Rosemary is a fragrant herb that is often used for cooking and perfumes as well as its ability to soothe muscles and relieve irritation, though that is just the beginning of its capabilities. For centuries, rosemary has been said to enhance memory and focus. The scholars of ancient Greece would wear twigs of rosemary in there hair as they conducted their studies. Researchers from Nothumbria University in the United Kingdom seemed to have uncovered some of the mystery behind these fascinating effects.

Published in Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology, the study found that 1,8-cineole, the primary chemical compound in rosemary oil, has a direct link with brain performance when delivered to the bloodstream via aromatic inhalation. The team exposed 20 individuals to different levels of rosemary oil aromas and took blood samples for comparison. The patients were then asked to perform mood, speed, and accuracy tests to detect any correlations between the amount of 1,8-cineole and performance in the trials.

At the conclusion of the research, the team observed that the amount of 1,8-cineole has an undeniable effect on a person’s performance in both accuracy and speed tests. The team also detected a moderate effect on mood as well. Study researcher Dr. Mark Moss told MSNBC that “this compound is present in rosemary but has not previously been demonstrated to be absorbed into blood plasma in humans. It is our view that the aroma therefore acts like a therapeutic drug, rather than any effects being a result of the more sensory properties of the aroma,’

This is not the first research to detect a link between the rosemary aroma and cognition. Back in 2003, a study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience and also conducted at the University of Northumbria found that rosemary aroma therapy was linked with “an enhancement of performance for overall quality of memory and secondary memory factors.” However, this research demonstrated a number of inconsistencies with the control group.

While groundbreaking, the results of these studies should be seen as preliminary as there is much more to be uncovered about the memory enhancing qualities of rosemary aroma. Perhaps with a thorough understanding of how 1,8-cineole effects the mind, we may be able to uncover new methods of treatment for memory disorders such as Altzheimer’s, Huntingtion’s, and so on.

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