This is Highly Recommend, a column dedicated to what people in the food industry are obsessed with eating, drinking, and buying right now.
In every bag that I own and most of my jacket pockets, I have a tube of Poy-Sian. Half the size of my index finger and marked by a bright ring of color, these disposable Thai inhalers keep me feeling fresh and alert on a daily basis. Poy-Sian is ubiquitous in Thailand, where everyone from motorcycle drivers to office workers rely on a whiff of its acute herbal scent—a combination of menthol, camphor, eucalyptus, and borneol oils—to stay energized. Ever since my trip to Thailand, about five years ago now, I’ve been hooked on its soothing properties as well.
My uses for Poy-Sian are many. I’ll pull a tube out of my pocket on a hot day when the city smells like baked trash in order to sniff on something refreshing. I might be in the back seat of a Lyft when a wave of nausea hits—fine, I shouldn’t have been reading on my phone—but then a puff of Poy-Sian makes it go away. Poy-Sian won’t clear a cold, but it will open up my nasal passages if they’re stuffy. And when a day’s worth of doomscrolling inevitably causes a headache, a hit of minty fragrance can loosen some of the tightness in my forehead. Even in the absence of a specific reason for it, the Poy-Sian jolt never fails to perk me up.
Better yet, the tube is two-sided: One end is a nasal inhaler while the other end releases droplets to rub into your wrists or temples, where essential oils can easily enter your bloodstream. Be careful with the latter application—a little bit goes a long way. When I’m feeling lethargic and weary, like after deboarding a flight, a dot of oil on both temples lifts me up.
A Poy-Sian is so tiny it fits into the smallest of bags, but the potency of its liquid makes it last a while. I’m still dipping into the bulk supply that I bought at duty free in Bangkok years ago. (The expiration date does appear to be two years past the manufacturing date, which means mine are solidly past that point…but they still seem quite potent, for what it’s worth.) It’s now easy to find them Stateside: Many Thai grocery stores carry the inhalers (oftentimes in the checkout aisle), and you can purchase them online too. A six-pack of Poy-Sian comes in a rainbow of colors. A yellow for your evening bag, pink for your raincoat, green for your backpack, and so on.
“What’s that you’re sniffing on?” a friend might ask. Tell them it’s Poy-Sian, of course, and let them have a rousing whiff.