History Of Smelling Salts

ammonia smelling salts

The use of smelling salts have been tracked back through history into Roman times and all the way up through the past several thousand years. Here is a quick timeline of what I found from a quick look:

  • Roman historian, Pliny, mentions smelling salts as “hammonicus sal.”
  • Medieval Author, Geoffry Chaucer’s The Cantebury Tales mentions salts as “Lo, thus by smelling and threadbare array.”
  • Charles Dickens’ Hard Times makes several mentions of smelling salts uses.
  • 1878 – Dr. Peter Shepard publishes The Treatment to Restore Natural Breathing and Circulation with several references to smelling salts in a process to restore a person’s consciousness.
  • World War II medical officers and workplaces recommended their use during war time for a variety of uses.

As you can see, use throughout history is pretty common. Smelling salts’ use in more recent years, though a little less common, is still fairly prevalent if you know where to look.

If you watch sports you will have seen smelling salts whether you noticed or not. The use of salts is very common is football, hockey, boxing, and other sports that require players to be fully alert during play. You’ve probably seen your favorite quarterbacks breaking and smelling the ammonia ampules in between plays:

football smelling salts

Minnesota Vikings Quarterback Bret Favre using smelling salts to stay alert during a game.

boxer smelling salts

Boxer Pornsahnee Sitmonchai uses smelling salts to keep up during a grueling round.

lifting smelling salts

Heavy lifter smells salts before a competition to get ready.

Briefly, smelling salts trigger a reaction in your nasal passages that cause a rush of blood to your brain that causes an instant rush of “awareness” known also as the human “fight or flight” response. Feel free to read more in depth here about what smelling salts are. As you can imagine, that sudden boost in awareness can be extremely beneficial when you are getting tired on the football field and need to be ready to go in with the offense or if you are feeling a little knocked around in between rounds and need a bit of clarity going into the next round.

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