A press advertisement that appeared in a national newspaper stated:
“I (name redacted) of Marian Nurseries, Lusk have discovered the potential benefits of
rose bushes cultivated and grown at our facility for the cure of cold/flu. I believe that
these benefits may also be effective in self-protection from the reported effects of COVID-
19, by keeping the plant close to the patient. I attribute the recovery of my own colds, flu
& chest infections to these rose bushes. Available at Marian Nurseries.”
The complainant, who considered that the advertising was misleading, said that there
was no medical evidence to support the claims that the roses grown at the nursery were a
cure for colds & flu or that they might be an effective protection from COVID-19. They considered that the advertising could entice people with genuine concerns about COVID-19 into buying a product.
The advertiser stated that they could see how the claim for their microorganism (an
entophyte(1)) was hard to believe and that they had found it hard to believe themselves.
They believed, however, that their experience and the beneficial experience of others that
had used it, pointed to a very beneficial organism. They provided a list of some
experiences of cures as evidence:
- The advertiser’s own colds – a cold that always took antibiotics as it always caused a chest infection and diarrhoea. In this case, their cold was a 3-day event, with no need for medicine and they could work without discomfort.
- Another case had 2 colds and had the same experience.
- The advertiser had athletes’ foot which they always had to cure with liniment of iodine, however, this time no treatment was needed and it only lasted 4 days with no itch.
- The advertiser said that they had a blood test showed they had type 2 diabetes. Their next blood test showed that they were clear. They said that this was documented online under Endophytes which also says that it is in its infancy as it is being tested.
The advertiser contended that 90% of the organisms in human bodies could not be
identified but it was known what each organism does. They said that a cold cure has never
been found but this organism (the endophyte) seemed to work. They referred to articles
that they had written that they hoped would provide more details. (The articles outlined
their experience, including that their roses had been free of various common pests and
The advertiser provided a statement that outlined the reasons why they believed their rose
bushes were effective stating that as the cold was related to Covid19, they believed it was
reasonable to assume that there was a strong likelihood that the endophyte would have the
same effect on it. They said that they were attempting to have their product trialled but
were experiencing difficulties.
The advertiser stated that when selling their rose bushes, they explained to customers that
the bushes were fully refundable if the customer was not satisfied.
The advertiser also stated that they explained to their customers that this was experimental.
They said that they asked their customers to report their experience so that they could build
up evidence as it cannot be cultured in laboratories and they would preferably want to trial
their product on willing patients.
Footnote: (1) A plant, especially a fungus, which lives inside another plant (source:
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’
The Committee noted the Code requirements that compliance with the Code is assessed in
the light of a marketing communication’s probable effect when taken as a whole and in
context (2.4c) and that claims about health and beauty products and treatments should be
backed by substantiation, including where relevant, the results of robust and reputable
trials on human subjects, of sufficient rigour, design and execution as to warrant general
acceptance of the results. (11.1).
While the advertisement had referred to “potential benefits” of the product (the rose
bushes) and had included statements such as “may also be effective”, implying that the
benefits were not guaranteed, the Committee considered that the impression created by
the advertisement was that proximity to the rose bushes was an effective treatment for
Covid-19. The Committee noted that anecdotal evidence did not constitute independent,
peer reviewed data.
The Committee considered that the advertising was likely to mislead consumers, including
those concerned about the impact of COVID-19.
In the circumstances the Committee considered that the advertising was in breach of
Sections 4.1. 4.4 and 11.1 of the Code.
The advertisement must not reappear in its current form.
The Complaints Committee told the advertiser not to make claims that were not currently