What are smelling salts / ammonia inhalants?

'Smelling salts' and 'ammonia inhalants' are synonyms, two different common names for the same thing.  They are exactly what they sound like, something you smell/inhale. Smelling salts are used by athletes for sudden rushes of adrenaline.

The name "smelling salt" came from the fact the primary ingredient is 'Ammonium Carbonate', which is a salt. So effectively it's a salt that you smell.

However in reality what actually happens is the ammonium carbonate rapidly degrades into gaseous ammonia and carbon dioxide.  The powerful adrenaline releasing effects come from the gaseous ammonia itself. 

Historically we find mentions of smelling salts as early as the 13th century, used by alchemists. This means smelling salts have been around for over 800 years!  Back then smelling salts were used to revive people who have fainted.  The powerful release of adrenaline shoots you awake and restore consciousness.  This exact effect makes smelling salts very popular in boxing when a fighter is feeling dazed, to revive them to fighting form and shake the mental fog. 

To this day smelling salts are used for the same medical reason, to restore consciousness to people who have fainted.  You'll find less powerful variation such as capsules/ampules in more advanced first aid kits, and on most ambulances.  For many years this was the primary use for smelling salts, until athletes got a hold of them....

You've heard those crazy stories about radical feats of strength, such a mother lifting a car off her pinned toddler.  How is this possible?  A primary reason is adrenaline.  Adrenaline is released in fight or flight responses, and athletes use it to fight.  The ammonia gas causes irritation in your nasal passage which triggers the fight or flight response and subsequent adrenaline release. The extra adrenaline that smelling salts / ammonia inhalants provide allow us to unlock a physical performance we are capable of, but unable to tap into without it.

This has made smelling salts an absolute no-brainer for any athlete who needs to perform in short bursts.  Adrenaline is short lived after all, it has a half-life of only 2 minutes.  This means it's not ideal for a long distance runner, but extremely effective for powerlifting, strongman, crossfit, football, hockey, boxing, combat sports and many many many more sports.  Smelling salts have become so popular that you'll see them at the professional and amateur level of almost every single sport that requires short bursts of energy.  They're even prolific in arm wrestling. 

Smelling salts should be used sparingly, for when you really need to perform. You wouldn't use them during warm ups for example.  Game day, personal record attempts, and max-outs are the perfect applications. 

The effects on athletic performance are so drastic that naturally came the next question, how do we take the average medical grade smelling salts and make them stronger?  Most medical smelling salts are ampules / capsules.  Although effective for their use, it leaves athletes wanting. Queue the invention of bottled smelling salts.  Bottled salts offer many advantages over ampules.  They're less expensive, reusable for weeks to months, more convenient, and most importantly MUCH stronger.  Unlike ampules they work by creating a chemical reaction that produces LOTS of gaseous ammonium carbonate, which means more ammonia and more adrenaline.   However not all bottles are the same.  There's huge differences in potency between one manufacture to another. And lets just say we're pretty proud of what we've created here at Ward Smelling Salts... We call it "bottled insanity" for a reason...

So if they make such a big difference, why aren't you using them yet?