Common chemical sense

I’ve heard of common sense, but common chemical sense?

Turns out that the human sense of smell includes a third pathway, called the common chemical sense.* (The other two are the olfactory sense and the nose-throat pathway.) Common chemical sense works through thousands of nerve endings on the moist surfaces of the eyes, nose, mouth, and throat. These nerves help us sense irritating substances, such as tear-inducing onions, the cool of peppermint or the burn of ammonia.

Chopped onions induce tears through our common chemical sense.

A friend who went through two pregnancies with a heightened sense of smell while living in New York City clued me in to the virtues of using your common chemical sense: it block out undesirable odors. Now when my heightened sense of smell becomes overwhelmed with aromas, I turn to my common chemical sense for help. I suck on either lemon-mint lozenges or drink peppermint tea to happily tune out the olfactory world around me. If only the block lasted a tad longer.

* Source –

ABOUT THIS COLUMN: This weekly feature, the Science of Smell, appears on Fridays and endeavors to answer basic questions about this ancestral sense.

Be Sociable, Share!