Need help remembering? Try Rosemary

There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember. And there is pansies, that’s for thoughts.

Ophelia, Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 5

Shakespeare knew it. And the ancient Greeks knew it.

Now the use of rosemary for memory is being brought back to the fore with university studies.

If you’ve ever had a need to remember something, for example you are a student coming up to exams, or there’s a presentation you need to nail, then diffusing rosemary in the lead up could be your secret weapon.

I’m thinking of diffusing it whenever my husband is home, his prospective memory works well, but his past memory can let him down – things don’t enter his memory banks, which can be frustrating when trying to remember names of people.

A recent study found that students working in a room filled with the aroma of rosemary achieved 5 per cent to 7 per cent better results in memory tests.

A similar study on older people also achieved positive results.

Mark Moss, from Northumbria University, said the findings were consistent with tests on adults. He said the study supported traditional beliefs about rosemary, which has been associated with memory for hundreds of years.

Students in Ancient Greece worse garlands of rosemary during their exams

The study, which was presented this month at the annual conference of the British Psychological Society, backed the “received wisdom” that rosemary can assist with memory.

Tests carried out by Dr Moss and Victoria Earle involved 40 pupils aged 10 and 11 endure a series of memory tests in rooms with and without the aroma of rosemary.

Pupils did not know they were taking part in memory tests related to the scent but Dr Moss said those exposed to the smell had on average an improvement of 5-7 per cent in results.

These tests followed up earlier research on adults which had suggested a link between rosemary and memory.

Dr Moss said it confirmed that children and adults seemed to be influenced but there was variability in the level of impact and some people did not seem to respond at all.

He also said the human sense of smell is highly sensitive and sends messages to the brain, setting off reactions and responses. There are neurotransmitters in the brain associated with memory and Dr Moss suggests that these can be affected by scents.

Dr Moss said the next step should be to extend the study, with “large-scale trials of aroma application in education settings”.

Here’s a link to the report.

You can get your rosemary oil and diffusers here.


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