Today, most smelling salts are made with diluted ammonia dissolved in a mixture of water and ethanol. These mixtures are more correctly termed “aromatic spirits of ammonia.” If you didn’t catch it, there usually is no salt in smelling salts.

How Do Smelling Salts Work?

Smelling salts work by irritating the mucous membranes in the nose. This irritation sends a signal to the brain, which can help to revive someone who has fainted. Smelling salts can also be used to increase alertness and energy levels.

Smelling salts are generally safe to use, but they should not be used by people with asthma or other respiratory problems. They should also not be used too frequently, as this can irritate the nose and throat.

Here are some of the places where smelling salts are commonly used:

  • Boxing and other sports: Smelling salts are often used by athletes to revive themselves after a knockout or other injury.
  • Medical settings: Smelling salts may be used to revive patients who have fainted or to help them wake up after anesthesia.
  • First aid kits: Smelling salts are sometimes included in first aid kits for use in emergencies.
  • Everyday life: Some people use smelling salts to increase alertness or energy levels.

It is important to note that smelling salts should be used with caution. They should not be used too frequently or held too close to the nose, as this can cause irritation or even serious health problems.

Ancient Origins of Smelling Salts

The ancient origins of smelling salts can be traced back to the early civilizations. People in ancient times discovered that certain substances had the power to revive or awaken someone from unconsciousness. These substances were often found in nature, such as the ammonia-rich compounds in animal waste or the pungent fumes emanating from volcanic vents.

Ancient civilizations, like the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, utilized these substances as a way to revive fainting individuals or to rouse athletes before competitions. The practice of using smelling salts spread throughout different cultures and time periods, adapting to the available resources and knowledge.

From these humble beginnings, smelling salts have evolved and continued to be used as a quick and effective means of stimulating the senses and restoring alertness.

Evolution of Smelling Salt Production

You may wonder how smelling salt production has evolved over time.

In the past, the production of smelling salts was a labor-intensive process. It involved extracting ammonia from animal urine or through a chemical reaction involving ammonia gas and hydrochloric acid.

However, with advancements in technology and chemical synthesis, the production of smelling salts has become more efficient and cost-effective.

Nowadays, smelling salts are typically produced by combining ammonium carbonate with water and essential oils for fragrance. This mixture is then dried and crushed into small crystals or powdered form.

The evolution of smelling salt production hasn’t only made it easier to manufacture these products but has also led to improvements in their quality and effectiveness.

How Long Do the Effects of Smelling Salts Last?

The effects of smelling salts can last for a few minutes. They’re designed to provide a quick burst of stimulation, but the effects wear off relatively quickly.

Can Smelling Salts Be Used for Purposes Other Than Reviving Someone?

Yes, smelling salts can have other uses besides reviving someone. They can be used to alleviate fainting, dizziness, and even migraines. However, it’s important to use them properly and follow instructions.

Are There Any Potential Side Effects of Using Smelling Salts?

Using smelling salts may have potential side effects such as dizziness, nausea, and irritability. It’s important to be aware of these risks and use them responsibly.


  1. There are more than 30 references to salt in the Bible.
  2. In old Japanese theatres, salt was sprinkled on the stage before each performance to prevent evil spirits.
  3. There is about 35 grams of salts (mostly, sodium chloride) in a litre of seawater.



  1. – A Brief History of Smelling Salts
  2. – Smelling Salts 101: How to Use, History, & Health Concerns
  3. – Salt Facts

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