Loss Of Taste And Smell: Causes, Diagnosis, And Natural Treatment Options

Medically reviewed by Vd. Naveen Sharma, Ayurveda Physician
by Atulya Satishkumar

If you have a cold or cough, the chances are that you have experienced a loss of taste and smell. It may be partial or complete, depending on the severity of your condition. It may also be a common complaint among those who are aged and recovering from serious illnesses, such as cancer.

Many medical conditions can cause a loss of sense of smell and taste. In this article, we will discuss what causes it, the treatment options you can consider, and how you can manage the symptoms by using natural remedies.

How Do Smell And Taste Work?

Your senses of smell and taste are often connected. However, as you age, these senses can change, and you may experience a change or even loss of smell and taste (1).

The senses of smell and taste are a part of the chemosensory system. The ability to smell things around you comes from special sensory cells called the olfactory sensory neurons. These are found within the olfactory bulb inside the nose.

Each of these olfactory neurons has an odor receptor that is stimulated by microscopic molecules released by the substances around us. Smells reach the olfactory receptors via two pathways. The first is through the nostrils, and the second is via a channel that connects the roof of the throat to the nose. The aroma from food releases aromas through the second channel.

The ability to taste is also referred to as gustatory perception. The tongue has about 2,000 to 5,000 chemical receptors on its surface. These are also more commonly called taste buds.

The five major tastes that are perceived by your taste buds are sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami. You can perceive taste when water-soluble chemicals in your mouth come in contact with your taste buds (2).

The brain receives signals from the tongue and processes them into distinct tastes. The sense of taste can also be linked to other senses, like the sense of smell and brain functions.

In the next section, we will discuss some major factors that may cause a loss of taste and smell.

What Causes The Loss Of Taste And Smell?

As we have already mentioned, your sense of smell and taste are correlated. In fact, when you sense a loss in taste, it could actually be a result of impairment in the sense of smell.

Conditions like hyposmia, anosmia, parosmia, and phantosmia can cause impairment in perceiving smells. Similarly, some common taste disorders are ageusia, hypogeusia, dysgeusia, parageusia, and hypergeusia (3).

Both smell and taste disorders are often the results of similar conditions or factors. Loss of smell and taste can be triggered by sinus, respiratory conditions, aging, head trauma, dental issues like oral infection, placement of dental appliances (like dentures), and Bell’s palsy (4).

If your senses of smell and taste seem to have been impaired, it is best to get diagnosed to determine the underlying cause of your condition.

Diagnosis Of Loss Of Taste And Smell

Both smell and taste disorders are often diagnosed by an ENT specialist or otolaryngologist. Your doctor may test for the lowest concentration of taste that you can sense and odor you can smell. You may be asked to taste different substances of varying concentrations for the same.

You may also be asked to take a simple ‘sip, spit, and rinse’ test. Your doctor might conduct a physical examination of your ears, nose, or throat.

Once your condition is diagnosed accurately, the doctor will suggest the appropriate mode of treatment.

Medical Treatment Options

The method of treatment depends on the severity of symptoms, age, and general health. The treatment options may include:

  • If some medication is causing this condition, you will be asked to discontinue or stop taking it.
  • Zinc deficiency can hamper your sense of taste and smell (5). Zinc can help stimulate food intake by triggering the hypothalamus to enhance the sense of taste.
  • Quitting smoking can help regain a sense of taste over time.

If you are looking for natural alternatives to your problem, the home remedies listed below might help.

Home Remedies For Loss Of Taste And Smell

1. Castor Oil

The ricinoleic acid in castor oil imparts powerful anti-inflammatory properties to it (6). Using castor oil as nasal drops can help alleviate symptoms of swelling and inflammation associated with a cold or flu, thereby restoring your sense of smell and taste.

You Will Need

1 teaspoon of warmed cold-pressed castor oil

What You Have To Do

Put a drop of warmed castor oil into each of your nostrils.

How Often You Should Do This

Do this twice daily – once in the morning, and once in the evening.

