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Can Aromatherapy Recover the Sense of Smell and Taste?

Millions of people who contracted COVID-19 have experienced a loss of smell and taste. “Some of these people have severe loss, meaning they’re not able to smell or taste anything at all,” says Omar Danoun, M.D., a neurologist at Henry Ford Health System. “Others have mild to moderate loss of smell and taste, where they’re able to detect only strong aromas. Most of the time, when you lose your sense of smell, it’s because the virus has attacked these support cells. When these support cells regenerate (on average four to six weeks later; for some, it takes longer), your sense of smell will return.” (1)

I recently worked with a client that had Covid in the autumn of 2021 and still has not regained their senses of smell (anosmia) and taste (ageusia). I made four different nasal inhalers, each with an individual essential oil. Within a week, they noticed a difference in sensing different environments and food.

There is some exciting new research that states aromatherapy can assist in the recovery of smell and taste. “More recently, studies have revealed that many of the chemical constituents of essential oils have bioactive properties; for example, suppressing neuropathic pain and inflammation, anti-viral effects, anxiolytic effects, and enhancing regeneration by increased re-epithelialization of cutaneous wounds through cell proliferation and migration.”(3) Many phytochemicals in essential oils have bioactive properties with anti-inflammatory and anti-viral effects.

The olfactory system is the only sensory system that involves the amygdala and the limbic system in its primary processing pathway. This link explains why aromas are often linked to specific memories. For example, if you have had a positive experience eating oranges as a child, then the fragrance of orange essential oil may also induce positive thoughts as an adult.

There is hope using olfactory retraining using different single essential oils. You can choose a variety of essential oils connected to your pleasant memories, these can be any spice, leaf, flower, tree, or resin oils.

Try these four simple steps to recover the sense of smell and taste.

1. Choose four different essential oils to put in separate nasal inhalers. A nasal inhaler has several parts: the cover, insert, base cap, and a felt wick. If the felt wick is wrapped in a plastic coating, you may substitute for a cotton pad. If you are using a cotton pad, you may need to increase the number of essential oil drops. Saturate the felt wick of a nasal inhaler wick with fifteen to twenty drops of an individual essential oil. Place into the tube and close the bottom.

Here are some suggestions of essential oils to use in four separate nasal inhalers:

For mental stimulation, alertness, and focus. Not advised 4-6 hours before sleep.

· Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

· Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus radiata)

· Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus)

· Peppermint (Mentha x piperita)

For calming, used during the day, evening, and before bedtime.

· Bergamot (Citrus bergamia)

· Clary Sage (Salvia sclera)

· Cedarwood (Juniperus virginiana)

· Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

2. Starting with the first nasal inhaler, take gentle inhalation for 10-25 seconds. While you’re inhaling it, imagine what the herb, flower, fruit, or tree looks like, what it feels like. Recall a memory that involves this scent. Memory and smell are tightly connected in the brain,” says Dr. Danoun. “Smell goes directly to the brain’s emotional center, including the areas responsible for processing emotion and memory. Olfactory training can teach the brain to remake connections back to specific scents.”(1)

3. Give your brain one minute to two minutes to process that aroma. When the time is up, take gentle inhalations of the next scent for 10-25 seconds. Let your brain process that scent for a minute. Continue until you’ve smelled each of the four scents.

4. Do this exercise two to four times a day for three months. If your sense of smell hasn’t fully returned after three months, find four new essential oils, and repeat the exercise. “Time is very important for this exercise, as it takes time for the olfactory nerves to recover,” says Dr. Danoun. “They don’t regenerate every day. It’s like running a marathon. You need to train slowly and persevere.”(1)

Please note that there may be other issues that can inhibit full scent and taste recoveries, such as allergies, sinusitis, or an infection in the nose.

Happy inhalation!



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