Worried that you can’t smell your essential oils in the diffuser? Don’t be. Your nose is not broken. Nor is the diffuser. You’re simply experiencing olfactory fatigue, a curious phenomenon also known as nose blindness.

Olfactory fatigue is a temporary, naturally-occurring, inability to distinguish a particular scent after prolonged exposure. Frequent exposure to any scent can lead to what is known as “habituation”, an experience-based sensitivity adaptation. Your olfactory receptors essentially go “blind”. It’s why you only notice an odor, such as the smell of tobacco smoke, sweat or a dirty nappy for a certain amount of time.

It’s got nothing to do with your nose being overwhelmed or “broken” – it’s simply your body’s way of ensuring the nervous system doesn’t become overloaded and unable to detect new stimuli.

Rather unfortunately, this neural adaptation also applies to good smells. It’s why you can’t smell the perfume you applied an hour ago, or the beautiful essential oil blend in your diffuser, but others can.

Diffusing essential oils in an ultrasonic diffuser releases a constant stream of the same odor molecules into the air, so it’s not surprising your nose becomes accustomed to a scent.

But – and this is important – just because you can’t smell your essential oils, it doesn’t mean you’re not experiencing the therapeutic benefits. Diffusing essential oils releases plant molecules into the air you breathe, which has a powerful and direct influence on the central nervous system.

Nevertheless, if you’re worried you’re becoming accustomed to your favourite scent, there are some steps you can take to keep your olfactory system “awake” and receptive:

  • Give your nose a break. Leave the room and get some fresh air for a few minutes
  • Try intermittent diffusion. The Appellation diffuser has an intermittent setting that disperses the oils at 20 second intervals. Or, you can simply diffuse continuously for 30 minutes on, and take an hour or two off
  • Don’t love a scent or a blend to death. Mix things up by trying out different essential oils in your diffuser
  • Try “training” your nose to increase smell sensitivity. This method, sniffing a variety of odors (fruity, flowery, spicy and resinous) every day over a period of 12 weeks is used by ENT physicians
  • Involve your family and play smell games with your children. Some creative ideas on that here
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