Smell Training: Treating post-COVID anosmia with essential oils
The COVID-19 pandemic has been rough on all of us. Whether you or a loved one experienced the virus or not, we were all faced with challenges we might not have expected. One of the strangest and more frustrating situations to come from COVID-19 is the possibility of lingering symptoms after you’ve recovered. One issue that many people are dealing with is post-COVID anosmia. At a time when life’s simple pleasures seem so much more important, imagine not being able to enjoy the benefits of the smell of flowers or herbs in the garden. Or the aromas when walking on the beach, or in the woods…
What is anosmia?
Anosmia is a condition in which the ability to smell is completely lost. Losing your smell can have drastic impacts on your day-to-day life. Food tastes different, cooking becomes more difficult, and it can also be dangerous. Think about losing the ability to smell smoke if your house catches fire. Scary stuff! While we are here to discuss losing your smell due to COVID-19, there are many other ways in which anosmia onsets. The most common causes of anosmia are:
- The common cold
- The flu
- Sinus infections
- Hay fever
- Rhinitis (non-allergenic)
- and of course: COVID-19
Post-COVID anosmia is real!
Imagine this…you’re out of the dark woods that was COVID-19, you get invited to a dinner out with friends. You get ready to go but as you’re putting on your deodorant, you notice you can’t smell the wonderful scent of lavender. Strange, maybe you need a new deodorant stick? You ignore it and head to dinner. When it comes time for the appetizers to arrive, you’re so excited to smell the amazing cheesy goodness of nachos only to be disappointed again – no smell! So you ask your friends, can you smell those nachos? Yup, they all can. And that’s when you realize – you’ve completely lost your sense of smell. It may seem light-hearted when put in the context of nachos, but losing your sense of smell can have severe impacts. Anosmia can lead to emotional distress and illness if not addressed.
How loss of smell can lead to depression
Losing any of your senses will have a detrimental impact. Losing your sense of smell specifically will completely change how you interact with the world. Your sense of smell can have an impact on your job, your relationships, and your overall wellbeing. Sure, the practicality of losing your hearing or sight might seem more intense and difficult to deal with, but studies have shown that people who lose their sense of smell struggle with depression and social isolation. Furthermore, those who already struggle with depression are put at much greater risk for worsening symptoms when they experience disturbances to their sense of smell.
Smell training after COVID-19
Luckily, for those experiencing post-COVID anosmia, there is a potential solution: smell training! Fifth Sense is a UK-based charity that was created to assist people who have been affected by smell and taste disorders. They’ve created a smell training program that will get your nose back into full-functioning performance!
What is smell training?
Smell training is the idea that you can improve the ability of your nose to distinguish different smells. Think about your nose just like you would your muscles. Just like going to the gym and working out can have an impact on the functionality of your muscles, training your nose with different smells can have an impact on how well the nose works!
“It is recommended that you do this at least twice daily for 12 weeks, but you can do it longer, if needed. Smell retraining is believed to work as a combination of neural pathways related to scent regrowing, while encouraging improved brain connectivity. If one chooses to try this strategy to regain this sense, try not to get discouraged. It is common for this process to take some time before you start to smell anything, and that is normal.” states Lauren Andrews RN, Clinical Aromatherapist and Owner of AroMed Essentials. AroMed Essentials offers easy to use, affordable aromatic nasal inhalers of clove, rose, lemon and eucalyptus.
How to do smell training at home
What you will need:
In order to start smell training, you’ll need some strongly-scented essential oils such as:
The four scents above are the most popular when it comes to those used in smell training research studies. We have these essential oils for sale here on our website. Once you have your essential oils, you will need:
- 4 empty mason jars with lids (any glass jars with lids will do)
- You can also use cotton balls, makeup pads, or fragrance strips
*We recommend jars with lids as containing the essential oils in an air-tight container will lead to stronger, more intense scents which may be necessary for those who have completely lost their smell
How to start smell training:
- Step 1: Pour a few droplets of essential oil into your jar or onto your cotton pad/fragrance strip
- Step 2: Leave the jar (with lid on), cotton pad, or fragrance strip for a few minutes to let the scent develop
- Step 3: Take a deep breath before you begin to help you relax and inhale naturally through the nose
- Step 4: Hold the jar, pad, or strip about an inch from your nose and begin smelling the first scent
- Step 5: Remember to sniff gently and slowly, as sniffing too intensely may have an adverse affect
- Step 6: Try this a few times with one essential oil before moving onto the next
- Step 7: Repeat the entire process above with each essential oil
Tips for a successful smell training session
- You should train your nose at least twice a day, everyday – once in the morning and once at night
- Do not breathe through your nose intensely when smell training, just calm and gentle inhalation through the nostrils
- 10 seconds per essential oil should be enough before moving onto the next
- Give yourself a minute or two in between essential oils to allow your nose to adjust
- Try smelling other things throughout the day – open up the spice cabinet and have at it!
- Don’t give up! It could take anywhere from 1 week to 1 year of smell training before you notice an impact, every nose is different and results will vary