We all have our favorite natural scents, but what if one of them could help us remember. That is exactly what researchers have found out when it comes to rosemary.

Psychologists at Northumbria University, Newcastle, conducted a study presented at the Annual Conference of the British Psychological Society in Harrogate, which showed that sniffing the essential oil from the herb rosemary enhances memory functions. (Digital Journal)

Although this is useful for everyone, researchers believe this could prove extremely helpful for those suffering from memory impairment. This is because the type of memory rosemary helps falls into the category of long-term memory and mental arithmetic.

Dr. Mark Ross said it enabled people to “remember events that will occur in the future” by 60-75 percent and to “remember to complete tasks at particular times.” (Discovery News)

66 people participated in the study and were randomly assigned to two different rooms. One room was scented with rosemary essential oil and the other was not. According to the Daily Mail, an aroma steam fan was used to move the smell around the room.

Volunteers were asked to find objects that were hidden while they were watching and to then pass these objects to the researchers at specific times. Participants were scored on their ability to perform the tasks without being prompted. (WebMD) They were also given questionnaires to answer. These surveys assessed each person’s mood.

In order to determine whether is was the rosemary that boosted memory, volunteers had their blood tested for the compound 1,8-cineole. In previous research, this compound was shown to be involved in the processes linked to memory.

The volunteers in the rosemary-scented room performed the tasks better than those in the non-scented room. Also, the blood tests confirmed that those in the rosemary scented rooms had higher levels of 1,8-cineole in their blood. The compound is believed to have been absorbed into the blood after being sniffed through the nose.

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Dr. Mark Moss, who presented the findings at the British Psychology Society conference, said that evidence was accumulating to show the benefits of rosemary aroma. 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 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.” (Digital Journal)

Co-researcher Jemma McCready, said, “The difference between the two groups was 60-75 percent, 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 is possible that people who multi-task could function better after sniffing rosemary oil. 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.”

Although the testing was very positive, more research needs to be done to determine whether smelling rosemary will improve memory for those who need it. However, unlike many medications, it will not hurt to try it out.

It is also important to note that the findings have not been published in a peer-reviewed journal. (WebMD)

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