The claim: Eating a baked orange mixed with brown sugar will help you regain sense of taste and smell
Medical groups representing ear, nose and throat specialists warned early on in the pandemic that loss of a sense in smell or taste is a symptom of the coronavirus. It is now one of the most commonly reported indicators of COVID-19.
Social media users claim to have a recipe that will restore senses for those who are experiencing a loss of taste or anosmia, a temporary loss of smell, after contracting the virus.
The online claims emerged after TikTok users started a viral trend that many claim to be a Jamaican remedy of burning an orange on an open flame and consuming the flesh of the fruit with brown sugar mixed into it.
"I lost my smell and taste when I had covid at the beginning of November. And I never got it back. A couple of people sent me a TikTok of cooking an orange until it basically bursts open and peeling it and mixing it with brown sugar and eating it to regain those senses," reads a Dec. 20 Facebook post with over 14,000 shares. "Well, today I tried it and to my surprise it worked."
The user included photos of the process and encouraged others to keep trying the remedy even if results aren't noticeable after the first try.
USA TODAY reached out to the Facebook user for comment.
Experts say remedy is unlikely to help
Researchers have found that SARS-CoV-2, the causative virus of COVID-19, attacks the cells that support smell-detecting neurons. Patients typically regain their sense of smell over the course of weeks, USA TODAY has reported.
Experts caution that there is no scientific evidence that consuming a burnt orange mixed with brown sugar can restore one's senses after temporary losing them.
Pamela Dalton, who has a doctorate in experimental psychology and is a researcher at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, told NBC's "Today" that it's likely that people who attempted to burn an orange to get their senses back had already gained some smell and taste abilities and didn't realize it yet.
Dalton said people typically don't know how much smell they have lost, so doing something intense such as burning an orange peel will "give you an extraordinary sensation." She added that there is also the placebo effect to consider.
According to an article published in the British Medical Journal, 90% of COVID-19 patients begin to notice their sense of smell improving within four weeks of infection.
Dr. Bozena Wrobel, an otolaryngologist at Keck Medicine of the University of Southern California, told Shape Magazine that the TikTok trend of eating a burnt orange to reverse taste loss from COVID-19 is unlikely to work.
Wrobel explained that while eating a sweetened orange could be very stimulating for the taste buds, it doesn't "reignite" senses and the TikTok users who claimed to have results from the "remedy" likely were already recovering from smell loss.
Fact check: COVID-19 pandemic is not a simulation
Researchers are studying smell training
While there is no solution for regaining smell and taste after contracting COVID-19, other than it resolving on its own, many researchers are studying "smell training" where patients receive a range of kits with scents including eucalyptus, lemon, rose and cinnamon, according to Very Well Health.
Study participants were tested at the start of the trial to examine how well they could smell the odors and tested again six months after the smell training. Researches found "clinically relevant improvement" in overall smell function at the end of the study.
The idea of eating oranges and brown sugar to restore smell and taste abilities likely comes from those smell training therapies, according to Dr. Omid Mehdizadeh, an otolaryngologist at Providence Saint John's Health Center. He told Bustle that smell retraining therapy has been shown to offer some recovery for people who lost smell due to other non-COVID viruses.
The Washington University School of Medicine is planning a clinical trial to see if smell training therapy can assist COVID-19 patients with anosmia.
Our rating: False
There is no evidence to suggest that eating a burnt orange and brown sugar will revive your senses after testing positive for COVID-19. Experts have cautioned against the remedy, and people who have contracted the coronavirus typically begin to regain their senses on their own within four weeks of testing positive. We rate this claim as FALSE, based on our research.
Our fact-check sources:
British Medical Journal, July 21, Anosmia and loss of smell in the era of covid-19
Very Well Health, Dec. 4, ‘Smell Training’ Could Help People Who Lost Their Sense of Smell From COVID-19
Bustle, Dec. 22, TikTokers Say Burnt Oranges Can Help Get Taste Back Post-COVID
ClinicalTrials.gov, June 11, Coronavirus Smell Therapy for Anosmia Recovery (Co-STAR)
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Burnt oranges, sugar won't restore senses lost to COVID-19