NEW YORK — After losing her sense of smell and her sense of taste more than eight months ago, Jay'la Murphy, 15, says she's felt frustration, stress and even depression as she battles long-term side effects from COVID-19.
NY1: What smells do you miss the most?
Jay'la: Smelling my food
Jay'la's mom, Jasmine Nicholas, said she tried various home remedies that didn't work.
“I would put stuff in front of her and was like, ‘You can’t smell this? You can’t smell it a little bit?’” Nicholas said. “Because I wanted her to smell it so bad! She was like, ‘No, ma.’ I was getting so depressed!”
After doing some online research, Nicholas and her daughter hoped to redirect their depression into optimism.
After booking a one-hour session with fragrance expert Sue Phillips, of Sue Phillips Fragrance, they left their home in Connecticut and traveled to the Upper East Side in search of a breakthrough.
"What I am going to do for you today is take you on a scent-healing journey," Phillips told Jay’la.
Phillips is quick to warn her clients that she is neither a doctor nor a scientist, but, as a fragrance maker who's worked for iconic brands that include Tiffany and Burberry, she emphasizes she knows “the power of fragrance."
Phillips said while promoting her book, "The Power of Perfume," earlier this year, she was asked if perfume might also have the power to help COVID-19 long-haulers reestablish their sense of smell. Eager to find out, she was overjoyed when her first client, who was a long-hauler, achieved the sweet smell of success, after a year of not smelling much.
After that breakthrough went viral, Phillips tells NY1 she's been able to help more than 60 additional clients reignite their sense of smell, with only a handful not working out.
"It smells like lemon,” Jay’la said, as she sniffed one scent that Phillips had her try.
“It smells like lemon?” Phillips replied. “Oh my goodness. Guess what this is? Citrus!"
After correctly identifying citrus, by the end of her session, Jay'la was able to smell and identify all but one of the 18 high-quality essential oils that Phillips had her try.
"How do you feel physically?” Phillips asked Jay’la at the end of her session. “Do you feel tired, do you feel refreshed, do you feel energized?”
“Refreshed,” Jay’la responded.
Research published by the American Medical Association in late June found that 96% of people who had lost their acute sense of smell for more than seven days had regained it within a year.
Jay'la and Phillips were glad to get the ball rolling much sooner.
“It is so rewarding,” Phillips said. “I am so excited when I see people actually being able to smell. Who would have known that now they are calling me the ‘Scent Whisperer?’”
When we asked Jay’la if she was feeling hopeful as she left the session with Phillips, she nodded her head and smiled.