Smell training has been demonstrated in over a dozen scientific studies to be of benefit for people who have lost their sense of smell after a virus or injury. It used to be thought that it was only for people who had some natural recovery already and so could experience some smell messages. Now we know that if people start training immediately after the virus has cleared or the injury has taken place, they can improve their chances of smell recovery. This goes for post-viral and head injury patients.
Smell training is not a cure, but a way of amplifying your recovery. Every time you do it, you are stimulating the olfactory nerves that help you smell. And this is what encourages them to heal. As Nancy Rawson, cell biologist at the Monell Chemical Senses Center says “I think that the most important message is that smell training is not a far-fetched notion. It is based on years of learning how the olfactory and nervous systems work, and specifically, how nerve cells — and especially olfactory nerve cells — are generated or maintained (to read more from Nancy, click here). Think of it as physiotherapy for your nose.
To begin smell training, you will need a kit. You can find instructions on how to make one in English, em Português, in Italiano and en Français. You can also order from the AbScent shop, by going here. The original smell training essential oils were rose, lemon, clove and eucalyptus. They remain the standard for smell training kits, but there is no reason why you can’t choose your own oils based on your personal preference. You might find it helpful to have a couple of kits around the house where you will see them and remember to use them. Remember, you need to smell train twice daily for a minimum of four months to feel any benefit - but more training will be better for you.
It will be really helpful for you to do a self-assessment before you start smell training. Why? You can compare your level of smell and experiences today and after a couple of months of smell training. It will help you see your progress. You can do this by clicking here. Think of it as the “starting line”.
Keep your smell training kit(s) where you have easy access to them throughout the day. A good idea is to keep a kit by your bedside where you will remember to use it just after you wake up and before going to sleep at night.
Open a jar and hold it close to your nose. Take some gentle sniffs for 20 seconds. During this time, concentrate on what you are doing. Keep your mind on lemon for instance, or one of the other smell training smells. Try to block out any intrusive thoughts. Be as attentive as you can and try to recall what your experience of lemon was.
Close the jar after 20 seconds and take a few breaths. Then go on to the next jar. If you’d like written instructions to keep with your kit, click on your language choice - English, Español, Português, Italiano, Français.
Even if you can’t smell anything today, start training and give it a shot. A damaged olfactory nerve has a good chance to repair itself, and smell training is the way you can help that happen faster.
Many people feel they are “not ready” to start smell training after their injury or virus. It’s really important to understand that the earlier you begin, the greater the benefit to you in the long run. Losing your sense of smell can be so hard, and it is easy to feel discouraged and down. Smell training is a positive step you can take for yourself. It’s a way you can take control of the situation.
Want to hear from others who are smell training? Request access to our Facebook forum and find moral support and advice from others living with smell loss.
Smell training stimulates the olfactory complex in the brain. Nancy Rawson, Associate Director of the Monell Center in Philadelphia and cell biologist gives her comments on what is happening when patients smell train here. In clinical trials, the patients who used smell training fared better in the areas of identification and discrimination of smells than patients who did no training at all.
Also, patients who trained with higher concentrations of smells did better than those who trained with “less smelly” samples. Even after stopping the smell training, the patients who had used the method more or less maintained their improvement.