Saturday, August 17, 2013

Rosemary Essential Oil Improves Memory - Emerging Scientific Evidence

rosemary photo: rosemary rosemary.jpg

It had been a difficult week. All I wanted was some time alone to clear my head, but I couldn't have it. I was scheduled to the hilt for the next few days and stressed about that, too. Then I had this feeling that I should smell my soap. Seemed like a rather dumb idea, but I did it anyhow. In an instant my entire perspective shifted. I felt upbeat, calm, and refreshed.

It was a new soap. Peppermint rosemary from Peace of the Earth in Louisville. I had  considered exploring essential oils since my son became obsessed with smelling spices, so a few days later I stopped by the Aura Cacia display at Whole Foods. I inhaled deeply from the sample bottle of rosemary and my mind instantly felt more alert and focused, even more so than from smelling the soap.

But this is ridiculous, I thought, a mere scent can't do that. Or can it?

For centuries folk traditions have claimed that rosemary enhances memory.  Ophelia says in Hamlet: "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance, pray you, love, remember." And, an acquaintance has a 19th century family heirloom quilt with the likeness of a rosemary plant stitched into it above the caption, "Rosemary: for memory".  Now modern science validates our ancestors' claims about this
essential oil.


rosemary photo: Rosemary rosemary.jpg

I 2003 Jan;113(1):15-38.
Aromas of rosemary and lavender essential oils differentially affect cognition and mood in healthy adults

This study looked at the effect of lavender and rosemary essential oil on cognition and mood. The rosemary group had significant improvement in overall memory qualities and secondary memory factors, but produced an impairment in speed of memory compared to controls. The rosemary group was also significantly more alert and content than the control group. Conclusion: "These findings indicate that the olfactory properties of these essential oils can produce objective effects on cognitive performance, as well as subjective effects on mood."


2009 Dec;9(4):173-9.
Effects of inhaled rosemary oil on subjective feelings and activities of the nervous system

This study found that after inhalation test subjects became more active and said they felt "fresher". EEG results showed a reduction of alpha 1 and 2 brain waves and an increase in beta waves in the anterior portion of the brain. Conclusion: "These results confirm the stimulatory effects of rosemary oil and provide supporting evidence that brain wave activity, autonomic nervous system activity, as well as mood states are all affected by the inhalation of the rosemary oil."

2007 Feb 28;150(1):89-96. Epub 2007 Feb 7.
Smelling lavender and rosemary increases free radical scavenging activity and decreases cortisol level in saliva

Free radicals are connection to inflammation, aging, and carcinogenesis. This study found that after five minutes of inhalation test subjects had a marked decrease in cortisol, a stress marker, in their saliva. Conclusion: "These findings clarify that lavender and rosemary enhance FRSA and decrease the stress hormone, cortisol, which protects the body from oxidative stress."


Psychogeriatrics. 2009 Dec;9(4):173-
Effect of aromatherapy on patients with Alzheimer's Disease

"RESULTS: All patients showed significant improvement in personal orientation related to cognitive function on both the GBSS-J and TDAS after therapy. In particular, patients with AD showed significant improvement in total TDAS scores. Result of routine laboratory tests showed no significant changes, suggesting that there were no side-effects associated with the use of aromatherapy. Results from Zarit's score showed no significant changes, suggesting that caregivers had no effect on the improved patient scores seen in the other tests."
"In conclusion, we found aromatherapy an efficacious non-pharmacological therapy for dementia. Aromatherapy may have some potential for improving cognitive function, especially in AD patients."

2009 Mar-Apr;23(2):88-93.
The effects of lavender and rosemary essential oils on test-taking anxiety among graduate nursing students 

Conclusion: "In this study, the use of lavender and rosemary essential oil sachets reduced test-taking stress in graduate nursing students as evidenced by lower scores on test anxiety measure, personal statements, and pulse rates."


How I Use Rosemary Essential Oil:
rosemary photo: rosemary rosemary.jpg
Right now I just sniff it from the bottle in the morning before work. It can also be diffused into a room or applied to the body with a carrier oil. This blog tells my essential oil stories, links you to the science, then directs you to people more qualified to explain how to safely use them. I prefer information by Licensed Clinical Aromatherapists to advice from companies selling product. These people are highly trained in safe and effective essential oil use and there is no substitute for that. My favorite sites by Licensed Clinical Aromatherapists are:

Robert Tisserand (Great for the chemistry of essential oils)

The Barefoot Dragonfly

Kokokahn (Great for recipes)

Aromaweb (A perfect warehouse of useful essential oil information)


PS: Rosemary essential oil shows some scientific efficacy for arthritis, but that's another post. Stay tuned.


Rosemary essential oil cautions (Source: Aromaweb)

***Rosemary essential oil should be avoided with pregnancy, epilepsy and hypertension.***

***The Alliance of International Aromatherapists does not recommend internal use of essential oils unless under supervision of an appropriately trained health care professional. I turn and run from any company that recommends internal use of their product. This is serious.


Aromaweb's suggestions for do-it-yourself memory and concentration recipe blends.


University of Maryland Medical Center's review of rosemary essential oil.

Smell of Rosemary May Improve Memory - The UK Independent

Integrative Medicine: Hopes Developing for Alzheimer's Treatment (Meditation & Rosemary Essential Oil study) - The Sacramento Bee


Related Post:

Can Vetiver Essential Oil Help Autism and ADHD?

Some Essential Oils Inhibit MRSA, Strep, and Influenza: Scientific Studies


"For there is no greater influence in a physical body than the effect of odors upon the olfactory nerves." Edgar Cayce - Reading #274-7

This post shares information to inspire your own research, but is not intended as medical advice. It is linked with Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways.

Tags: Rosemary essential oil and memory, focus, concentration, mood

1 comment:

  1. The blog is really very informative. Thank You! The rosemary essential oil is one of the most popular oil used in the daily usage, as it helps with a wide array of health benefits. People use essential oil for a number of reasons and today various types of essential oils like lavender & rosemary, are available in the market.


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