Rosemary has many well known health benefits but scientists are now studying its specific effects with regard to memory with outstanding results.
Rosemary (rosmarinus officinalis) is member of the mint family along with other popular and fragrant herbs such as thyme, oregano, lavender and basil. It is native to the Mediterranean but is now popular throughout the world as a healing herb and a delicious ingredient in many dishes. It has numerous health benefits including alleviating muscle pain, helping with hair growth, boosting the immune system, improving the circulatory system, relieving stress as well as improving memory.
In 2003 the International Journal Of Neuroscience published a study by M.Moss, J.Cook, K.Wesnes and P.Duckett which examined the effect of inhaling the aromas of the essential oils of lavender (lavandula angustifolia) and rosemary (rosmarlnus officinalis)on cognitive performance and mood in a group of 144 healthy volunteers (i). The study concluded that the inhalation of rosemary essential oil significantly enhanced the performance for overall quality of memory and secondary memory factors of the participants who had no idea of the aim of the research.
More recent research from 2012 investigated the effect of dried rosemary leaf powder on a group of patients with an average age of 75 (ii). This was a randomized, placebo controlled, double blind repeated study which concluded that there were definite dose dependant improvements in the cognitive performance using this form of rosemary.
Further research by M.Moss (above) and L.Oliver at Northumbria University, Newcastle indicates that a compound found in rosemary known as 1,8-cineole could be the crucial factor in the effect of the inhalation of rosemary aroma. The study found that the subjects had a quicker and more accurate cognitive function following exposure to rosemary (iii).
The same team of researchers have also conducted a study into the effects of a diffusion of rosemary essential oil where they concluded that there were memory enhancements of an astonishing 75% of subjects when compared with people who had not been exposed to the oil (iv).
Moss said “We wanted to build on our previous research that indicated rosemary aroma improved long-term memory and mental arithmetic…….in this study we focused on prospective memory, which involves the ability to remember events that will occur in the future and to remember to complete tasks at particular times. This is critical for everyday functioning, for example when someone needs to remember to post a birthday card or to take medication at a particular time.”
The volunteers, all healthy adults, also had blood taken and analysed to see if performance levels, or any changes in mood following the exposure to the rosemary aroma via a diffuser, were related to concentrations of 1,8-cineole in their blood.
The results from the blood analysis found that significantly greater amounts of 1,8-cineole were present in the plasma of those in the rosemary scented room, suggesting that sniffing the aroma led to higher concentrations.
Rosemary is very easy to grow in gardens or window sills and maybe more of us will now use it as an aid to our memories and brain function. There are countless ways we can harness the aromas.
You can use a fresh rosemary plant and squeeze the leaves and stem and hold it to your nose for a few minutes. Rosemary oil can be blended in nasal inhalers and have been found to improve short term memory in patients who had specific brain surgeries affecting short term memory. Regular doses from inhalers also help with focus and concentration.
The essential oil can be used in an oil diffuser or can just be inhaled by using a single drop on a tissue. Inhale or diffuse for 15 minutes, then take a break for 30 minutes and repeat.
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