Sniffing Rosemary For Memory: Does It Work?

You probably are looking for natural solutions to improve and increase your memory capacity.

There are some pretty big claims that simply sniffing rosemary oil or the herb itself will improve memory.

What kind of truth is there to this statement? Is it a hoax, or are their legitimate benefits?

Let’s dig in!

Everything About Rosemary: Rosmarinus Officinalis!

Rosemary, botanically known as rosmarinus officinalis, is a perennial green woody herb which originates from the Mediterranean and North African regions.

It’s a hardy and rustic plant which can handle harsh cold climates, though it needs plenty of sun. This stout plant’s latin name means Dew (ros) of the Sea (marinus) as it prefers to grow by the sea shore.

It is commonly recognized for its active fragrance and used for culinary, cosmetic and medicinal purposes. Rosemary leaves can be used fresh or as dried powder in many cooking recipes as well as in tea.

From its leaves, liquid extract and essential oils can be obtained in order to apply it in cosmetic and medicinal treatments.

History Of Rosemary

Rosemary’s history and fame goes back thousands of years. These ancient stories and legends are often linked to the magical world of fairies and witches.

In ancient folklore, people used rosemary for remembrance in traditional rituals such as weddings and funerals. In weddings, a branch carried the symbolism of fidelity between lovers, while in funerals, in sign of respect, those who mourned tossed rosemary bouquets honoring their loved one’s memory.

This herb was taken to England by the Romans and later to the New World carrying the cosmetic belief of its purifying and healing powers.

In the Middle ages, a period dominated by belief and diseases such as the black plague, people used to burn rosemary in their houses to dispel negativity and to keep the disease from entering.

But long had this shrub the reputation for improving memory.

Aside from all the folklore, many historical references to rosemary’s properties have been found in medical works and literature.

One of the most famous references appears in William Shakespeare’s work, Hamlet:

“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember!”

This was the scene where Ophelia prays to Hamlet to keep her in his mind and heart.

In the 17th century, in his work Pharmacopeia Londoniensis, Dr. Culpepper compliments the amazing benefits of this herb infused in water as ” an admirable cure-all remedy of all kinds of cold, loss of memory, headache, coma.”

Some references also point out to rosemary uses for flavoring food and for skin issues.

Today, due to advanced research and abundant manufacture, we have at our disposal numerous products derived from the fresh and dried herb.

Though tempting it may be with all these historical praises, it’s yet too early to be fully convinced of the wonders of this “much hyped” plant.

There’s more to it, as we’ll shall see next.

Rosemary for Memory Problems

Scientific Studies: Backed by Science

After looking back to what history showed us, we can firmly say that rosemary has somehow always been linked to the popular belief of enhancing our memory.

Some studies on this matter reveal that the smell of herbs improves our mood, and may make us more alert and less anxious. These studies were based on testing the essential oils of some herbs such as lavender and rosemary.

But is it all because some smells improve people’s mood?

Unfortunately many of the aromatherapy literature has been unsatisfying, offering subjective impressions on how effective the smell of herbs are to the brain.

The question we should be asking is:

Can we really prove that rosemary is really effective in improving our memory? 

A study made by the Northumbria University in the UK was the first study to put it to the test.

In this study they proved how much better people did, correlated to the amount of rosemary compound that made into the blood stream, just from being in the room (Hmm, that seems a bit suspect. Snopes would probably have fun with that one).

Not only did this reveal absorption, but that such natural aromatic compounds may be playing a direct effect in changes in brain function.

Aromatic herbs do have volatile compounds that could enter the bloodstream through the nose and lungs and potentially cross through the brain having direct effects.

Not much has been tested to correlate smelling of rosemary for dementia. But that is another matter.

Why is Rosemary Beneficial To Your Memory?

The Northumbria University in the UK found the compound which has the effect of enhancing people’s long-term memory between 60 and 75% when compared to those who weren’t exposed to the rosemary fragrance.

This compound is 1,8-cineole, present in rosemary’s essential oil and able to greatly enhance the performance of brain function according to the amount the person is exposed to.

Higher concentration of this component in blood levels resulted in better performance in memory tasks.

This was an important finding by the researcher of this study, Dr. Mark Moss, because it allows an alternative treatment to people who have memory impairment and in worst cases, Alzheimer’s disease.

In a later study, Dr.  Mark Moss also underlines the usefulness of this herb’s aroma in healthy adults and in their “prospective memory” which means it help us not only to remember events but also to complete tasks in the future such as remembering someone’s birthday or posting a letter in the mail. 

If smelling has this effect, what about eating?

Eating Rosemary: Ingestion Benefits

Rosemary has an intense aroma and can be added to flavor any meat, fish, vegetable dish or even a desert. But how much is enough?

A recent study made on elderly people demonstrated the appropriate amount that works to boost cognitive functions.

This study, which was based on the ingestion of dried rosemary, concluded that a lower dose (half a teaspoon) had a beneficial effect accelerating the processing speed, however the highest dose (four teaspoons) impaired the processing speed.

Thus, half a teaspoon improved alertness while the four teaspoons decreased.

Rosemary Side Effects

Such a powerful herb can have side effects such as vomiting and spasms so be careful with the dosage.

Do NOT take high dose herbal supplements or extracts. Many times, just cooking with spices is typically sufficient enough.

Rosemary essential oils should only be taken as prescribed, and in case of disease, pregnancy or breastfeeding, you should consult a medical specialist. 

Is Rosemary A Memory Booster?

From the data gathered we can come to the following conclusion:

Rosemary in its various forms: (essential oil, fresh or dried) can potentially:

  1. Improve your memory and concentration;
  2. Protect the brain from free radical damage;
  3. Prevent Alzheimer’s and brain aging.

Besides taking great care of our brain, rosemary helps our body in so many other ways.

Let’s see…

Other Health Benefits of Rosemary

Filled with antioxidants, minerals and vitamins, rosemary has been proven efficient as an anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, anti-fungal, antiseptic and anesthetic natural remedy.

Due to the potent antioxidant, rosmarinic acid, and its volatile essential oils, the continued use of this herb can:

  • Prevent acne and skin issues;
  • Help in controlling heart rate and blood pressure;
  • Improve digestion and detoxify the liver;
  • Boost the immune system and improve blood circulation;
  • 28 hair problems like dandruff and baldness;
  • Promote hair growth and strength;
  • Enhance weight loss;
  • Freshen the breath;
  • Prevent cancer and SDT’s;
  • Ease headaches and pain in general.

Drinking Rosemary:

One of the easiest way of giving your body all the amazing benefits of rosemary is through ingestion.

Add it to your main meals or, instead, just make a cup of tea as follows :

  • Fresh or dried rosemary (half a teaspoon)
  • 1 cup of boiled water

Chop a small stem from a rosemary shrub. Place it in the cup and pour some boiled water. Let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes, no more than that or the tea may taste bitter.

For a more powerful effect, it is better to use fresh or dried leaves instead of buying teabags already packed from the supermarket.

Final Thoughts

Plants can be work almost like small pharmacies; producing all sort of compounds which can have neuroprotective effects. Rosemary is one of those types of plants.

Do you still remember the question at the beginning of the post? What was your answer?

Whatever your conclusion, it probably isn’t such a bad idea to add even a small amount of rosemary into your weekly diet.

Dee is a health conscious mom, and wife who loves to write when she isn't at the gym.
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