Scientific studies show that smell training is beneficial in improving smell health for those experiencing smell loss (anosmia), poor smell (hyposmia) and smell distortions (parosmia).
What is Smell Training?
Smell training is a therapeutic protocol for those who've lost their sense of smell, whereby you actively sniff the same 4 scents (usually essential oils), twice per day, for an extended period of time, with the aim to produce an overall increase in olfactory function.
What is the Goal of Smell Training?
The aim is to retrain your brain to be able to smell again. A good analogy is if you take someone who’s had a stroke and can’t move their arm. They would go to physical therapy and work on getting their arm to move again. With smell training, you’re working on trying to kick-start the regenerative process that’s inherent to the olfactory system. The goal is to make the correct connections back to the olfactory bulb and thereafter the correct connection back to the olfactory cortex.
How Does Smell Training Work?
The protocol for smell training is sniffing a set of 4 jars (each with a unique scent) twice per day, every day for about 6 months. Each jar is sniffed for 20 seconds with 20 second pauses in between each jar, making each training session 2 minutes, 20 seconds long.
It’s important to train with four distinct odors so that you stimulate different types of olfactory receptor neurons in the nose. The classic scents used in most scientific studies are rose, lemon, eucalyptus, and clove. However, you don’t need to train with these exact odors. Most important is that you have a scent memory of what you train with so you can make the neural-brain connections again.
Who is Smell Training Best Suited For?
Almost everyone. One of the wonderful things about smell training is that it's been studied in multiple etiologies (causes) of smell loss, including age-related loss, in trauma-related loss, in post-viral related loss (incl. COVID), and in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Smell training has proven to be beneficial, at varying degrees, but to some effect, for each of these patient groups, which means that anyone who has smell loss or distortion will most likely benefit from smell training. Only those born with no ability to smell (congenital) will not see any effect.
When Should You Start Smell Training?
Start early and be consistent. The sooner you can start the better because, unfortunately, the longer you go without smell training, the less likely you’ll be able to do anything about it at a certain point. Really sticking with it, at the earliest possible moment, for 6 months gives you the best chance of seeing improvement.
When Can You Expect to Start Seeing Results?
The sooner you get started after your initial loss, the sooner you’ll most likely start seeing results. If it’s already been 6 months to a year since you lost your sense of smell, it will probably take that same amount of time to see a major improvement. The key is to be consistent with your smell training and, with time, you’ll start to notice improvements.
Smell Training Tips
Get my 5 tips for smell training with essential oils if you're training at home on your own.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Smell Training Even Work?
Can Smell Training Help If I’ve Had Smell Loss For a Very Long Time?
Is Smell Training Helpful For Parosmia?
What if I don’t have an association with the 4 scents used in smell training?
Can Intranasal Vitamin A or Intranasal Steroids Help Along With Smell Training?
Need Help With Your Smell Training?
Here are two ways I can support you:
Make Smell Training A Habit
Take part in my 21-Day Jump-Start email-based program which helps you learn to stay consistent and motivated with your training so you have the greatest chance of seeing success.
If you want individual help with smell training, one-on-one smell coaching might be a good option for you. It can bridge the gap between you and your doctor by providing targeted support.