How Essential Oils Can Be The Key To Restoring COVID-Induced Smell Loss

Smoking, infection, or head injuries can all result in a loss of smell, reports USA Today — as well as a case of COVID-19 infection. In fact, roughly three-quarters of COVID cases are reported to involve a loss of smell or taste. Olfactory loss can be more serious than just the inability to enjoy a scented candle, particularly in the event that an individual is unable to detect the scent of fire or gas leaks. While many people do regain their sense of smell within a matter of days or weeks, others experience COVID-induced smell loss on an ongoing basis.

In a new study published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, researchers looked at the effectiveness of a treatment method known as olfactory training in helping patients regain their sense of smell post COVID-19 infection. The study team recruited 275 adults, the majority of which were female, with an average age of 41. For three months, participants underwent one of three different varieties of olfactory training. As per the study commentary, the first group was given physician-assigned essential oil scents of rose, clove, lemon, and eucalyptus. The second group was able to individually pick their four preferred scents out of more than 20 options. The third group also utilized patient-preferred scents but with the addition of digital visual aids to represent each aroma. A fourth control group received no olfactory training.

Steps for practicing olfactory training

Twice daily for three months, participants spent 15 seconds sniffing each of their four essential oils, leaving a 30-second rest period between each one, as per the study. WebMD reports that researchers drew a connection between participants who got to choose their own scents with the addition of visual aids, and minimal symptom improvement due to a possible placebo effect. However, there were no significant differences observed between any of the groups.

For those interested in further exploring olfactory training following a COVID-19 infection, Kaiser Permanente suggests choosing four different essential oils and smelling each one individually for 15 seconds while leaving a 10-second rest period between each. While inhaling, also try to recall what each aroma once smelled like. Repeat the process twice a day and select four new scents to practice with every three months. Suggested essential oils to rotate to after the initial three months include jasmine, menthol, tangerine, and thyme, followed by bergamot, gardenia, rosemary, and green tea at the 6-month mark. The training works by giving our smell-related nerves a continuous workout, however, some individuals may have more success with olfactory training than others.