2. Garlic

Garlic compounds have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory activities (7). This can help treat a stuffy nose, relieving cold and flu-like symptoms. This, in turn, may help you breathe easier and restore your sense of smell and taste.

You Will Need

  • 2-3 chopped garlic cloves
  • 1 cup of water

What You Have To Do

  1. Bring a cup of water to a boil in a saucepan.
  2. Add the chopped garlic cloves and simmer for a few minutes.
  3. Strain and drink the tea.

How Often You Should Do This

You can drink this twice daily.

3. Ginger

The warming properties of ginger can help treat cold (8). The strong aroma of ginger enhances your sense of smell, while its flavor stimulates your taste by activating your taste buds.

You Will Need

Small bits of peeled ginger

What You Have To Do

  1. Chew small bits of peeled ginger at regular intervals.
  2. Alternatively, you can consume ginger tea.

How Often You Should Do This

Do this daily.

Note: If you consume ginger in large quantities, it may cause heartburn, throat irritation, and, in some cases, diarrhea.

4. Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper contains capsaicin that is known to clear nasal congestion (9), (10). This, in turn, can help restore your lost sense of taste and smell.

You Will Need
  • 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of honey
  • 1 cup of warm water

What You Have To Do

  1. Mix a teaspoon each of honey and cayenne pepper powder in a glass of water.
  2. Drink the concoction.

How Often You Should Do This

You can drink this at least once daily.

Note: Cayenne pepper can cause stomach ache if taken in large quantities. If you are taking medication for high blood pressure, you might have to consult your physician before using this remedy.

5. Lemon

Lemons are acidic and rich in vitamin C and exhibit antimicrobial activity (11). Its strong, characteristic odor, along with chemical composition, may help reduce infection that causes blocked/runny nose and enhance your sense of taste and smell.

You Will Need
  • ½ lemon
  • 1 glass of water
  • Honey (as required)

What You Have To Do

  1. Add the juice of half a lemon to a glass of water.
  2. Add some honey to it and mix well.
  3. Drink the juice immediately.

How Often You Should Do This

Drink this twice daily, preferably before meals.

Note: Do not use this remedy if you have a throat infection as it may aggravate it.

6. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar exhibits antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties (12), (13). This may help fight off the microbes that cause infections and clear nasal congestion, thereby enhancing the senses of smell and taste.

You Will Need
  • 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup of water
  • Honey (as required)

What You Have To Do

  1. Add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to a glass of warm water.
  2. Add a little honey as needed.
  3. Mix well and drink the mixture.

How Often You Should Do This

You can drink this once daily.

Note: Consuming unregulated amounts of undiluted ACV can cause tooth enamel erosion, digestive disorders, and increase potassium levels in your body.

7. Oil Pulling

Oil pulling helps promote oral health, thereby helping you get rid of the foul taste in your mouth (14). It may also help manage symptoms of sore throat and refresh the taste in your mouth.

You Will Need

1 tablespoon of coconut or sesame oil

What You Have To Do

  1. Swish coconut or sesame oil in your mouth for 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Spit it out and brush your teeth.

How Often You Should Do This

You can do this once daily (every morning).

8. Carom Seeds

Carom seeds have anti-inflammatory properties that can help eliminate nasal congestion (15). This can help enhance the perception of smell and taste.

You Will Need

  • 1 tablespoon of carom seeds
  • A small muslin cloth

What You Have To Do

  1. Put a tablespoon of carom seeds in a small piece of muslin cloth.
  2. Tie the cloth and inhale the strong aroma of carom seeds.

How Often You Should Do This

You can do this multiple times daily.

9. Cinnamon

Cinnamon possesses anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties (16). This may help reduce any infection that causes nasal congestion, thereby enhancing your sense of smell and taste.

You Will Need

  • ½ teaspoon of cinnamon powder
  • 1 teaspoon of honey

What You Have To Do

  1. Mix half a teaspoon of cinnamon powder with a teaspoon of honey.
  2. Apply this paste to your tongue and leave it on for about 10 minutes.

