For students preparing for final exams, here’s some news you can use: researchers have found that the smell of rosemary results in improved performance on memory tests.
Researchers at Northumbria University in England found that when children were working in a room scented with rosemary (in the form of an essential oil), they achieved 5 to 7 percent better results on memory-related tasks, according to the BBC News.
The findings were presented at the annual British Psychological Society conference this week.
These results follow a study done on older adults last year that showed similar improved cognitive function from the aroma of rosemary. Adults aged 65 and older who had been in a rosemary-scented room did 15 percent better on memory tests than those who had been in an odorless room.
Rosemary has been associated with memory for hundreds of years.
Students in ancient Greece wore garlands of rosemary around their necks to improve their memory for exams. They also braided in into their hair and put it under their pillows the night before a test, according to the website adlunamlabs.com.
Saint Thomas More testified to the memory-enhancing properties of the herb, when he wrote:
As for rosmarine, I lette it runne all over my garden walls, not onlie because my bees love it, but because it is the herb sacred to remembrance, and, therefore to friendship . . .
In Shakespheare’s Hamlet, Ophelia says, “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance, pray you, love, remember.”
Dr. Mark Moss of Northumbria University said that the effect of the aroma of rosemary might act as a stimulus to the brain’s neurotransmitters.
“Why and how rosemary has this effect is still up for debate. It could be that aromas affect electrical activity in the brain or that pharmacologically active compounds can be absorbed when adults are exposed,” Moss said.
Researchers hope that these studies will prompt a larger scale study on the memory enhancing benefits of rosemary.
Perhaps an essential oil diffuser could replace medications to improve performance on cognitive tasks.