Trialling some new smell training methods

Better ways to smell train

Ever since I received that single line of instruction from my ENT in 2013 (“just smell four essential oils twice a day”) I have been seeking the best methods for smell training. I wanted to know how, why, what, when…there never seemed enough advice. Even in the dozens of peer-reviewed articles written since 2009, when Professor Hummel of the University of Dresden published the first paper on smell training, there is never any description of exactly what to do. How many seconds or minutes? What’s the best delivery method? What kind of sniffs? How far should you hold it from your nose?

So much of this is trial and error, and I also think that so much depends on the user. You can make all the guidelines you like, but if the patient doesn’t have the patience to sit there for the training period, or they find they are never near the smell training materials when the urge strikes, there is not going to be much of a result.

I’m going to outline a few critical points to smell training:

  1. You need to make it a habit. According to scientists, it takes 21 days to start a habit. So let’s start with the critical 3 week period. During which…
  2. You need to make the smell training materials conveniently available to you. Keep a set at your desk, a set in the kitchen, a set by your bed (for before bed, and on waking). Make sure you have smell training materials where you can get to them easily.
  3. Keep the oils out of the sun. They go off if they are exposed to light. Using the jar method, which is described elsewhere on this blog, is a great way to preserve the oils and keep convenient packages of scent close by.
  4. Smell mindfully. Turn off the computer and the radio. Be with the smell. Don’t get into an argument with yourself about how angry you are over your smell loss.

But who is to say that the jar method is the very best? I recently asked some of the members of my Facebook group to trial three separate methods, which you can see in the picture atop this post. My guinea pigs tested the jar, a “pen” and a squeezy bottle. The pen is a bit like a felt tip, but there is no tip to it, and an absorbent barrel inside the housing is saturated with essential oil, but this stays down inside the barrel away from your nose, so that there is no risk of touching your nose directly to the absorbent material. The squeezy bottle, which is sort of cigar-shaped, has a thin nozzle and a hollow housing, into which an absorbent strip has been placed. By squeezing the bottle repeatedly, you can direct a stream of scented air towards your nose. Think of a tiny, empty ketchup bottle.  Let me sum up what I thought would be the pros and cons to each of these three methods:


Pros: convenient; nose can’t touch the essential oils, can be replenished; light protected

Cons: while small, heavier than the other two options


Pros: super light weight; easy to carry around in pocket or handbag, nose can’t touch oils

Cons: smell not very concentrated; can’t be replenished, must be discarded; not light proof

Squeezy bottle

Pros: super light weight; easy to carry around in pocket or handbag, nose can’t touch oils; can be replenished

Cons: Smell not very concentrated; not light proof.


I asked users about which method gave them the greatest confidence that they were getting maximum exposure, which I think is hugely important. I also asked about whether they would be willing to sacrifice some of this confidence if the method was more convenient. All of my respondents said that the jar was their favourite method—it won unanimously. About half said that they would still like the pens to carry around. The squeezy bottles came in last, but I think that if the concentration of the smell could be increased, they would provide a better alternative to the pens, which must be discarded after a few month’s use.

I’ll continue to investigate better ways to smell train, and you will hear about them here. Get in touch if you have comments. 

Want to know more about how to make a smell training kit? Click here