Health – The Importance of the Sense of Smell

Our sense of smell is hugely important – especially when it comes to evoking memories. It’s funny how a particular scent can transport you back in time, to a particular memory. The power of smell is surprising every time. There’s a reason why so many real estate agents recommend baking cookies or bread before an open house.

Smell is one of our five senses and linked by the olfactory bulb to the limbic system that controls behavior, emotion, and even memory. This is accomplished by way of odorant molecules that travel through the nose to receptors and the olfactory bulb. Once upon a time, smell would have been important to track food, water, and sense danger.

DID YOU KNOW? The average human will have about 5 million smell receptors whereas a dog has anywhere from 125-300 million!

But like our other senses, smell holds a crucial role in our life, and here are five reasons why it is more important than you may think:

Taste: Taste receptors found on the tongue, the roof of the mouth and the back of throat help us to determine if a food is sweet, salty, sour, savory or bitter. But 80% of the flavor actually comes from our sense of smell. So fresh fruit like bananas, raspberries and blueberries, or popcorn tastes so good because of a combination of smell and the appropriate taste receptors in the mouth. That explains why, when hit with a dreadful cold and barely able to breathe through our nose, we don’t care much about what we eat.

Danger: Sometimes things just smell awful, like when you’ve left something in the fridge too long or your favorite sneakers are too well-worn and ready for the trash bin. When an odor is unpleasant, our nose gives us a warning signal of danger. Think of fire or gas; either of these smells tell us that something dangerous is nearby.

Memory: A certain smell can act like a punch in the gut, or like arms in a loving embrace. It affects the way that you can evoke certain memories. For some people, it brings back a memory of being a child and resting peacefully against a mother’s breast. That’s how strong it is. Whether it’s the smell of family recipes or the perfume your partner wore on the first date, smell creates a powerful imprint on your mind.

Health: It is no real surprise that lack of smell could signal big problems. But it can happen. Changes in your sense of smell can occur when you get a cold or flu or suffer from an allergy. Anosmia is a condition wherein a person completely loses their sense of smell, and as we know today, this can be a symptom of Covid-19. Not only this, studies have shown that some sufferers of Parkinson’s and Alzheimers can show signs of diminishing sense of smell prior to being diagnosed.

The power of smell enriches your life, giving it another dimension that we might take for granted. However, we must be mindful that the devil has many ways in which to use our senses against us. We read in Counsels for the Church, 166:

“All should guard the senses, lest Satan gain victory over them; for these are the avenues of the soul.

“You will have to become a faithful sentinel over your eyes, ears, and all your senses if you would control your mind and prevent vain and corrupt thoughts from staining your soul. The power of grace alone can accomplish this most desirable work.

“Satan and his angels are busy creating a paralyzed condition of the senses so that cautions, warnings, and reproofs shall not be heard; or, if heard, that they shall not take effect upon the heart and reform the life.”

Sources:, , and and The Dana Foundation