Somewhat OT: Caffeine and sense of smell?

quinnfyre(z7 PA)April 6, 2011

I find that caffeine affects my sense of smell a fair amount, and it occurred to me to wonder if this happens to anyone else. Does anyone else notice this? For me, it brings out less pleasant notes in fragrances, the 'choke-y' notes, for lack of a better term. The best way I have of describing this is this: have you ever been around someone who wore an abundance of old lady perfume, and you felt your breath catching in the back of your throat every time you tried to breathe normally? That somewhat powdery cloying smell is what gets amplified for me when I smell fragrances after I've had coffee or soda with caffeine in it.

I was wondering if this is one of the reasons people have this love/hate thing with carnosa's scent. Some people think it smells good, others think it stinks. I've never smelled it personally, but if it smells anything like Oncidium 'Twinkle' or 'Sherry Baby', I'm pretty sure I won't care for it; however, I may have smelled it after consuming caffeine. To me it had this odd chemical smell, like poorly done fake vanilla.

Anyway, I was just wondering if it was me, or if other people have noticed this. I am a little oversensitive to caffeine, so it's possible it's just me.

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I am sensitive to caffeine as well but I have not noticed it effecting my sense of smell. I am kinda curious now so I want to give it a shot but drinking coffee and sniffing Hoya flowers sounds like a recipe for insomnia. LOL

I do know what you mean when you describe the chemical undertones to some scents. I had an orchid that smelled like sweet burning rubber to me while a friend thought it smelled nice. There are also some sweet scents that almost make me feel sick when I smell them. We all really perceive scents differently but sometimes it is still surprising.


    Bookmark   April 7, 2011 at 1:30AM
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This is a very interesting topic. I haven't noticed caffeine affecting my sense of smell in the way you describe, but when I limited myself to eating only raw foods (including cutting out all caffeine), my sense of smell went nuts within a week. A LOT of smells that hadn't bothered me before became embarrassingly unbearable while smells that I'd been ambivalent about became much more attractive.

So, yeah, I totally believe you.

Also, caffeine seems linked to anxiety and aggression, so it's possible those emotional states affect WHICH similar smells we think of. As in, a slightly negative mood begets negative cognitions.

(Kind of like how solving word puzzles with words associated with old age in them can make people subconsciously walk slower a few minutes later.)

So, it's POSSIBLE that not only do we physically experience the smell differently, but we might also interpret what is a pretty ambiguous cue differently, depending on our mood. If that makes sense.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2011 at 4:56PM
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I know exactly what you're talking about. I had a few cups of coffee, and out of nowhere, started smelling a very weird and bad smell. It affected everything else I smelled and made it smell awful!

I'm surprised other people don't experience this. I've been searching for others online, and you're one of the few.

I have a slight senithesia (sp?) of my sight and smell. Like if I see a food on TV, I can smell it like it's in front of me. My real sense of smell is kind of weak, but if I have too much caffeine, I get a really bad smell in my nose that wont go away until the caffeine wears off.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2011 at 7:10AM
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eileen44_gardener(4 Central Vermont)

Oh wow... this is an interesting topic... I love my 2 large cups of coffee in the morning.. and maybe even another later in the day... I've not noticed anything but then I don't have any blooms around (yet)... I do recall that years ago while in a store in Freeport ME that sold only cosmetics and all perfumes from everywhere in the world... any and all fragrances.. and after smelling a few, one's sense of smell literally seems to they gave you a dish of coffee beans to inhale a bit.. this restored your sense of smell. I will be paying attention to this as sometimes I smell things (usually unpleasant) that others in the room do not!... great topic.

...and Quinnfyre.. (sorry can't remember your name... I've wanted a Sherry Baby for many years... don't have her yet!... Eileen

    Bookmark   September 9, 2011 at 7:24AM
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This is certainly a great topic. I'm like Eileen, I only have two cups of coffee in the morning and don't notice anything unusual. But then again, I don't have any blooming plants in the house. A few years ago I had Onc. Sharry Baby that I couldn't keep in the house. The cloying smell of chocolate was just too much. Sickeningly sweet. I had to put it outside on the patio table. The few hoya blooms that I've had don't seem to have a strong fragrance. I think the smell is probably stronger in the evening. I do have passion vine climbing all over screen enclosure that is in constant bloom. I sit outside in the afternoon and the fragrance is delightful. I'm waiting for my staplia giganta bud to open. It's permanent home is outside because of the 'smell', not 'fragrance'. LOL
Eileen in FL

    Bookmark   September 9, 2011 at 10:13AM
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Ament(5a SD)

Oy, I hate walking through a store and someone wanders by me with certain scents on them. It smells to me like they bathed in whatever scent they have on. I am an avid coffee drinker. Certain scents just kill me. I've absolutely NO idea what the scent is, but I do know that gagging sensation that you speak of, from a scent. Very unpleasant.

Now, My Little Linden tree, when it went into bloom, I absolutely loved the scent. It was a bit strong, but wonderful in small doses. As I walked by to get into the house, a sniff would do. :) Lilacs in bloom, another nice scent, but can be overly much for me sometimes. We've loads of them planted throughout the neighborhood. Tar, very unpleasant, gaggingly strong, just driving past an area being tarred is too much for me. Gasoline, another that makes me ill. Vehicles running rich that drive by can make me ill, if I'm stuck behind them for too long. Certain cleaners can do it. Oven off is another that I cannot be near or use. Athletes foot, I know normally the stink is just annoying, but for me, it is an ill smell. So yeah, Gotcha on the smells. LoL I can "Taste" a lot of them and it is NOT fun at all.


