Sunday, July 19, 2015

How Essential Oils May Be the Answer to Anosmia


Imagine having no sense of smell.

It's hard, because we actually use our sense of smell for much more than we realize. For example, without a sense of smell, it's impossible to taste what we're eating.

A sense of smell is necessary to enjoy ice cream...

.. or a spring morning

.. or a flower

.. or the scent of fresh baked bread.

Now, imagine going in for an operation and waking up after the anesthesia with your sense of smell gone.

Completely vanished.

And it doesn't come back.

That's exactly what happened to Birthe.


Anosmia

There's a term for not having a sense of smell. It's called anosmia.

Although I was aware some people suffer from anosmia, I'd never really given it much thought until I met Birthe, who told me a fascinating account of how she got her sense of smell back by a rather unusual method.

She used essential oils.

"Essential oils? Must be some kind of alternative voodoo method," some might think.

But no.

It was in fact Birthe's regular doctor who recommended she use 4 specific essential oils to help restore her sense of smell.

She was instructed to open and sniff each bottle 3-6 times a day for 3 months.

The oils:

  • eucalyptus
  • lemon
  • clove
  • geranium


This precise choice of oils represents 4 distinctly different categories.

  • eucalyptus = woodsy
  • lemon = citrus 
  • clove = spicy 
  • geranium = floral 


Anyone with a sense of smell would be able to distinguish the difference. Not so much a person with no sense of smell.

Birthe struggled with the task she was set.
'I couldn't tell the difference from one to the other in the beginning. I had the bottles so close to my nostrils that the skin got irritated - and I still couldn't smell a thing.'

But she was determined to give this a chance, so she continued. And after a few short weeks, she began to be able to tell the difference between them.

And it just kept getting a little easier every day after that.

Today, she says her sense of smell is 'pretty much back to normal'.


Is it true? 

Can essential oils really help restore the sense of smell? I was fascinated by Birthes story and did a bit of digging around.

It does indeed look like it's true that essential oils can help restore the sense of smell.

Not only that, but science seems to be taking an in-depth look at the human olfactory system and what it means to have a functioning sense of smell.

Did you know certain odour compounds can even impact our skin function and influence stress levels?

This is definitely one area of research I will be following with interest. Meantime, I have a new appreciation for the many functions my nose performs on a daily basis.

Do Tell

Do you know anyone with anosmia? I'd love to hear about it in a comment below!


A Few of The Places I Found Info

Altered taste and smell after anestesia
Physiological effect of olfactory stimuli in humans
Essential oils and fragrance compounds in single healthcare
Assessing the impact of anosmia - Steve van Toller
Anosmia - Wikipedia
Anosmia what it is and how it impacts humans - WebMD

46 comments:

Karen Blehm said...

I read your piece regarding anosmia and essential oils. I use and am a consultant for a certain essential oil company, which happened because I wanted healthier options for my family VS pHARMaceuticals. However, I have no recollection of ever having a sense of smell and was amazed by a brother who could smell others hands blindfolded and be able to know who it was. He also knew what we were having for dinner just by walking in the door. I had to SEE what was cooking to know. I had a history of sever sinus and ear infections since I was an infant. He did not. I've had sinus surgeries. Steroids. Nothing ever blessed me with sense of smell. I think I have taste... But it's what I've always known. Can't smell or taste herbs and such, have to follow recipes closely, and maybe what I think is taste may be more of a mouth and throat feel. Can't clean in small enclosed places with heavy cleaners...knocked myself out once when cleaning a filthy kitchen with ammonia I was provided with yo do the task. All others left the house and were shocked I couldn't smell it (but I could feel it in my chest). All sorts of funny and also scary situations due to lack of smell. I'd probably be blown away if I gained sense of smell....but I want one. I'm 53.... It's about time I find out what it's like to really smell. I was always told it's probably genetic and can't be fixed. Going to follow the information on your site to see if my oils can help me. Also going to try castor oil warm drops up each nostril 2X per day....found that suggestion today. Mother has minimal sense of smell. We both have lengthy history of sinus problems, polyps, and severe post nasal drip(super thick/gross 24/7) which has been reduced by severely limiting sugars. We do natural sugars from real fruits and I do stevia and avoid high fructose and othe fructose syrups (in an amazing amount of processed foods) and sugars. I hope I will gain a sense of smell (and maybe improved taste??) in this lifetime. I fear coming back as a cadaver bloodhound in next life. lOL

Lise M Andersen said...

