What are smelling salts and how do they work?

Smelling salts have become a popular way for athletes in both strength and regular sports to energise themselves quickly also among people fighting with fatigue and lack of focus. These inhalants, which contain ammonia, are also used in medicine to revive unconscious individuals.

athletes from different strength sports using smelling salts

Popular among various athletes to be energetic, focused and hyped

What are smelling salts?

Smelling salts consist of a blend of chemicals, often including ammonia. With their strong and distinctive scent, they are specifically formulated to rouse and restore individuals to awareness, give a focus and energy boosts.

Sniffing ammonia inhalants provides a wakeful and enlivening sensation, helping individuals feel alert and alive. The use of ammonia inhalants as a treatment dates back to the 13th century and was even employed by fainting pregnant women in the 1920s.

Throughout history, ammonia salts have served as a means to invigorate individuals experiencing fatigue and replenish their energy levels. These potent stimulants offer a stimulating effect, empowering people to combat exhaustion and regain a sense of vitality!

Now, let’s delve into the reasons behind the efficacy of these ammonia inhalants and explore how they work their magic.

smelling salts are in hard substance, usually in a form of powder or crystals
Smelling salts are in a hard substance, usually in a form of powder or/and crystals

How do smelling salts work?

When you sniff ammonia inhalant, it irritates the membranes in your nose and lungs. This results in an “inhalation reflex” that increases your breathing and heart rate. This, in turn, triggers the “fight-or-flight” response, which leads to the release of adrenaline. In other words, it “turbocharge” the body, acting as a shot of adrenaline that causes wakefulness, increased energy, and concentration. However, their effects are short-lived, lasting only a few minutes, which is more than enough for athletes to perform.

Chain of reactions after inhaling ammonia inhalants
Chain of reactions after inhaling ammonia salts

What are smelling salts for?

  • revive individuals who have fainted or lost consciousness
  • combat fatigue
  • invigorate energy levels
  • promote alertness
  • enhance focus and performance during intense physical activities

By using smelling salts right before a big lift, you can potentially stimulate your sympathetic nervous system and lift more heavily. These salts are popular among in powerlifting, strongman sport, hockey, football and many other sports.

smelling salts are popular in various sports
Smelling salts are extremely popular in powerlifting

The effect will be immediate, as one client described it:

“It’s like smelling fear for the first time, awakening your primal rage and getting ready for the hunt at dawn, where your weapon is your strength and the prey is your PR.”

What are smelling salts made of?

Ammonia inhalants, sal volatile, or spirit of hartshorn, contain a mixture of ammonium carbonate ((NH4)2CO3H2O). During the 17th century, individuals conducted a distillation process using Aquila coelestis, an aqueous solution of ammonia, along with shavings from the horns and hooves of harts. They identified the resulting crystallised substance as ammonium carbonate, originally referring to it as the salt or spirit of hartshorn.

Over time, when combined with scents, it got the name “smelling salts.” The composition of most ammonia inhalants includes diluted ammonia blended with other substances such as ethanol to provide a sensation of awakening. It is popular to infuse additional scents to create stimulating effect.

Producing smelling salts requires proper equipment and knowledge

Producing smelling salts requires proper equipment and knowledge

Is it safe and how to use?

While researchers have not currently found any evidence indicating any long-term negative effects of using smelling salts as directed, it is advisable to exercise caution. To use them, you simply hold the capsule or bottle under your nostrils and take a whiff. If you’ve never taken smelling salts before, it’s best not to hold them any closer than 15 cm to avoid potential harm.

How to use smelling salts? Keep the bottle approximately 15cm away from your nose while inhaling.
Keep the bottle approximately 15cm away from your nose while inhaling

Where to buy smelling salts?

Smells Like PR is one of the industry-leading brands when it comes to smelling salts. As a team of professional athletes and engineers, they have created salts with various scents, intensities, and application methods. Weight sport enthusiasts highly recognise Smells Like PR’s smelling salts as extremely potent and long-lasting ammonia.

Smells Like PR is a popular brand name in smelling salts industry

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Ice Cold Touch


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