    Bookmark   September 9, 2011 at 1:03PM
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Hey Quinn,

Being an avid coffee drinker who likes her coffee like she likes her men - hot, dark and strong ;o) - I really can't tell the difference in hoya scents whether I drink coffee or Coca Cola or not. The one hoya scent I can't stand regardless is Hoya Cummingiana. I just can't explain the scent, and I sure don't like it.

So to answer your question, no I haven't had that experience. But I have had the experience of being in an elevator with a woman at work who would spray 1/2 a bottle of perfume on her...

    Bookmark   September 10, 2011 at 2:05AM
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quinnfyre(z7 PA)

Sorry folks, I posted this a while back and it didn't seem super active then, so I kinda forgot about it. Then I got preoccupied by other things and haven't managed to visit the forum so often lately. I didn't mean to ignore it. Thanks for more input on this!

I'm not quite so sure anymore that it is the caffeine that does this for me. I've been having caffeine a little more regularly recently and did not have the scent altering experience at all. It's a bit of a mystery. Although, since, as I said, I'm sensitive to caffeine, I try to limit it to one cup of coffee total, and try to space it out so I don't have any more than two days in a row. It's possible that if I go over my limit, I will notice this effect again. I kind of suspect dark chocolate as one of the offenders also. I haven't had any lately, because I tend to overdo chocolate and try to keep it out of the house for the most part.

I have also been in the situation where I smelled things that my ex, who has a super sensitive sense of smell, could not. I don't consider my sense of smell the best, and I often don't smell things that others smell, and have occasionally wondered if my sense of smell was faulty. It is why I seek out the very fragrant flowers, because I know I can definitely smell them. So it is odd to me that I have those isolated incidences where I smell notes in the air that others with superior senses of smell do not.

Tammy, regardless of whether or not I have caffeine, I cannot handle an overabundance of perfume! It makes me curious why anyone would wear so much. I'm sure that habit has to be expensive, and when it gets that strong it doesn't even smell pleasant anymore.

Some Dude, I find synesthesia totally fascinating. I've heard of those who can smell colors, or see music. Sometimes I think it would be really cool to be able to share these experiences via virtual reality thingamajobbers, so the rest of us can know how this feels.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 2:16AM
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quinnfyre(z7 PA)

In case anyone is still paying attention... it definitely IS coffee for me. I had been having instant (I actually like the one from Trader Joe's) because I can't make a pot of coffee without attempting to drink way too much, but I got one of those single cup Vietnamese coffee makers so I can just make one cup for me. I had coffee this morning, and I about choked on the fragrances in the air freshener aisle at the grocery store. The scents were amplified and the choke-y powdery notes were catching at the back of my throat. I can't say if it is the caffeine or some component of coffee but it IS something. Fascinating. Well, I love coffee so I'll have to both space out my coffee consumption and put up with this weirdness. Ah well.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 4:38PM
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BTW, coffee makes an excellent fertilizer fed to the roots of plants!

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 5:30PM
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penfold2(4b, MN)

BTW, coffee makes an excellent fertilizer fed to the roots of plants!

I've never used it, but I have serious doubts about its value to plants.

What to do with leftover coffee???

Tapla's post in particular makes me wary: Forum discussions frequently center on the question of adding dilute coffee/tea or grounds to plants as a 'tonic', but Arabica (coffee) and Camellia (tea) are known for their toxic alkaloid (caffeine) content and their allelopathic affect on plants as well as autotoxic (poison to their own seedlings) effects on future generations. Caffeine interferes with root development by impairing protein metabolism. This affects activity of an important bio-compound (PPO) and lignification (the process of becoming woody), crucial steps for root formation.

We also know that the tannins in both coffee and tea are known allelopaths (growth inhibitors). There are ongoing experiments to develop herbicides using extracts from both coffee and tea that cause me to want to say they might serve better as a nonselective herbicide than as a tonic. I would not use either (stale coffee or tea) by applying directly to my plants - especially containerized plants; nor would I add tea bags/coffee grounds to my container soils.

Whoever mentioned spilling it onto the compost pile gets my vote as having the best idea so far.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 6:09PM
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When I grew hoyas, they didn't seem to mind. In fact they grew better than fertilized hoyas at times. Both the grounds and liquified versions were used with no ill effects. They even reduced pests 100% more so than any insecticidal or dishwash soaps. Mist them on mealies and aphids and watch them die before your eyes!
Avoid spraying them on lizards or tree frogs as they will kill them as well.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2011 at 12:50AM
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I have very sensitive sense of smell though noticed recently that certain smells were smelling totally disgusting such as perfumes and especially citrusy aftershaves, bleach and floor cleaners etc all that have citrus, rosemary notes......perfumes smell really stale and as if theyve gone off, very powdery and catch in the back of the nose. A powerful" head goes right back" reaction! I was thinking maybe I am ill and I'll certainly speak to my gp about it - maybe hormones etc as am a 46 yr old female. But I also wondered if coffee may be the cause as had a horrible reaction to coffee onions and garlic when expecting my children and am sensitive to caffeine generally.As an aside , but relevant I think, it also affects people's bladder lining incidentally and causes an urgent need to go to the loo. I normally have decaffeinated tea and rarely coffee- just occasional coffee to go as a treat. HOWEVER....decided to buy a proper coffee maker for my birthday in August and now it's October and so......I did a search "coffee and sense of smell" and this came up and Quinns initial comment descirbed exactly my symptoms!! So just thought I'd add to the stream...clearly we're a bit rare Quinn....have just gone out and bought decaffeinated ground coffee and will be staying away from the stuff for a week or so to clear it out of my system. Will have to save my coffee treats for special occasions I think!!

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 9:30AM
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