Stock Up On Rosemary—Your Brain Will Thank You

Brilliance | Dec. 16, 2017

Rosemary is a fragrant herb with a wide range of uses. It's great for flavoring foods like meats and potatoes, making your home smell fresh—oh, and boosting your child's working memory. Yep, research suggests that the energizing aroma also has brain benefits.

Good For More Than Potatoes

Light up your rosemary-scented candles! In May 2017, British researchers from Northumbria University presented research giving this aromatic herb a good name. According to co-author Dr. Mark Moss, they initially found that "the aroma of rosemary essential oil could enhance cognition in healthy adults." (Hear that? You don't need kids to reap rosemary's benefits). Now they've discovered similar effects on the working memories of school-age children. Here's why this is huge: poor working memory is related to poor academic performance.

In their most recent study, which was presented at the British Psychological Society Annual Conference, 40 children aged 10 to 11 were assigned to either a room without a scent or a room that had been diffused with rosemary oil for 10 minutes. After playing a series of memory games, the children in the rosemary room performed significantly better than those in the unscented room, especially when it came to recalling words.

A Whiff A Day

But why rosemary? According to the BBC, folk medicine has long associated rosemary with having a good memory. But Dr. Moss emphasizes that the reason behind this phenomenon is still largely up for debate.

In a press release, Dr. Moss says that rosemary's aromas could "affect electrical activity in the brain." Another theory points to the herb's chemical compound, 1,8-cineole. It's responsible for rosemary's strong scent, and it also increases a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. Get this—the same compound can be found in dementia meds. What's more, the neurological effects are even greater when inhaled. Read: invest in a diffuser.

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