New York fragrance expert Sue Phillips is neither doctor nor scientist. Nevertheless, she’s been helping folks regain their olfactory (smell) senses during COVID-19 recovery. Her “fragrance journeys” are teaching brains to smell again.
A self-proclaimed “scentrepreneur,” Phillips spent decades developing perfumes for Elizabeth Arden, Lancôme, Avon, and more. Her nose knows fragrances.
Today, Phillips owns her own company, Scenterprises. Customers—including celebrities—visit her Manhattan shop to create custom perfumes. But this spring, Phillips found a novel use for her skills: smell coach.
“When smell is out of reach, it affects many realms of life, including eating and taste,” Phillips says. “It’s devastating.”
Marissa Karen contracted COVID-19 in March 2020. She couldn’t smell anything for over a year. Karen tried medical treatments and home remedies. Nothing worked.
This spring, she visited Phillips. Phillips asked Karen to sniff strips of paper dipped in hand-mixed scents. Phillips was looking for any kind of response. Scent after scent, Karen’s nose didn’t cooperate. Finally, Karen smelled faint citrus.
Phillips sent Karen home with a custom-blended fragrance using pomegranate, berry, honeydew, and strawberry notes to smell every day.
Phillips says the key is finding a scent that triggers something in the brain and then focusing on it. She calls the practice “exercising the brain” to smell again. “Our sense of smell is directly connected to the limbic system in the brain.”
What a glorious and gracious Creator to connect human senses to memory!
For Karen, her at-home practice also involved real lemons. “I associate [them] with going to a lemon farm . . . in southern Italy where I had a lemonade and limoncello tasting.”
For those who can’t visit Phillips in person, she recommends smelling citrus fruits, first with eyes opened and then closed.
Scientists are still studying the long-term effects of COVID-19 on the brain and body. But some doctors are open to Phillips’ therapy. Yosef Krespi, an ear, nose, and throat specialist, says, “It’s like training or rehabilitation of . . . the nerves located at the roof of the nose.”
Neuroscientist Venky Murthy also believes Phillips may be onto something. “By trying various different fragrances, . . . you hit upon one or two things that the leftover sense of smell is able to perceive.”
Karen isn’t worried about the science. “You don’t realize how important smell is until you don’t have it anymore,” she says. “I can walk outside now and smell the spring flowers.” For her, that’s the sweet aroma of victory.
Thanks be to God, who in Christ . . . and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere. — 2 Corinthians 2:14