This is a wonderful herb with a tradition of use spanning back to ancient times. It has innumerable uses in both the kitchen and in herbal medicine.
Did you know that rosemary has been associated with memory enhancement since long ago? The truth is that it has even been referred to from the latter part of the Elizabethan Era to the Early Romantic period as the “herb of remembrance”.
In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Ophelia says, “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance.” It has also long been used as a symbol for remembrance during weddings, war commemorations and funerals in Europe and Australia. Mourners in old times would wear it as a buttonhole, burn it as incense or throw it into graves as a symbol of remembrance for the dead.
Because of this seemingly esoteric association, rosemary has at times been made into a sort of herbal-amulet, where it was placed beneath pillowcases, or simply smelt as a bouquet, and it was believed that using rosemary in these ways could protect the sleeper from nightmares, as well as increase their memory.
What’s fascinating is that several scientific studies have now found remarkable results for rosemary’s effects on memory:
Rosemary essential oil’s role in aromatherapy as an agent that promotes mental clarity was validated by the study of Moss, Cook, Wesnes, and Duckett, in which the inhalation of rosemary essential oil significantly enhanced the performance for overall quality of memory and secondary memory factors of study participants.
More recently, in 2012 a study on 28 older people (average 75 years old) found statistically significant dose-dependent improvements in cognitive performance with doses of dried rosemary leaf powder.
Further studies by Mark Moss and team have found memory enhancements of up to an amazing 75% from diffusion of rosemary essential oil.
He 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.’
Rosemary essential oil was diffused in to a testing room by placing four drops on an aroma stream fan diffuser and switching this on five minutes before people entered the room.
Altogether 66 people took part in the study and were randomly allocated to either the rosemary-scented room or another room with no scent.
In each room participants completed a test designed to assess their prospective memory functions.
Blood was taken from volunteers and analyzed to see if performance levels and changes in mood following exposure to the rosemary aroma were related to concentrations of a compound known as 1,8-cineole present in the blood.
The compound is also found in the essential oil of rosemary and has previously been shown to act on the biochemical systems that underpin memory.
The results showed that participants in the rosemary-scented room performed better on the prospective memory tasks than the participants in the room with no scent.
This was the case for remembering events, remembering to complete tasks at particular times, and the speed of recall.
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.
Researcher Jemma McCready said ‘The difference between the two groups was 60-75 per cent, for example one group would remember to do seven things compared with four tasks completed by those who did not smell the oil, and they were quicker.
‘We deliberately set them a lot of tasks, so it’s possible that people who multi-task could function better after sniffing rosemary oil.’ Miss McCready said ‘There was no link between the participants’ mood and memory. This suggests performance is not influenced as a consequence of changes in alertness or arousal.
‘These findings may have implications for treating individuals with memory impairments.
‘It supports our previous research indicating that the aroma of rosemary essential oil can enhance cognitive functioning in healthy adults, here extending to the ability to remember events and to complete tasks in the future.
‘Remembering when and where to go and for what reasons underpins everything we do, and we all suffer minor failings that can be frustrating and sometimes dangerous. ‘Further research is needed to investigate if this treatment is useful for older adults who have experienced memory decline’ she added.
Source: Organic Health