Loss of sense of taste and smell: causes and home remedies

Have you ever noticed that a certain food didn’t taste as good as it used to? Or that a once pungent smell didn’t bother you as much? Maybe you took a whiff of those spring flowers and smelled… nothing! While certainly alarming, this is most likely a result of a very common condition called anosmia, or the loss of your sense of smell.

Since our smell and taste buds are so closely linked, any conditions or irritants that cause swelling in the nasal passages can lead to a loss of smell and therefore taste. While typically just a temporary nuisance, loss of smell can also pose a dangerous threat, as your sense of smell is responsible for alerting you to dangers like gas leaks, rotten food, or fire. And because it affects your sense of taste, it can also lead to loss of interest in eating that results in unwanted weight loss and malnutrition.

A lost sense of taste may refer to a partial or total loss of taste. People may also use this phrase to describe an overpowering and typically unpleasant taste.

Many medical issues may lead to a loss of taste. Some of these issues are harmless, while others may require a doctor to diagnose them. The type of treatment will depend on the underlying cause.

What Causes Loss of Taste & Smell and How to Get Them Back

Colds, sinus infections, and general congestion are the most common causes of temporary loss of smell. Typically, your sense of smell will return as your congestion clears up. While this is the most common offender, there are plenty of other issues that can lead to loss of smell or taste. These include:

  • Smoking
  • Trauma to the head
  • Radiation therapy
  • Over-exposure to certain chemicals
  • Upper Respiratory Infection
  • Allergies
  • Sinus infections
  • Nasal polyps
  • Certain medications
  • Neurological conditions
  • Aging

Most commonly, upper respiratory infections are the cause of loss of smell and taste. This includes common colds and flus which cause nasal congestion.

Upper respiratory infections can be treated with over-the-counter (OTC) medications like antihistamines, decongestants, cough medicines, cough drops, and flu medicines. Home remedies like nasal irrigations or nasal sprays may also help alleviate congestion.

As your cold or flu clears up, your smell and taste should return within a few days, though some viral infections can cause permanent damage to your sense of taste.

The tongue is not the only sense organ that plays a role in taste. Taste is a more complex sense that involves the tongue, throat, roof of the mouth, and nose.

The sense of smell significantly affects how a person tastes food. Anosmia is the medical term for a loss of smell.

A person may have partial or total anosmia, which may cause them to think that they have lost their sense of taste.

Causes of taste disorders and a loss of taste include:

  • radiation therapy for cancer in this area of the body
  • head injuries
  • surgeries on the mouth, throat, nose, or ear
  • exposure to some chemicals, such as insecticides
  • upper respiratory infections, such as the common cold
  • sinus infections
  • middle ear infections
  • poor oral hygiene and dental problems, such as gingivitis

Causes of smell disorders include:

  • conditions that affect the nervous system, such as Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease
  • getting older
  • smoking
  • growths in the nasal cavities

A Note On COVID-19

Many people who test positive for COVID-19 note a loss of taste and smell as a primary symptom. While this could be related to congestion or swelling inside of the nose, the cause isn’t entirely clear.

Loss of taste or smell can be an indicator of COVID-19, even with no other symptoms present. Don’t hesitate to speak with a doctor about testing or sign up for a test with a community provider. If you test positive, follow guidelines for quarantine and take OTC medications for pain and fever.

For many COVID-19 survivors, taste and smell return to normal as symptoms clear up. However, others experience a long-term loss of smell and taste. Experts are still researching the ongoing effects of COVID-19, and a reason for this persistent loss remains unknown.

home remedies to ensure that your sense of taste and smell return to normal

Castor oil

“Put one drop of warm castor oil in each nostril. It is necessary to do it twice a day for the best results. This practice is beneficial in eliminating inflammation,” says Dr Ankita Gupta, Ayurvedic expert from Birla Ayurveda.


Add 2 to 3 chopped garlic pods to a cup of water. Boil the ingredients in a saucepan. Once the mixture cools down, strain it completely and drink it. The anti-inflammatory properties of garlic compounds can help treat a stuffy nose.


Add lemon and honey to a glass of water. You can drink this mixture immediately. This beverage has a strong citrusy smell. The properties of these two ingredients can help with the return of taste and smell.


“Take a piece of peeled ginger and chew it slowly. Start chewing the ginger piece at regular intervals. If you can’t chew the ginger piece directly, consume ginger tea. Do this every day. The aroma of ginger is strong and can enhance your sense of smell and taste,” recommends Dr Gupta.

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Take ten peppermint leaves and add them to a cup of water. Boil the ingredients in a saucepan. Strain the solution once it cools down and add some honey to it. Drink it immediately. The main constituent of peppermint leaves is menthol. It is anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial in nature which can alter your sense of smell and taste.

Drink enough water

Drinking plenty of water helps in clearing unwanted cough. Water keeps the body hydrated. This can help avoid problems of smell and taste.

“With the help of hot steam, nasal congestion and nose blockage will be cured. That will give your nose an open gate to breathe,” suggests Dr Gupta.

Bottom Line

Problems in the mouth, the nose, and even the ears may lead to a partial or full loss of the sense of taste. In many cases, the cause is temporary, such as an infection that inflames the nasal passages.

Treating the underlying condition should make the symptoms go away. Some underlying causes, such as chemical exposure, Alzheimer’s disease, and aging, may cause a permanent loss of taste.

It is essential to work closely with a doctor to identify and treat the underlying issue.

Anosmia (loss of the sense of smell) can be temporary or permanent. This condition has multiple causes, including COVID-19, allergies, and head trauma.

There are at-home treatments, such as smell training, which can help retrain your brain to recognize smells. Over -the-counter and medical treatments can also help.

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