A homoeopathic remedy claiming to "help prevent" Covid-19 is being sold by a manufacturer saying he has "essential service" classification from the Ministry of Health.
A microbiologist has rubbished those claims and warned those taking it against a false sense of security.
And it has earned a warning from the Ministry of Health over products claiming to offer people protection from coronavirus.
Hamilton-based manufacturer Endo Health has shipped hundreds of bottles of the product, says company owner Ron Blincoe.
Despite being aged 85, Blincoe said he left the house during lockdown to post the remedies, having been classified as an "essential service" by the Ministry of Health - a classification the ministry said didn't apply to "natural health services".
Documentation Endo Health sent to customers with its bottles of "Influenza Complex 2020" was provided to the Herald. It claimed the remedy was "effective against the influenza viruses expected to be prevalent for the coming winter".
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Among other viruses, it lists Covid-19.
The documentation states: "Influenza Complex is a unique formulation designed to help prevent the common cold and 'flu. Using a homoeopathic method known as isopathy, the complex helps to stimulate the body's defence against many of the common 'flu viruses."
University of Auckland associate professor and microbiologist Dr Siouxsie Wiles reviewed the documentation: "It clearly says 'homoeopathic' so we know it doesn't have any active ingredient.
"It won't cause any harm but it won't protect against colds and flu and certainly not Covid-19."
Wiles said she was concerned people would take false comfort from the "complex" and engage in higher risk behaviour as a result.
Blincoe, 85, said he had been using the remedy and it gave him certainty he was safe to leave the house and post orders.
He confirmed the documentation claimed the remedy contained a "strain" of Covid-19.
He said it would be changed to reflect the fact it contained the "frequency" of Covid-19, as determined by a radionic machine, rather than the substance of it.
Radionics claims to measure specific "energy frequencies" from people and illnesses, generally in contradiction of established scientific principles. It is widely regarded as a pseudoscience but lends itself to homoeopathy as remedies purport to hold the essence - but not the substance - of the illness.
Blincoe said he had a radionics machine that was able to reproduce the Covid-19 frequencies and imbue the remedy with its qualities. "I don't need the actual substance. I just need the frequency."
He said he hoped people would use the remedy alongside health advice and not take chances.
"Ignoring all the other things would be stupidity," he said, adding he was also taking it. "I am confident that if I come into contact with it, I would not be harmed at all."
Blincoe said he expected health authorities to react to the remedy and its claims "badly".
He said it had been suggested he offer it to frontline health workers but believed that would be "looking for trouble".
He said he sold each bottle for $17, plus $5 postage. He had distributed it through an existing customer network, along with offering bottles to those who had done work around his home before lockdown.
"I'm not out to make money. I haven't advertised it. I just want to help people."
The demand had led to 14-16 hour days as he worked to meet incoming orders and send out more than 300 bottles in recent weeks.
He sent the bottles through the post, making a trip outside the house and down to his local Postshop.
"I am allowed out as an essential service," he said.
It was a status he said had been organised with the Ministry of Health through homoeopathic networks and that seven other "homoeopathic pharmacies" had received the same status.
A Ministry of Health spokeswoman said natural health services were considered "non-essential".
She said there were rules governing alternative products and any who stepped outside those faced investigation by Medsafe.
"There is no specific treatment for Covid-19, but medical care can manage most of the symptoms.
"People should not rely on products which claim to prevent Covid-19. Products making false claims about Covid-19 are concerning, unhelpful and potentially dangerous as the may give people a false sense of security."
She said Covid-19 was not a strain of flu but a coronavirus that was part of a large family of viruses causing illnesses such as the common cold.
The NZ Council of Homeopaths has yet to respond to calls for comment.