What is Smell Training?And how it improves our Health and Wellbeing.

Smell Training is a practice where you sit quietly, in a relaxed meditative state, and smell up to 4 different essential oils.  And as you are smelling each one, you visualize the plant part the aroma comes from and pay attention to any emotional responses.

This exercise has grown really popular during the months of the pandemic, since COVID has caused the loss or weakening of our sense of smell for so many people.

And for those who practice this exercise consistently over a period of at least 3 months, have noticed remarkable improvements.

Facts about our sense of smell:

Did you know that the olfactory nerves in the back of our sinuses can regenerate? Humans have about 12 million olfactory receptor cells and can detect about 10,000 different odors.  

Amazing, right? So that means, we can actually push along the process just by sitting and smelling an essential oil everyday.

“It is still not fully known how smell training works, but it relies on the unique ability of the olfactory nerve to regenerate,” Benjamin S. Bleier, MD, FACS, a head and neck specialist at Mass Eye and Ear Sinus Center and an associate professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at Harvard Medical School

Our Sense of Smell

Our sense of smell is our most primal sense.  It is a key player in our survival by informing and guiding us about what to eat, who to “mate” with and when we need to avoid danger (think fire).

It’s considered one of our chemical senses, along with taste, because it detects an aroma molecule from the environment, which then triggers a chemical response in the brain that in turn influences our actions, physiology and emotions.

And it’s because of this instant neurological trigger, that we can intentionally use aroma to help our brain trigger positive emotions and beneficial chemicals that can support and improve our wellbeing.

The Path an Aroma Takes

When we inhale, aroma molecules enter our nose and attach to our olfactory receptor cells that are literally dangling in the back of the sinus cavity. 

These receptor cells are actually neurons, with one end hanging out in the back of the sinuses ready to detect odor molecules, while its other end connects to the center of our brain.  

In other words, our olfactory neurons are actually brain cells that are exposed to the external world and that trigger responses in our brain in just fractions of a second.

The Trigger

And once the receptor cell triggers the signal, it lands in the part of our brain that controls all of unconscious physiological processes, including our memory and learning centers as well as our emotions and behavior.

Smell training may even cause “better brain connectivity,” Thomas Hummel, MD, co-author of the study and a professor in the Smell and Taste Clinic at the Technical University of Dresden.

Here is a smell training exercise you can do at home:

  • Choose 4 essential oils.
  • Drop about 30 drops onto a cotton ball and put the cotton ball in a small jar like this, and tightly cap.
  • Sit quietly and take a minute (60 seconds) to smell each aroma.
  • Uncap the jar.
  • Hold the jar under your nose about 5 inches away from your nostrils.
  • Inhale slowly and exhale slowly.
  • Visualize  the plant it comes from and pay attention to any associated memories.
  • If you are having trouble detecting the aroma, alternate 3 easy inhale and exhale, with 2 strong sniffs. 
  • Do this with each different essential oil making sure to cap each jar after smelling.
  • The aromas on the cotton ball should last at least a month if the jar is kept tightly capped when not smelling. 

Curious to learn even more about your sense of smell? Consider getting an aromatherapy education! Click here to learn more.

Share this post