When 20-year old Kemar Lalor posted his now-viral TikTok clip demonstrating what he presented as a unique way to regain your sense of taste, the Canadian college student didn’t know he might end up helping people feel better during their COVID-19 recovery.
“Boys and girls, I am no scientist, but it does work,” Lalor says in the clip, which has been seen more than 23 million times.
The Toronto-based architecture student, who was born in Canada to Jamaican parents, said he wasn’t aware that losing taste was a symptom of the virus until people began commenting on the popular video.
“When I posted it, that’s when I realized that losing your taste and your smell was a symptom of it,” Lalor said to Atlanta Black Star. “I didn’t even know that it was, like, good for helping COVID-19, in a way.”
The video shows Lalor roasting an orange over his stove’s open flame as a remedy for losing your taste. It all started when he battled a brief illness in December.
He’s not sure whether his sore throat was COVID-19-related, because he didn’t get tested for the virus.
Lalor says he took medication and felt fine at first.
“After that, I lost my taste, and that lasted, like, three weeks, but my mom got the same sickness, but she got her taste back within, like, two days,” he said.
Curious, he asked his mother, Trudy-Ann Lalor, how her sense of taste returned so quickly. When she grabbed an orange and began lighting up the stove, Lalor says he was a little confused.
His mom was about to show him a helpful remedy that she’d learned in Jamaica from her own mother, Leonora Brown.
“I was like, ‘what’s going on?’ and then she said, ‘My mother used to give this to me back in Jamaica whenever we were sick or we had a sore throat or anything like that,’” Lalor said.
“She put two teaspoons of brown sugar on [the roasted and peeled orange] and said, ‘alright now, eat it fast,’ and I ate it fast,’” he said.
Lalor says the recipe involves cooking an orange over an open flame. The goal is to make it turn entirely black on the outside. In the video, he turns the orange over the stove using tongs. Lalor suggests cooking the orange for at least 12 minutes.
Once it’s blackened, he says to peel off the burnt orange skin, smash the cooked orange, sprinkle with brown sugar, and then eat it while it’s still hot. He recommends only brown sugar because his family hasn’t tasted the trick’s effectiveness with white sugar.
To see if it worked, they waited a few hours before Lalor tried eating some chocolate.
“I was like, ‘mmm! I can taste it a little bit!’” Lalor recalled. “At first, you taste the burntness in it and the sweetness, and after a while, it gradually starts coming back. But after a day or so, it was back fully.”
After having his own taste restored and also seeing the remedy work for his younger sister, Lalor says he couldn’t wait to share it with the world. His original TikTok clip has gotten over 3 million likes.
He says in Jamaica people use Seville oranges for the trick, but he adds that any type of orange can be used.
“Don’t use a tangerine or something small like that, just a nice full-sized orange, and that should work,” Lalor said.
A few people who have tried the remedy have commented about how they’ve found it to work for them. Lalor says the medical experts on the former CBS television show “The Doctors” also tried it out.
They say the combination of citrus and sugar could help reboot or reprogram a sense of smell.
“They tried it and then they explained why it works, so they did it really good,” the 20-year-old said.
In contrast to “The Doctors” — a show that a study published in the medical journal The BMJ says frequently promulgates flawed medical advice — other experts interviewed by USA Today point out that there is no magic bullet for recovering a loss of sense of taste, saying that people who claim the cure worked for them likely already were recovering that sense and the burnt orange acted as a placebo.
Regardless of the actual efficacy of the remedy, Lalor says he’s seeing lots of people trying it, even roasting oranges using their barbecues, ovens and fireplaces. He stresses that the key is to get the orange nicely roasted.
Since going viral, Lalor says he’s seen a boost in followers on YouTube and TikTok, where he plans to continue sharing remedies inspired by his Jamaican heritage.
He adds that collaborating on sharing the remedies online has also strengthened the bond he shares with his mother, Trudy-Ann.