How Often You Should Do This

Do this twice daily.

Note: Excessive consumption of cinnamon can cause mouth sores. Do not use this remedy more than the stipulated dose.

11. Peppermint

Menthol, the main constituent of peppermint leaves, possesses anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties (17), (18). These can help alleviate symptoms of cold and flu that might be suppressing your sense of smell and taste.

You Will Need

  • 10-15 peppermint leaves
  • 1 cup of water
  • Honey

What You Have To Do

  1. Add 10 to 15 peppermint leaves to a cup of water.
  2. Bring it to a boil in a saucepan.
  3. Simmer and strain.
  4. Once the tea cools down a bit, add some honey to it.
  5. Drink it up.

How Often You Should Do This

You can drink mint tea twice daily.

12. Curry Leaves

Several studies show that curry leaves possess anti-inflammatory properties (19). This may help reduce inflammation associated with cold and flu that may be blocking your nasal passages, thereby restoring the senses of taste and smell.

You Will Need

  • 10-15 curry leaves
  • 1 glass of water

What You Have To Do

  1. Add 10 to 15 curry leaves into a glass of water.
  2. Soak them for about 30 minutes or more.
  3. Drink the mixture.

How Often You Should Do This

Drink this twice daily.

13. Eucalyptus Oil

Eucalyptus oil contains eucalyptol (1,8-cineole). The anti-inflammatory and mucolytic properties of eucalyptol help relieve symptoms of upper respiratory diseases that could have triggered the loss of smell and taste (20).

You Will Need
  • 1 drop of eucalyptus oil
  • 1 bowl of water
  • A towel

What You Have To Do

  1. Add a drop of eucalyptus oil to a bowl of hot water.
  2. Inhale the steam and cover your head with a towel.
  3. Continue for 10 to 15 minutes.

How Often You Should Do This

You can do this 1 to 2 times daily.

Note: Excessive inhalation of undiluted vapors of eucalyptus oil can cause dizziness, stomach pain, nausea, weakness, etc. Hence, make sure you stick to the amounts specified above.

14. Vitamins

Deficiency in vitamin D is associated with loss of smell and taste (21). Vitamins A, B, and E help regulate chemosensory function, but there is very little medical evidence to prove the link of their deficiencies with loss of sense of smell or taste.

Consume foods rich in these vitamins like shellfish, cereals, cheese, and milk to combat the deficiencies. You can also take additional supplements for these nutrients after consulting your doctor.

You must be aware that your diet has a huge role to play in restoring your lost sense of taste and smell. While you are following the above remedies, also remember to alter your eating habits. Follow these diet tips to enhance your sense of smell and taste.

Diet Tips

  • Sources of protein like fish, chicken, or soy may enhance the sense of taste as they are savory (22). You can also have foods like eggs, cheese, and white meats.
  • Consume foods rich in zinc like legumes, nuts, whole grains, shellfish, and dark chocolate. Zinc has been known to stimulate food intake via neuropeptide (23). Therefore, zinc can potentially enhance the sense of taste.

You will have to alter your lifestyle choices to manage your condition. Here are a few tips that can help.

Prevention Tips

Loss of taste and smell is an issue that surfaces with age. Usually, in many cases, the cause is temporary, such as an infection that causes inflammation of the nasal passages. Treating the underlying condition with the help of the home remedies listed in this article can help in relieving the symptoms. However, in cases of aging, Alzheimer’s disease, and chemical exposure, loss of taste and smell may be permanent. Hence, it is important to consult a doctor to diagnose and treat the underlying issue.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

How long does it take for your taste buds to come back?

Usually, taste buds have a cycle that lasts between 10-15 days, and they should come back within this period. However, it may take longer, depending on the cause of your condition.

Can stress affect your sense of taste?

Yes, longer and more severe cases of stress can cause an impaired sense of taste, which can make you consume more foods than you normally would. It may even cause a weird taste in your mouth and make foods taste foul.

23 sources

Stylecraze has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

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