About half or more of the people who contract the corona virus report drastic reduction or complete inability to detect smells with their nose. This condition, known in medicine as anosmia (smell blindness), also impairs the ability the taste buds to a considerable degree.
Anosmia often appears a couple days after the virus has been contracted, and it can last anywhere from a couple days to many months, depending on the individual. Most people however regain both their sense of smell and taste within two to three weeks. Some reports are coming in that the anosmia is permanent, however since it is a new disease, it still remains unclear whether that is actually the case.
Now luckily for us, some studies done previous to and during the pandemic have shown that training your ability to pick up scents can be quite effective for the sense of smell and taste to recover. In this article we’ll go through a couple of ways of doing that.
1. Smell things even if it doesn’t work
One potential way to gradually recover your sense of smell is by simply attempting to smell things, even if you register little to no active scents. All those things that usually had their distinct smell and scent, all those objects should now be consciously targeted by you throughout the day. You can visualize or “smellualize” if you will, in order to kickstart the olfactory support cells to start working their magic again. Here below is a list of some of the most prominent things and objects in your vicinity that exudes extra smell, things which you’re most likely very familiar with:
- Soap in the kitchen and bathroom
- Shampoo when showering or bathing
- Moisturisers and creams
- Toothpaste before brushing your teeth
- Deodorant before, during and after applying
- Perfumes before, during and after applying
- Tea when preparing and when drinking
- Coffee ideally before brewing
- Foods when cooking and when eating
- Drinks of different kinds like juices, whisky
- Herbs & spices like basil and peppermint
- Scented candles
Anytime you get the chance to smell these things, do it with extra focus and do it exaggeratedly. That is really try to draw in the scent. If you register nothing, do it anyway by visualizing it in your mind, by reminding yourself of the memory of the smell, however vague. It won’t be the same as the actual thing but it can definitely help your nose guide your brain in the right direction. Plus it only takes a couple of more seconds (of focus and effort) than you usually give to those things.
2. Practice scent training with essential oils
If your sense of smell and taste still hasn’t recovered after two weeks or longer, consciously exercising your smelling muscles can potentially help you regain those faculties faster. Generally the earlier you begin, the better off you are.
In order to do this so called “scent training” you need to acquire a set of objects that give out strong scents. I recommend essential oils because of the sheer variety, potency and their inexpensive accessibility. It’s easy to order a set of essential oils from the internet. It can be anything really from rose, lemon, cedarwood to peppermint, eucalyptus. Generally choose scents that are your favorites and/or the ones you’re most familiar with.
When you’ve got one or more of the scents ready at hand here’s what you do:
- Sit comfortably in an undisturbed place.
- Take three or more of these essential oil bottles and hold them one by one close to your nose. Sniff gently for 15-20 seconds.
- When you’re doing the smelling, concentrate and try to remember the scent you have contained in the bottle.
- Take a few breaths of fresh air and move on to the next scent.
- Try to repeat this 5-10 minutes practice, once or twice each day.
3. Try a breathing technique that targets the nose
The sense of smell is intertwined with air and breath. Certain breathing techniques that target the nose can potentially boost the regeneration of the necessary cells in your nose. I recommend trying the ancient yogic breathing technique known as the alternate breathing technique (nadi shodhan pranayama).
Here’s how you do it:
- Sit up with a tall yet relaxed posture.
- Take your right thumb and close off the right nostril, then inhale fully through the left nostril.
- When your lungs have expanded completely, release your thumb and immediately use your ring finger to close off the left nostril and exhale slowly through the right.
- Repeat while switching nostrils after each inhale.
While these above mentioned tips and methods aren’t guaranteed to recover your sense of smell and taste, they definitely won’t hurt. Worst case scenario is that you waste some time, best case scenario is that you boost your recovery time significantly.
On a personal note, I myself just recovered from corona so I know the struggles that come with it and I also know importance of smell and taste more than ever before. Even though my tastebuds are largely back in action for me, sense of smell is still in recovery mode. After practicing these three methods above, I’ve noticed a noticeable improvement in my capacity to smell. Have a go yourself and feel free to share if anything worked for you!
Daniel Seeker is a wandering dervish and lifelong student of the past, present and future. He realized deep relaxations of the psyche when meditating in his hermit cave on the island of Gotland. His writings are mostly a reflection of that realizaton. Daniel currently studies history and philosophy at Uppsala Universitet, as he is currently writing his B.A. thesis in history which explores how Buddhist, Yogic and Hindu texts were first properly translated and introduced to the western world in the late 18th and 19th century.