Smelling salts, also called ammonia smelling salts, are volatile compounds used to induce brief consciousness and alertness in someone who has fainted, or is having an attack of vertigo or dizziness.
Ingesting smelling salts can be harmful and even fatal if too much of the compound is taken at once or it’s taken by someone with certain health conditions, so be sure to read the packaging instructions carefully before using them! However, with proper use, smelling salts can bring you back from the brink of fainting in mere seconds!
What is smelling salts?
Smelling salts, also known as ammonia smelling salts, are most commonly used in boxing to snap a boxer out of being groggy. This is usually done when a fighter has been knocked out by a particularly strong punch and needs to be revived immediately.
The smelling salts themselves come in an ammonia solution. When sniffed, they release a large amount of ammonia gas into one’s nostrils. Not only does it have a strong smell (hence its name), but it has quite an unpleasant taste as well.
Why Smelling Salts
The most common cause of fainting is blood not getting to your brain. This can happen because of a shock (when blood pressure suddenly drops) or because of dehydration (when blood volume drops). Often, smelling salts can bring you back by temporarily boosting low blood pressure. Sports medicine expert Jordan Metzl, M.D., author of The Athlete’s Book of Home Remedies, says that smelling salts work in one big way:
They constrict your blood vessels and send an electrical impulse to your heart so it races. You may feel short of breath for a few seconds after smelling salts—or you may start sweating and yawning—but these reactions don’t mean anything’s wrong. In fact, they’re signs that they’re working!
Different Types of Smelling Salts
There are several different types of smelling salts, but most can be categorized into two different groups: ammonia and aromatic salts. Ammonia-based salts contain ammonia gas, while aromatic salts usually contain a volatile essential oil. Some popular types of aromatic salts include eucalyptus oil, camphor and menthol.
These are often combined with ammonium carbonate or another compound that increases their volatility. Inhaling these volatile compounds causes your body to think it’s in danger, so it triggers your fight-or-flight response—the same one that you experience when you encounter an actual threat.
This is why smelling salts cause dilation of blood vessels in your face, leading to increased blood flow and faster oxygen intake by your brain.
How Do They Work?
Grind gear ammonia smelling salts work by numbing your sense of smell and taste. They are often used to help ease nausea and reduce vomiting when a person is feeling ill.
The little canisters of ammonia inside Grind gear ammonia smelling salts are not so much there to make you smell like a freshly cleaned latrine; they are designed to increase olfactory threshold and perception.
Who Uses Them?
As they are used in many power sports, ammonia-smelling salts are often employed by athletes and teams to reduce or minimize delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). As DOMS has a tendency to make movement painful for about 24-72 hours following physical exertion, taking ammonia smelling salts prior to intense exercise helps reduce subsequent pain and discomfort.
For example, professional rugby players have been known to take a few whiffs of ammonia salts before playing in order to avoid getting stiff muscles.
This strategy is also recommended for bodybuilders—particularly those whose sport requires that they repeatedly lift heavy objects over their heads—and combat athletes who practice brutal training methods such as free weight squats.
If you suffer from breathing problems, have trouble breathing when sleeping, or have high blood pressure, consult your doctor before taking Grind Gear. If you are a woman who is pregnant or breastfeeding, do not take Grind Gear.
Do not take Grind Gear before driving or operating heavy machinery and do not consume alcohol with Grind Gear as it can lead to drowsiness. Side effects of Grind Gear include lightheadedness, dizziness, and headaches.
However, these side effects generally pass within a few hours and no permanent damage will occur. In rare cases, nausea may occur after consuming Grind Gear but usually only if more than four bottles are consumed within a one-hour period. If that happens, drink plenty of water immediately after ingestion to ease symptoms.
Types & Brands Available
Grind Gear is a brand of smelling salts that has a reputation for being one of the strongest. The ammonia smell that many people associate with smelling salts (compare: Gatorade) will cause your heart rate to increase and, when used at an appropriate time during exercise, can improve performance by acting as a stimulant.
While you might find other brands in stores, Grind Gear is available online only. It comes in 3 sizes: 1 oz., 4 oz., and 8 oz. Grind gear also produces products like energy drinks and workout supplements but has stayed true to its roots as the hardest-hitting line of smelling salts.
Benefits of Ammonia Smelling Salts
Of all of our grind gear, ammonia-smelling salts are one of our favorites. If you haven’t tried it, you need to! An ammonia-smelling salt solution works by increasing blood flow to your nostrils and mouth when inhaled.
This causes a stronger smell sensation from your food which tricks your body into thinking that you’re actually eating more than you are. Increased appetite control means fewer snacks and more steady weight loss in about a week for most people.
The chemical formula of smelling salts
Potassium Nitrate + Aqua Fortis = Potassium Chloride + HNO3. HNO3 is ammonium hydroxide. If you smell ammonia and have a burning sensation on your skin, you’ve been exposed to NO2 (nitrogen dioxide). NO2 can be deadly.
So as long as it doesn’t smell like ammonia or leave an ammonia-like burn feeling on your skin, you’re probably fine.
You can find ammonia-smelling salts for sale at local sporting goods stores or at some pharmacies, though you may have to ask your pharmacist to order them for you. Grind Gear, a company that specializes in performance-enhancing chemical compounds, has several varieties of these products on its website.