HI Karen - This is a fascinating account and certainly an eye-opener to hear that it can be downright dangerous to not have a sense of smell (the ammonia incident!). You might find additional helpful information about the essential oil sniffing method through some of the links at the bottom of the post. I hope this method will be of some help to you and I would be very interested to hear how it goes for you - regardless of what kind of success you have. Feel free to drop a follow-up comment on this post. I follow the comments on every post - no matter how old it is. Thanks again for sharing your story. I am rooting for your problem not being genetic!

Chantelle said...

HI Lisa. Beginning tomorrow, October 1st I will try this use of essential oil to see if I can get back some of my sense of smell/taste. Feb/2012 my taste and smell pretty much went away following an emergency surgery for internal bleeding. Now, if scents get to complicated I can't pick up the distinct differences. Cigarette smoke smells different. Burnt toast triggers in my chest, not my nose. Foods,for the most part, are flat in flavor/smell because of multiple scents emerging. My favorite perfumes don't even register in my brain anymore, but I can smell basic single notes of some oils. I will try this specific combination to see if it makes a difference by the end of the year.
Feeling hopeful:)

Thanks for this info.......
Chantelle

Lise M Andersen said...

Hey there Chantelle - Oh I do hope this works for you! Please do update on how you get on with it! My email is on the sidebar if you want to contact me directly. Fingers are crossed! :)

Debbie Richards said...

I am just shocked and feel bad for these ladies. I read about this 7 yrs ago, after having radiation for Graves' disease and 5 nodules. The Radiation was just Unbelievably painful for me. I did not expect that reaction TBH. I was bed ridden 6 months before and after, total. Given a laptop and somehow, came across natural body are, when I realizide my dream of being a perfumer was probably unrealistic for now. I am disabled with Epilepsy.

I have a VERY sensitive since of smell, most times a GOOD thing...... Sometimes not so good.lol But reading that article after the radiation, terrified me! Because I was not sure what it would do to me later on! I have always had ear and sinus issues too.....so bad that I have gotten pneumonia. I lost my sense of smell AND much of my hearing too. Me, NOR my family understood why I had the TV all the way up, laying on the floor in front of it. I have to have a shot every 5 yrs now. ALERGIES in Spring and fall.......and MOLD SPORES, living near the beach, has caused ALERGIC ASTHMA also. I was 26 the first time that hit. I didn't even realize I could barely breath, till very very ill. My 34 yr. old, was also hit with it @ 10. He woke with blue lips and black eyes. Dr. said he was not to walk or play. It takes 3 months to heal from it.

My advice to ANYONE with just the ALERGy Attacks, do your best to keep your nose dry and blown. It is while you are sleeping, that all that infection can go into your lungs. And literally, you don't know how sick you really are, especially your children. That literally kept me scared to death, till the Dr. said he could play again.

Lise M Andersen said...

Thank you for sharing, Debbie.

Marissa Davidson said...

This is a great article! I shared it on daocloud.com for you :)

Lise M Andersen said...

Thank you Marissa - I hope it is of help to someone

Cathy said...

I can't wait to try this!! I would love to regain my sense of smell! I was hoping I could find a way through essential oils! I am out of town but will be back home tomorrow where my oils are. This is very exciting!

Lise M Andersen said...

Ooh Cathy best of luck with it!!

Anonymous said...

I to list my sense of smell after foot surgery. I have tried many things including Acupunture. It has been almost 3 years. Do you think these scents would help me?

Lise M Andersen said...

Hey there Anon - It sounds like you had the same experience as the lady I wrote about in the blog post. It certainly helped her, so my only suggestion is to give it a go. I wish you the best of luck with it.

Karin MacDonald said...

