Acupuncture For COVID-19 related Loss of Smell

By Hitomi Asano L.Ac

Loss of smell is one of the most prevalent symptoms in people diagnosed with COVID-19. A recent study (Lechien et al. 2021) published in January 2021 showed that 85.9% of patients with a mild form of COVID-19 experienced loss of smell (olfactory dysfunction). 54.3% of the patients in the study recovered their sense of smell within 30 days. However, 25% of the patients’ sense of smell remained unresolved even after 60 days.

Since COVID-19 is a relatively new disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2, we are awaiting the completion of current research on viable treatment options for COVID-19 related symptoms. However, there are several prior investigations that evaluated the efficacy of acupuncture to restore olfaction in patients with olfactory dysfunction due to viral infections that are of interest.

In 2010, Vent et al. found that Traditional Chinese Acupuncture (TCA) could offer a new therapeutic regimen for post-viral dysosmia. 8 out of 15 patients treated with TCA had improved olfactory function after 10 weeks of weekly treatments (30 mins each). They used the following acupuncture points: DU16, DU20, LI20, LU7, LU9, ST36, KD3. There was a significant improvement in olfactory function in the acupuncture group compared to control group.

Following the work done by Vent et al., Dai et al published a study in 2016 to assess the impact of TCA in postviral olfactory dysfunction patients who were refractory to standardized treatment. The acupuncture group received acupuncture 3 times a week for a total of 10 treatments at the following acupuncture points: LI20 and EX-HN8 Bitong. The observation group received no study-related care. 11 of the 25 patients in the acupuncture group showed improved olfactory function, the success rate was 44% compared to 16% in the observation group.

Acupuncture may help with the recovery in post-viral olfactory function and could potentially aid with COVID-19 related loss of smell. Further investigations are necessary to confirm this effect of acupuncture in COVID-19 related olfactory dysfunction.

Posted in: Acupuncture, All Posts

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