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What are Inhalants?

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Inhalants are substances that is typically taken by the olfactory senses (inhaled) for the purpose of relieving the sinuses of blockage, or to provide relief for headaches, migraines, and any and all symptoms associated with the affliction. Inhalants are typically oil-based, although some inhalants can also be tinctures based from very potent vinegars or liquors. Some inhalants are even no more than dried herbs that are placed in pouches and sniffed regularly to provide ample, but quick relief, or they can be ground or powdered herbs and spices inhaled (in very minute amounts) through the nose, and then subsequently ejected (via blowing your nose, or, more instinctively, through sneezing) immediately. The latter is referred to as snuff – a term originally used for tobacco that is partaken of nasally, but has come to be considered an umbrella term for any organic substance (more often than not, plant-derived) that is imbibed via the nasal passages.

Inhalants can also include any organic substance with a long history of being diffused or burnt (here this is called 'incense') for therapeutic use, typically to allow the ensuing vapour from the substance to enter into the system through the use of the olfactory organs.

What are inhalants used for?

Inhalants, especially oil-based inhalants, are typically created to provide quick and easy relief for trifling ailments such as headaches, stuffy noses, blurry vision, vertigo, seasickness, nausea, drowsiness or grogginess, and disorientation. Inhalants may even function as liniments and astringents when applied topically, if so desired by the user. Some inhalants are specifically created to be a liniment first, and an inhalant second. Because of this dual function, inhalants are typically contained in small containers (also chiefly due to their concentration), which can be carried anywhere with ease. Inhalants may be prepared and used in distinct ways to accomplish a certain function. They may be diffused by steam or heat for better effects or to encompass a wider range of individuals and generate a wide spectrum of effects (soothing, promoting sleep, soothing tired muscles, etc.)

What are inhalants made of?

Inhalants can be made from a variety of different herbs and spices, although the most common form of inhalants are usually weakly diluted essential oils. While herbs macerated in liquor, vinegar or oil may still function as an inhalant (if you so desire), it is not as potent nor as concentrated as essential oils and may oftentimes serve its purpose only halfway. Vinegars (here this is meant to describe any herbal concoction macerated in vinegar), when employed as inhalants typically follow the function of restoratives (such as to help one recover after a dizzy spell, or after swooning; the use of this type of inhalant was very common during the Victorian Era) due to its acrid, often unpleasant aroma. Alcohol-based inhalants on the other hand can be used for energizing and invigorating. Oil-base inhalants can be used any which way you so desire, and the limit of its usefulness is only restricted to the kind of herbs or herbal essences that you incorporate in your inhalant, but the most common use of oil-based inhalants is as a restorative aid. Inhalants may even be made from plant esters (botanical waxes), resins, or dried leaves and other plant parts. Such compounds are typically burnt as incense over hot coals, while oil-based inhalants may be diffused via a heat diffuser, or through the help of steam. You may also infuse rock salt with the essences and aromas of your choice of essential oils and transfer a reasonable amount to a handy container to carry around with you. These infused salts are usually placed under the nose to smell, but rarely if ever and the salts admitted into the nasal orifice as if it were a snuff. Referred to as 'sniffing salts' or 'restorative salts', these were quite popular during the latter part of the 1700s to the early period of the Industrial Revolution (and has become somewhat of a clichéd symbol for the affectations of those times).

How are inhalants made?

Inhalants can be made from dry (sometimes even fresh) herbs and spices, or from resins and esters, and of course from essential oils. When using herbs and spices, you can make an inhalant either by grinding the herbs or spices in a mortar and pestle and releasing its essences by throwing it in a hot brazier or pot of coals (this is called incense) Incense may also be derived from burning esters, resins, or highly volatile oils. You may also encase your choice of herbs and spices in a fine muslin bag, or one that is made of soft yet breathable cloth. Sewing it shut, you may carry this pouch (called a 'sachet') around with you and inhale the herbal concoction encased within whenever you feel like it is needed. Then of course there are essential oils that you can choose to dilute (weakly) with a little base oil (i. e. almond, coconut, olive, etc.) and then decant into a small, handy bottle that you can carry around wherever you go, to inhale whenever it is needed (these are inhalants-proper). Lastly, if you wish to affect a larger area you may choose to diffuse your choice of oils via heat, or place a capful or so of oil in a large pan of hot, steaming water. Of course, one needn't mention that incense already affects a large area immediately.

A note on inhalants: some inhalants may cause side-effects such as stinging or teary / watery eyes, difficulty in breathing (this only happens if you overdo it, especially with the incense and the diffusions!), or hallucinations (as some herbs can have mind-altering properties), so always exercise prudence and caution when employing inhalants.

Main article researched and created by Alexander Leonhardt, © 2013

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