So excited to find this blog post. Last December I started experiencing a strong and constant smell of cigatettes. Sleep was my only escape, but after a while I began to wake in the middle of the night after dreaming I was trapped in a fire. So much for escaping the phantom smoke smell. I am virtually never exposed to cigarette smell and I strongly dislike it. Imagine being in a room full of chain smokers 24/7, complete and utter misery. My doctors have no explanation and an MRI of my brain ruled out any kind of tumor. I feel left alone to either come to terms with it or find my own cure. After reading that some people with similar issues have had success ridding themselves of the constant smell of cigarettes by taking a combination of garlic and St John's wort, I tried that and was at least able to being the phantom smell down to a tolerable level.
But my sense of smell remains at about 5-10% of what it used to be. I have started using therapeutic grade essential oils for other issues like headaches and insomnia. I know they work. I am so excited to give this a try. Living without smell is challenging. Since I have become accustomed to the constant smoke smell in my nose, I cannot detect actual smoke. Same goes for any spoiled food, the smell of natural gas... I never realized how many memories are tied to smells. Life feels so much emptier. Ah, and I forgot to mention that it also affects the sense of taste. My taste is currently limited to sweet, sour, salty and bitter. Most of the time I have a bitter taste in my mouth. I am going to get started on this regimen right away and hope to be able to report back with good news!

Lise M Andersen said...

Hey there Karen - Thank you so much for sharing this. I really hope this helps you. I have had so many reactions to this post from all corners of the globe, and I feel a little privileged if this post can in some way help some people. I wish you the very best of luck with this!

Sharon said...

At this point, anything is worth a try to get my sense of smell back. In 1999, I had a bad accident with a horse that left me with a fractured skull, bruising, bleeding & a blood clot on the brain. I was in a coma for 7 days. When I woke from the coma, I didn't notice right away that I could no longer smell. I realized it a few weeKS later. It's been 17 years now with absolutely no sense of smell.I'm going to try the essential oils to see if I can get my sense of smell back.

Lise M Andersen said...

Oh Sharon what a terrible thing to have happen! I really hope this is of some help to you. I'd love to hear back on how it works out - both positive or negative.

Unknown said...

I would like to encourage those who have posted here with some resources. I am an acquired anosmic/parosmic and have been for about a year and a half now. My quest to regain my senses of smell and taste have taken me down the road of smell training which I have just begun. There are a plethora of essential oils available for smell training which I would encourage any of you to try. I am encouraged about the possibilities! There are also a couple of Facebook groups that offer support for the very real struggles with these conditions. They are closed so you would need to be added; Anosmics of the World, Unite! and Living Well With Anosmia. Very encouraging places! Blessings to all as you struggle. I hope to see you in one or both of the groups. Thank you for posting on this Lise!

Lise M Andersen said...

Hey there Unkown- thanks for this great input! I didn't know there were groups where people could find support. Wonderful effort!

Annie Gray said...

Hi,I was born without a sense of smell, as was my father and one of my sons. It's 100% genetic. I was told the oils still have an impact on the olfactory system. What information might you have on a genetic condition that is irreversible? Can the oils still have a benefit if inhaled?

Lise M Andersen said...

Hi Annie - I sure wish I had an answer for you but I am not an expert in this particular field and hardly even know where to recommend you to ask other than checking for Facebook groups for people with this condition. If you read the comment just above yours there are a couple of hopefully useful suggestions. I wish you the best of luck.

Unknown said...

Friends, as mentioned, I am using essential oils as a part of smell training to hopefully regain some olfactory function. I can say that I have had a slight measure of success in being able to distinguish amongst the oils I started with although they do not smell as they did pre-anosmia. I am just learning about the essential oil role so I don't have any information to share to benefit congenital anosmics. I am an acquired anosmic and have parosmia as well. I can share that even as an anosmic, essential oils have benefited me. The jury is still out on the aromatherapy part but as you know, you can diffuse them and apply them topically as well. I am experiencing health and healing with them even though I cannot smell them in the traditional sense. I'm not going to let that stop me from fully taking advantage of the health benefits offered through these oils! I encourage you to join the Facebook groups referenced as there are a TON of people out there who share your experiences and will be of great encouragement!! I hope this helps. You are not alone in your struggles to cope with our conditions! God bless.

