The science of smell may be too complex to categorize.
The science of smell may be too complex to categorize. As per researchers, the scent receptors in the human nose are designed to help us identify the foods we need for a healthy body and the foods that need to be avoided. A few smells also indicate danger in our brains. Ten basic smells that a human nose can sense include:
- Fruit: Human nose may sense all types of fruity smells. They are natural aromas (except for citruses like lemon, lime, and orange).
- Lemon: Lemon or citrus is usually used for cleaning products for decades. They smell sharp and fresh.
- Fragrant: Fragrant scents are light and natural. They are usually used in perfumes. Examples include floral, cologne, and rosy smells.
- Minty and peppermint: This is usually considered as fresh and cool. It may be used as spices and in oral hygiene products. Examples include eucalyptus and camphor.
- Sweet: They are often considered rich, warm, creamy, and light aroma. This type of aroma is usually sensed in chocolate, vanilla, caramel, and malty scents.
- Toasted and nutty: They are usually distinct smells. Examples include peanut butter, popcorn, and almonds.
- Woody and resinous: This smell is usually picked up easily by the nose. They are close to natural smells. Examples include scents of pine or fresh cut grass, musty, moldy, heavy, burnt, and smoky.
- Chemical: They are synthetic smells, and the nose may easily recognize the most used alcohols and disinfectants. Examples include ammonia, bleach, gasoline, and paint. These smells usually indicate danger to our brains.
- Pungent: It is a sharp and bad smell. These scents make a person feel when they smell it. Examples include blue cheese, cigar smoke, fecal matter (e.g., manure), sweat, and sometimes, smells of onion and garlic.
- Sickening or decaying: They are more advanced than sharp/pungent smells. These types of smell cause a person to dry heave when the nose detects them in heavy concentrations. They are unpleasant and insufferable. Examples include rotting meat, sewage, burnt rubber, sulphuric acid, and household gas.
How does the sense of smell work?
The sense of smell is a part of the chemosensory system. The ability to smell comes from specialized sensory cells called olfactory sensory neurons, which are usually connected directly to the brain. These cells are usually found inside the nose and have odor receptors. Once the neurons detect the molecules from outside, they send messages to the brain, which identifies the smell by creating a unique representation in the brain. These representations are registered by the brain as a particular smell.
What are the different types of smell disorders?
Different types of smell disorders are:
- Hyposmia: It is a reduced ability to sense odors.
- Anosmia: It is the complete inability to detect odors.
- Parosmia: It is a change in the normal perception of odors (when something that normally smells pleasant now smells foul).
- Phantosmia: It is the sensation of an odor that is not present.
Diagnosis by a doctor is important to identify and treat the underlying cause of a potential smell disorder. If the problem is caused by medications, the doctor may change the medication. If there is an obstruction in the nose, which may be restricting the airflow, a patient might need surgery to remove them and restore the sense of smell. Usually, people recover their ability to smell when they recover from an illness, which was causing their inability to smell. Some people recover their sense of smell spontaneously for no obvious reason. If a smell disorder cannot be successfully treated, the patient might want to seek counseling to help them adjust.
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Medically Reviewed on 10/8/2020
What’s that smell? Ten basic odor categories sniffed out with math: