Traditional Chinese medicine for post-viral olfactory dysfunction: A systematic review

Integr Med Res. 2024 Jun;13(2):101045. doi: 10.1016/j.imr.2024.101045. Epub 2024 Apr 25.


Background: Post-viral olfactory dysfunction (PVOD) is the common symptoms of long COVID, lacking of effective treatments. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is claimed to be effective in treating olfactory dysfunction, but the evidence has not yet been critically appraised. We conducted a systematic review to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of TCM for PVOD.

Methods: We searched eight databases to identified clinical controlled studies about TCM for PVOD. The Cochrane risk of bias tools and GRADE were used to evaluate the quality of evidence. Risk ratio (RR), mean differences (MD), and 95 % confidence interval (CI), were used for effect estimation and RevMan 5.4.1 was used for data analysis.

Results: Six randomized controlled trials (RCTs) (545 participants), two non-randomized controlled trials (non-RCTs) (112 participants), and one retrospective cohort study (30 participants) were included. The overall quality of included studies was low. Acupuncture (n = 8) and acupoint injection (n = 3) were the mainly used TCM therapies. Five RCTs showed a better effect in TCM group. Four trials used acupuncture, and three trials used acupoint injection. The results of two non-RCTs and one cohort study were not statistically significant. Two trials reported mild to moderate adverse events (pain and brief syncope caused by acupuncture or acupoint injection).

Conclusions: Limited evidence focus on acupuncture and acupoint injection for PVOD and suggests that acupuncture and acupoint injection may be effective in improving PVOD. More well-designed trials should focus on acupuncture to confirm the benefit.

Protocol registration: The protocol of this review was registered at PROSPERO: CRD42022366776.

Keywords: Acupuncture; Anosmia; Hyposmia; Long COVID; Post-viral olfactory dysfunction.

Publication types

  • Review