Lise M Andersen said...

Thank you Unkown for this message of encouragement. :)

Lillian Perdomo said...

Dear Lise, I am glad to have found your blog and grateful that you have shared this information. ANd now I am compelled to share my story: I started to lose my sense of smell about a 14 years ago, until it was completely gone about 9 years ago. According to my ENT, after several tests, the cause was damage to the nerve endings in my nose which send the message to the brain of a scent. This damage, he diagnosed, was caused by chronic sinus infections. I am, as the others, hopeful that the essential oils will be help. I will keep you posted of whatever the outcome.

Lise M Andersen said...

Hi Lillian - Thank you so much for sharing this. I hope you will be returning with positive news!

Chuck Yoder said...

I have no sense of smell have lost all hope which interferes with my life I have to listen to my body when I get hungry went to an oncologist no answer Doctor told me no cure now I feel it's endangering my health what to do.

Lise M Andersen said...

Hi Chuck - Please read some of the posted comments -- there are support groups ready to help, some on Facebook. I hope you can connect with others who struggle with the same issue and find some help and encouragement. I wish you the best

Elizabeth Kingsbury said...

I am so excited! I lost my sense of smell in the early 1980's while in the Air Force. Doctors can find no physiological reason for the loss. Said it was probably "chemical". No idea what caused it. So, I have been living with no sense of smell and the resulting loss of taste. All I have is a sense of sweet, salty, bitter, sour. I would be beyond ecstatic to regain this sense. I miss the smell of fresh cut grass, thanksgiving dinner cooking, all the memories smells and so much more. I have a smoke detector in every room. Am going to give the essential oils a try and see what happens. EXCITED!!!!!

Unknown said...

Elizabeth, please join one of the Facebook groups listed in one of my posts above. One of the members is the woman who authored smell training and us a friend of mine. There are a couple of possibilities for attending smell training sessions next spring. I am currently doing smell training myself and it has changed the nature of my anosmia. I have high hopes for recovery!! - Wendy

Lise M Andersen said...

HI Elizabeth - Thanks so much for sharing this. As you can see from Wendy's comment, there are groups on Facebook that are ready to help you. I hope you find help, support and that your sense of smell will return. I wish you the best! Thanks so much Wendy for continuing to check back here. :D

yogie prama said...

hello, my name is Haryogi, MD. I am resident in ENT department from Brawijaya University, Malang, East Java, Indonesia.

i am from Indonesia so i’m sorry if my english so bad,

i’m doing my final paper to become an otorhinolaryngologist about olfactory testing and training / smell training for patients with rhinosinusitis wheter it is acute or chronic, or vasomotor or even allergic

i need information about smell training / olfactory training,

1. is there any special store that i can buy the odorant of essential oils for my thesis?
2. is there any specific percentage of odorant / essential oils, i mean for example 70% or 95% or something specific numbers of the essential oils that can be used for professor Hummel method olfactory / smell training?
3. if don’t, is the essential oils that maybe i can found in bodyshop/perfume shop can be used for this smell / olfactory traning?


thank you very much
Haryogi Pramuditya, MD
resident of ENT department
Medical Faculty of Brawijaya University
Malang, East Java, Indonesia

+6281233445677

Lise M Andersen said...

Hello Yogie Prana - Thank you for your comment and questions (your English is very good!). The essential oils you are looking for can be purchased from New Directions Australia http://www.newdirections.com.au
To my understanding: the oils are used pure and sniffed directly from the bottle
Be sure you are using pure essential oils - NOT a dilution and NOT a perfume. Best of luck with it.

yogie prama said...

hello Lise, thank you for your reply!

well, now I know that I have to find essential oils, and NOT the DILUTED essential oils, thank's for your advice!

there's one more thing that bother in my mind,, where can I find the Sniffin' Stick Test?

i am looking and keep asking everywhere in my country, Indonesia but i cannot find any of them :(

Lise M Andersen said...

Hi Yogie. You have a couple of possibilities here. You could obtain empty INHALER casings and make your own. Please check this blog for a how to on making inhalers if you are in doubt about what i mean. Aletrnatively, if you are looking for the kind of scent-papers usually used to test perfumes, I am guessing a supplier of perfumery items or soap making would be possibilities.

