Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Chronic Rhinosinusitis: A Systematic Review and Qualitative Analysis

Am J Rhinol Allergy. 2019 Mar;33(2):194-202. doi: 10.1177/1945892418813079. Epub 2018 Nov 28.


Background: Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is frequently used in the treatment of chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS) in developed countries. With a plethora of CAM therapies available, their effectiveness and safety are poorly understood in the context of CRS.

Objectives: This article aims to critically appraise the evidence for CAM use in CRS through a systematic review of current literature that investigate the effects of CAM on symptoms and clinical status of adults with CRS.

Study design: Systematic review and qualitative analysis.

Review methods: A comprehensive systematic review of the literature was conducted by the authors using 5 databases from inception to July 2017: CINAHL, Cochrane, Embase, PubMed, and SCOPUS. Inclusive medical subject headings and keywords consisted of, but were not limited to, sinusitis and complementary therapies, naturopathy, or traditional Chinese medicine. PRISMA guideline was followed. Using templates by Cochrane Public Health Group and Newcastle-Ottawa Scale, each author extracted data, assessed bias, and computed minimal clinically important difference. Any conflicts were resolved through discussion.

Results: In total, 7 of 7141 articles from 1995 to 2016 were included. Three randomized controlled trials and 4 observational studies were organized into 4 categories of CAM: naturopathy, Chinese medicine, homeopathy, and others. Limited evidence supported the use of Pimpinella anisum and crenotherapy for CRS. Data available on Chinese medicine, homeopathy, and liposomal therapy in CRS were inconclusive due to inherent flaws in the studies.

Conclusion: Overall, there is very limited evidence to support the use of CAM in the treatment of CRS. No significant adverse effects have been found. Given its widespread use, more rigorous data from high-quality research are needed before it can be routinely recommended.

Keywords: Chinese traditional medicine; chronic rhinosinusitis; chronic sinusitis; complementary and alternative medicine; homeopathy; naturopathy; otolaryngology.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chronic Disease
  • Complementary Therapies*
  • Homeopathy
  • Humans
  • Medicine, Chinese Traditional
  • Naturopathy
  • Rhinitis / therapy*
  • Sinusitis / therapy*