Smell-Blind | Did you know that we’re all smell-blind to something?


Did you know that all of us have “blind spots” in our olfactory system?

We have recently learned that humans can distinguish about 1 trillion odors.

However, it seems that no single person is likely to possess this ability.

At the Smell and Taste Clinic in Dresden, Germany, Ilona Croy and colleagues tested 1600 people with a normal sense of smell. When presented with 100 different odors, 98.3% could not detect at least one of the tested substances. It is likely that if more odors were tested, this number would go up to 100%

These “blind spots” are called specific anosmias and there is evidence from other research that they may influence our food preferences.

Interestingly, 6% of the 1600 people tested by Croy et al could not smell l-carvone, one of the major constituents of spearmint oil. Only one person (0.5%) could not smell geraniol, but for that person, oils like rose, geranium and palmarosa will smell totally different to most people. If that 0.5% is representative of reality, then 150,000 people in the US are smell-blind to geraniol.

The good news is that you can train your nose to recognize the odors you did not previously register. So if we use essential oils regularly, we may be unwittingly training our noses to distinguish their constituents.


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