Ann said...

I lost my smell after a bout of flu. It did come back, quite a bit, but then faded away again. It would be nice to know if anyone found trying these essential oils was successful to some degree?

Lise M Andersen said...

Hi Ann, I encourage you to check some of the comments above. There is a special group on Facebook about this.

MtnLioness said...

Thanks for posting this! I had hoped that when I got to the bottom of the page to see at least one update on those who were going to try essential oils. My husband has never really had a sense of smell, and I've been researching--hoping to find him a cure. He's had sinus issues most of his life, and I believe this is the cause. He can smell popcorn and coffee, and occasionally what I'm cooking for dinner. But otherwise he doesn't smell anything else. I'm going to see if I can get him to do the oil routine. :-)

Lise M Andersen said...

Hi MtnLioness - If you check the comments post, you'll find a mention of a Facebook group. I believe you might find more answers there.

Anonymous said...

Just want to point out that your claim of not being able to taste with anosmia is false. I developed anosmia after a bad concussion when I was 19 (I could smell and taste perfectly my entire life leading up to that). I can still taste just fine; the taste is just a bit dulled from what it was before. Your sense of smell only enhances your sense of taste. It doesn't completely define it.

Lise M Andersen said...

Thank you Anon for sharing this information. :)

Linda K. said...

I lost my sense of smell in early January after a bout of sinusitis and a bronchial infection. It is driving me crazy. I started doing the therapy you described in your blog today and hope to have good luck with it.
Thanks. Linda

Anonymous said...

Hi Karen. Thanks for sharing. I feel like I just read about myself. I have 24/7 gross green discharge. Ill try limiting sugars. Have u tried the essential oils? Did it work?

Lauren said...

I have had the same experience. Fractured skull and loss of smell due to a horse back riding injury. Did this help you at all?

Anonymous said...

I had surgery for removal of a brain tumour near the olfactory groove last year. The surgeon was unable to save the nerves on the left side, the nerves on the right were saved. However I have lost my smell and taste and this could be a result of scar tissue. I have been doing olfactory training several times a day since November last year with coffee beans, ground cloves, essential oils of lemon, eucalyptus, and lavendar. I sometimes get a faint whiff of what I am sniffing and usually at the first sniff and then it disappears. What I find disconcerting for me is that the faint smells have not got stronger over time, and in mid January this year I started to develop sores above my top lip and under the tip of my nose. Yesterday I stopped sniffing the essential oils but continue with the coffee beans, ground cloves and a strong rose scented body shop handcream. The sores have quietened down and are healing. I think I may have developed some sort of allergy with the essential oils and I am curious to know if anyone else has experienced this over time. It's been really interesting reading past comments. People with smell and taste have no idea what it is like to lose these senses. We take them far too much for granted

Lise M Andersen said...

Hi Anon - thanks for sharing this. I encourage you to check the comments for the name of a Facebook group where you can interact with orhers on this issue. I wish you the best of luck.

Claire said...

Hi Lisa,

After a very bad cold, sinus infection and bronchitis I lost my sense of smell/taste. It has been 7 weeks now and I am starting an essential oil therapy regimen to try and regain my senses. I am 59 years old and am hoping and praying This therapy will work. I consulted with a specialist at Johns Hopkins and he recommended trying the essential oil therapy. I have had chronic sinusitis and allergies for many years, but I have never experienced anything like this. I will keep posting updates. The doctor started me on steroids for severe sinus inflammation and I have started using a few oils. My question is: how long do I sniff each of the oils, and how often? I also have sleep apnea and was wondering if it would be safe/effective to add a couple of oil drops to the CPAP humidifier reservoir. Has anyone asked about this? Thank you for having this blog. I am very encouraged by the posts and have faith that my senses will eventually be restored.

Lise M Andersen said...

Hey there Claire,

Thanks you for sharing your story. I do hope you find help with this. If you scroll up and check the comments in this thread, you should find answers to your questions. You may also wish to join three Facebook group that is mentioned in one of the comments so you can share your experiences with others in the same situation. I hope this therapy works for you.