There’s no need to panic! Your flavors will come back! This has happened to many a vape pen user. It’s not a medical condition and it’s not permanent either. What you’re experiencing are natural occurrences in the nose called Olfactory Habituation and Olfactory Adaptation. They’re commonly referred to within the vaping community as “vaper’s tongue”… (But don’t actually call it that because quite a few stoner boffins will become antsy, “ARGH! It’s not got anything to do with your tongue”!) Maybe a better term for this experience would be flavor fatigue.
So what is flavor fatigue and why does it happen?
Flavor – The abstract way we enjoy our e-juices and cannabis
Flavor is a just a concept that has been created by our brains. What it all boils down to is this. Three of our senses: smell, taste, and touch, trigger chemical signals which are sent to our brains which in turn translates that information into a variety of different flavors. So how do these three senses help our brains create flavor?
When we’re enjoying dank herb in a vape pen, the act of heating our ingredients releases odor molecules (or molecules that produce the sensation of taste), into the air. The chemoreceptors in our noses can sense these external stimuli and they send chemical signals to the Olfactory Bulb in our brain which interprets the smells into flavors.
That’s why, when you suffer from a really bad head cold and struggle to breathe through your nose, it’s nigh on impossible to taste anything at all.
Smell and Sense Memories
The chemical signatures from cannabis and e-juice also combine with things called sense memories. Sense memories are what people think of when they smell a certain aroma. Take a strawberry, for example. When someone smells a bud of Strawberry Cough or takes a whiff of some Strawberry e-Juice, our brains actively recall a mental picture of that little red fruit, despite the fact that ganja and e-liquids don’t have the same chemical makeup as a strawberry.
Our brains are so good at associating things via their smell that even a small hint of a fragrance that we like can improve the tastiness of the flavors in what we vape.
Whenever a person vapes, chemical compounds from the ingredients they’re vaping activate sensory receptors in their mouth and nose. These chemical signals, combined with any sense memories, are sent up to the brain which then uses the information to distinguish between different tastes.
Some tastes are influenced by odors, some by textures, and some by temperature, whilst others just rely on your tongue’s taste buds.
Every cannabis strain has a unique taste and each plant’s palatable characteristics comes from its own particular flavonoids, terpenes, and terpenoids. These aromatic molecules not only add to a strain’s flavor but they’re also pharmacologically active and modulate the effects of THC. There are over 100 strong smelling molecules in cannabis so investigating what each strain’s unique flavors are (and the medicinal effects its terpenes have) is a great way of choosing a different type of weed or flavor of e-Juice to try.
An awesome vape makes people go “mmm” for a reason. That’s because we humans gain pleasure from putting things in our mouths. (We’ll wait a moment for the giggling to die down…).
Alright, let’s put it another way.
When someone’s got something tasty in their mouth (whether it’s food, drink, smoke, or cool marijuana mist from a vaporizer), the sensations of how it feels on their tongue and against their cheeks not only helps their brain to recognize various flavors, but the orosensation also adds an extra, pleasurable element to their eating/drinking/smoking/vaping session. In terms of vaping, people can achieve anything from light, cool, wispy vapors that gently tickle their throat, to warm, thick, creamy, almost heavy vapors that glide across their tongue. Everybody has their own personal preference to orosensation in regards to vaping.
Olfactory Habituation and Olfactory Adaptation – The reasons why you can’t always taste the flavors of your cannabis/ejuice
Our noses have the ability to transform a new smell, one that’s potent, and consistently so, over time, into a scent that becomes something we don’t really notice or pick up on during a typical day. We think that this is a natural response we humans have retained from our ancestors. Back then, in the Paleospliffic Era, it was important to filter out less significant smells (the ones that we’d gotten used to) so that we could be alert to the strong ones which potentially indicated danger, like fire or rotting flesh.
Unfortunately, olfactory habituation means that noone can experience the full flavors of cannabis or e-Juice forever, basically because over time, we just get accustomed to their smell/taste.
There’s no way of preventing it either, it just happens and here’s the reason why.
For a nose to maintain olfactory habituation and to stop a person’s nervous system having a meltdown and going completely out of control, it can, on occasion, temporarily shut down its odor receptors. The nose will stop sending messages to the brain about any lingering smells (the ones it has gotten used to) so that it can focus on new ones which are persistently stronger. This process is called Olfactory Adaptation, or Olfactory Fatigue and it also goes to explain why another stoner’s spliff, even if they’ve used the same marijuana as you, always smells stronger and tastier than your own.
So how do I stop vaper’s tongue, olfactory adaptation, or whatever you want to call it?
Here are some easy tips on how you can reduce the time it takes for your nose to reset itself so you can get back to really tasting all the flavors in your cannabis/e-juice again.
1) Stay hydrated
When you use your vape pen most of what you exhale is your own moisture. The process of vaping can dramatically reduce the moisture levels in your mouth, throat, sinuses and lungs and when these are all as dry as a bone you won’t be able to taste the flavors in your cannabis very well. Therefore, it’s a good idea to drink plenty of water and stay hydrated.
2) Remember that variety is the spice of life!
Whether it’s e-juice you’re using in your vape pen, or dry herb and cannabis concentrates, it’s highly recommended that you don’t stick with the same flavor for too long. Switch things up a bit and vape a variety of different strains throughout the day. Doing this will mean you won’t develop a tolerance to each flavor so easily.
3) Reset your olfactory sensors
Another way to stave off flavor fatigue is to completely shock your system so that your olfactory sensors reset themselves.
Surprise yourself every now and then by using a marijuana-infused e-Juice that tastes like menthol, cinnamon or lemon, or kick your senses into touch by vaping some of these pungent cannabis strains: Sour Diesel, Green Crack, Chocolope, Blue Cheese, Blackberry Kush, God’s Gift or Northern Lights.
If you can’t afford to purchase any new flavors of e-Juice and you can’t get your hands on a different strain of marijuana, there are two other ways that you can shock your system into re-booting. The first is to try some of these foods. They’re well known for being able to cleanse a person’s palate and are brilliant at neutralizing tastes by removing food residuals in the mouth: Unsalted pretzels, Crackers, Olives, Lemon sorbet (alternatively, you could just suck on a lemon!) Celery or Pickles.
The second way is to open a bag or can of freshly ground coffee and take several deep breaths in. The unique molecular structure of coffee’s smell compounds can reset your nose so you’ll be back to tasting your cannabis’ full flavors in no time.
In the end, don’t fret about something you can’t control. Flavor fatigue is going to happen to you at some point, and most likely it’s going to happen to you on several occasions. But by following the tips above, you can stave off olfactory habituation and you’ll know what to do when the time comes to get rid of it.
Before we go, we highly recommend that you don’t just wait until you’re experiencing olfactory adaptation to try different e-Juice flavors or cannabis strains. We think it’s always worth swapping and changing your ingredients whenever you vape, not just to keep your nose on its toes, but so you can experience the full range of flavors (and medicinal benefits) that different strains of marijuana have to offer. Remember, every time you try something new, you’re going to receive its full flavor and if you heat up your ingredients just right, you’re always going to be in for a delectabley flavorsome high.