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Loss of smell and taste can significantly impact a person’s quality of life. These senses play an important role in the ability to enjoy food, detect danger, and even form social connections.
Losing them can result in a reduced desire to eat, which can lead to malnutrition and weight loss. It can also cause frustration, anxiety, and depression, particularly in cases where the loss is prolonged or permanent.
It’s important to seek medical attention if you experience a sudden or prolonged loss of smell and taste to identify the underlying cause and seek appropriate treatment. (1)
The good news is many home remedies can be employed to fight the loss of taste and smell.
Home Remedies That Improve Loss of Taste and Smell
Given below are some natural remedies to help improve the loss of taste and smell.
1. Perform olfactory training with essential oils
Just like going to the gym can improve your muscles, spending time sniffing different odors can help enhance your ability to detect them.
Olfactory training is a noninvasive and safe intervention used to treat patients with olfactory loss, also known as anosmia. The process involves smelling a set of specific odors, such as essential oils of lemon, clove, rose, and eucalyptus, twice a day for a certain period.
Studies have shown that olfactory training can lead to significant improvements in the sense of smell in patients with olfactory loss, even in cases where the condition has lasted for an extended period.
In addition to improvements in the sense of smell, olfactory training has also been found to have positive effects on the quality of life of patients with olfactory loss. Patients report an increase in their appetite, improved mood, and a better sense of well-being.
So, go ahead and take a whiff of various scents — get those nostrils working!
To perform olfactory training:
- Grab a jar with a pleasant smell such as the one with your essential oil.
- Hold the jar close to your nose.
- Take quick, gentle sniffs for about 20 seconds.
- While you’re sniffing, really focus your thoughts on what you’re trying to smell.
- After sniffing the first jar, take a moment to relax and take a few deep breaths.
- You can move on to the next fragrance.
2. Regularly do nasal irrigation
Nasal irrigation, also known as a nasal wash or nasal rinse, is a safe and effective method for treating nasal disease, including loss of taste and smell. The process involves flushing the nasal cavity with a saline solution using a neti pot, squeeze bottle, or bulb syringe.
Studies have shown that the regular use of nasal irrigation can help clear nasal secretions, reduce nasal congestion, decrease postnasal drip, alleviate sinus pain or headaches, and improve taste and smell. Additionally, it can improve sleep quality by reducing snoring and improving breathing.
Nasal irrigation is generally well tolerated and has minimal side effects when used properly. However, it is important to use distilled or sterile water and follow proper hygiene practices to avoid the risk of infection.
Overall, nasal irrigation can be a useful adjunct treatment for patients with nasal disease, including loss of taste and smell. (4)
3. Perform steam inhalation daily
Steam inhalation is a home remedy that can help relieve symptoms of loss of smell and taste. It involves inhaling steam from hot water, which can help to open up the nasal passages, reduce inflammation, and clear mucus.
This intervention can also help to improve the sense of smell and taste, as well as alleviate other symptoms such as nasal congestion and headaches.
To do steam inhalation:
- Boil water in a pot and remove it from the heat.
- Place a towel over your head and lean over the hot water.
- Inhale the steam for several minutes, being careful not to get too close to the water to avoid burning.
4. Drink garlic tea
Garlic is known for its strong aroma and flavor, which can help to stimulate the sense of taste and smell. Studies have shown that garlic contains compounds that can enhance the activity of taste receptors and promote the secretion of saliva, which can improve the perception of taste.
In the context of COVID-19, some patients may experience loss of taste and smell, also known as anosmia and ageusia, as a result of the viral infection.
While there is no specific cure for these symptoms, some anecdotal evidence suggests that consuming garlic may help to improve the sense of taste and smell in some patients as it may aid in re-increasing or regaining the decreased or lost gustatory sense in patients. (7)
How to consume garlic:
- Chop and simmer 2–3 garlic cloves in water for a few minutes.
- Strain the tea.
- Drink it 2–3 times every day.
5. Consume a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients that play vital roles in many physiological processes, including the maintenance of cellular membranes and the modulation of immune and inflammatory responses.
In the context of olfactory loss, some studies have suggested that omega-3 supplementation may have a protective effect against the development or worsening of the condition.
A study that included patients undergoing skull base surgery found that omega-3 supplementation was protective against olfactory loss during the recovery period. In the case of post-viral olfactory loss, some researchers have suggested that omega-3 supplementation may aid in the recovery process. (8)(9)
Note: Only take any omega-3 supplements after consulting a doctor. You can also consume foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Walnuts, flaxseeds, and fatty fish (including salmon and sardines) are good dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
6. Do regular oil pulling
Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic practice that involves swishing oil, typically coconut oil or sesame oil, in the mouth for several minutes to improve oral health and overall well-being.
Some anecdotal and research evidence suggests that oil pulling may have a range of health benefits, including enhanced oral hygiene and improvement in taste loss.
It is possible that oil pulling may have some useful effects on the sense of taste when practiced regularly. Some proponents of oil pulling suggest that the practice can help to freshen and stimulate the mind, which may in turn strengthen the senses.
However, more research is needed to confirm these potential benefits. (10)
7. Consume foods high in alpha-lipoic acid
Alpha-lipoic acid is a natural antioxidant that is found in a variety of foods, including spinach, broccoli, and potatoes. It has been studied for its potential benefits in a wide range of health conditions.
Some studies have suggested that alpha-lipoic acid may have a protective effect against loss of smell. For instance, a study that included patients with olfactory dysfunction in the upper respiratory tract found that oral alpha-lipoic acid supplementation significantly improved olfactory function compared to a placebo.
However, more research is needed to fully understand the potential benefits of alpha-lipoic acid in loss of smell. (11)
Can I be treated for anosmia?
An otolaryngologist will be able to tell if your case of anosmia can be treated. Treatment generally includes antibiotics, corticosteroids, and surgery.
I feel like I have lost my sense of taste with my sense of smell. Is it possible?
Yes, experts explain that it is pretty common for people to believe that they have lost their sense of taste upon losing their sense of smell.
I can only smell certain things and not all. Why?
This condition is known as functional anosmia, which refers to a greatly decreased ability to smell, even though some smell sensations may still be present.
What is phantosmia?
Phantosmia is when you perceive smells that don’t have any real source, for instance, smelling something that isn’t actually there, such as the scent of smoke or burnt toast. (9)
Why am I experiencing loss of taste and smell?
There are a few reasons you might be experiencing loss of taste and smell. One common cause is viral infections, such as COVID-19. A viral infection can affect your ability to taste and smell.
Other conditions, such as sinus infections, allergies, and nasal polyps, can also lead to loss of taste and smell. (1) Sometimes, head injuries or neurological disorders can impact your senses as well. Exposure to certain chemicals can also affect your ability to taste and smell. (1)
It’s important to note that certain factors can contribute to loss of taste and smell. For example, poor nutrition, using cocaine through the nose, and undergoing radiation therapy for head or neck cancer can all have an impact.
Other underlying health conditions, such as uncontrolled blood pressure or diabetes, obesity, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease, can also be linked to loss of taste and smell. (1)
Loss of smell and taste affects a person’s daily life and can be caused by various factors, including viral infections, nasal congestion, and neurological disorders.
While medical consultation is recommended, home remedies such as steam inhalation, saline nasal rinses, and dietary interventions can help manage symptoms. However, it’s important to seek medical attention if symptoms persist or worsen.