence'

Does a homemade concoction made of boiled citrus fruits, root vegetables and herbs prevent COVID-19? No, that's not true: An infectious disease expert told Lead Stories that "there's absolutely no evidence that this will work," and there is no verified scientific study confirming the effectiveness of such a mixture in preventing a person from contracting the virus. He recommended that everyone should be vaccinated against COVID-19, following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

The claim appeared in a post and video (archived here) on Instagram by buzinessminded on February 3, 2024, under the video title "SHARE ASAP Reason I never caught COVID!! Pay Attention." The post's caption said:

Share asap!!

Once it is boiling , take it off the stove and lean over it with a big towel or robe and inhale as much as you can! Of course take a few breaks in between because the steam is extremely hot BUT THIS NASAL STEAM WORKS!! One pot sit on my stove for about a week. The entire family can use it. Mardi Gras is here , take ACTION NOW!!

Help me spread the word!! Like , Share and Save!!

This is what the post looked like on Instagram at the time of writing:


(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Tue Feb 6 16:52:40 2024 UTC)

The video

In this 73-second video, the narrator lays out the recipe for her "nasal steam": a boiled conglomeration of oranges, limes, lemons, onions, garlic, ginger and basil. She claims that this concoction is the reason she never came down with COVID. Here's the full transcript of what she said:

All right, y'all. So, y'all been asking me, asking me to post my nasal steam recipe again. And here you go.

And I've been procrastinating. I ain't going to lie, but my best friend have COVID. So, now I gotta share this ASAP. So, if you know somebody who had COVID or currently have COVID or just want to prevent from catching COVID, then you need to like, share and save this video. OK?

This recipe is the reason why I never caught COVID, but you have to be diligent in doing this nasal steam at least two to three times a day or anytime you go outside and come back inside. Do this nasal steam, OK, and you don't have to keep redoing the pot. It can literally last you for about a week or so. But y'all, this is truly a game-changer.

People be shook when they see, when they hear me say that I've never caught COVID. Okay? However, I think that this is a really good preventative method to help you not catch COVID, and if you do catch COVID, this will help you get over it literally in a matter of 24 to 48 hours, y'all. It's so simple.

I'm going to put the ingredients in the caption so that y'all can go to the store and get what you need to do this nasal steam. It's super, super cheap. It's all-natural. Okay? And you can still do other things in addition to this. Some people switch out the ingredients, but for the most part, it works.

Infectious disease experts

Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told Lead Stories in a February 6, 2024, phone interview that he wished there was "something as simple and as 'natural' as this enhanced steaming" to fight COVID. He continued:

Unfortunately, there's absolutely no evidence that this will work. While doing so, you may pick up some vitamins from all of those vegetables that are entering your system. But in any real way, you cannot rely on this program to provide you any degree of security at all--that you will be protected, or you will be less likely to infect others if you happen to have an infection.

While the "nasal steaming" mixture may provide some benefit, Schaffner said, it's a "very small one." He added:

This seems very similar in that regard to taking a multivitamin sample, and we know that that's not sufficient to stimulate or enhance or maintain your immune system sufficiently.

Also, it's nonspecific, right? It doesn't have anything to do with COVID or any other respiratory virus.

And we know that the immune system, in order to function at its best against these viruses, needs a particular specific immune stimulant. And of course, I'm thinking of vaccines. That's why vaccines are created to provide that very specific enhancement stimulus to the immune system that targets the bad virus that you are trying to prevent. ...

I would recommend everyone be vaccinated.

Schaffner's view aligns with that of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which endorses COVID vaccination for everyone 6 months old and older. He was a member of the COVID vaccines work group, the subcommittee that developed coronavirus vaccine policy on behalf of the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

In a February 6, 2024, email to Lead Stories, Dr. Stuart Ray, a professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, agreed with Schaffner, saying:

No, there is no evidence at all that vapor from this concoction will ward off or treat COVID-19 in any specific way, nor boost your immune system. Sounds like it'll smell nice, and humidification can help with easing symptoms of upper respiratory infections and bronchitis, but not in any specific way. There are some echoes of the long search for medicinal value in super doses of vitamin C, but that remains speculative. ...

Our best means to minimize risk of COVID-19 illness and complications remain keeping up to date on recommended vaccination (as the safest means to obtain immunity to SARS-CoV-2), good ventilation, judicious use of home testing (based on risk, vulnerability, exposures, and symptoms), and high-quality well-fit respirator use (high quality masks).

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Additionally, the CDC said, "There is no scientific evidence to suggest that this combination of ingredients is effective against COVID-19." The public health agency also provided a list of the "best ways to prevent COVID" in a February 8, 2024, email to Lead Stories. It said:

In addition to basic health and hygiene practices, like handwashing, CDC recommends some prevention actions that can help protect you, your household, and your community from COVID-19, which include:

'One swallow does not make a summer'

In our phone interview with him, Lead Stories asked Schaffner about the narrator's unsupported claim that the fruit and vegetable mixture is the reason she never caught COVID, and, if we assume it's true, does that prove anything for the rest of us? He said:

Well, unfortunately, it does not. As the old saying goes, 'one swallow does not make a summer.' In other words, you can't have an individual anecdote and generalize that through a big policy. We don't know whether she's just been lucky or whether she's had mild or asymptomatic COVID infections in the past that she did not recognize as COVID that now provides a measure of protection for her. So we can't generalize from a single event, no matter how sincerely presented.

Read more

Additional Lead Stories fact checks of claims related to vaccines can be found here.


  • 2024-02-08T16:59:36Z 2024-02-08T16:59:36Z
    Adds context from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • 2024-02-07T17:37:13Z 2024-02-07T17:37:13Z
    Adds context from Dr. Stuart Ray, a professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

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Lead Stories is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.

  Ed Payne

Ed Payne is a staff writer at Lead Stories. He is an Emmy Award-winning journalist as part of CNN’s coverage of 9/11. Ed worked at CNN for nearly 24 years with the CNN Radio Network and CNN Digital. Most recently, he was a Digital Senior Producer for Gray Television’s Digital Content Center, the company’s digital news hub for 100+ TV stations. Ed also worked as a writer and editor for WebMD. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, Ed is the author of two children’s book series: “The Daily Rounds of a Hound” and “Vail’s Tales.” 

Read more about or contact Ed Payne

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