“Rosemary. That’s for remembrance”, says Ophelia in Act IV, Scene 5 of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. And though science was yet to catch up with the bard, time may well have proven him right. Rosemary has been associated with memory-enhancing properties for centuries, and has been a popular folk remedy.
But unlike a lot of folk remedies, this one may have empirical evidence behind it. Several modern projects have been undertaken to identify any potential restorative or curative properties that the herb may have, and the results have been illuminating indeed.
Professor Mark Moss of Northumbria University is in the midst of a fascinating rosemary study. One of his projects found that a group of 60 older people performed significantly better on memory tests when placed in rooms with rosemary aroma – and significantly worse when in a room containing lavender aroma.
But can rosemary improve memory for younger people?
Another study from the university found that pupils in a room filled with rosemary aroma (in the form of an essential oil) performed 5% to 7% better in memory tests. This research has led to a surge in rosemary sales during the 2017 exam season – Holland & Barrett puts it at 187%.
And if you’ve been elsewhere on our website, you’ll be more than familiar with the story of Acciaroli – and the ongoing research project being conducted in the town. Residents (one in ten of whom are centenarians) have lower than average rates of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and their high rosemary intake is a potential contributing factor.
Why can rosemary improve memory?
It isn’t just an old wives’ tale: rosemary contains several compounds that contribute to improving memory. The main component is 1.8-cineole, better known as Eucalyptol. Not only does it smell nice, research suggests that, by causing an increase in a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, it may act in the same way as drugs officially licensed to treat dementia. Eucalyptol is believed to be absorbed into the blood after the rosemary aroma is smelled.
The science behind this is still pretty young – and research projects are ongoing – but it may have considerable implications for those with memory difficulties, or indeed students attempting to revise for a big test.
What does it mean?
Well, the benefits of superior recall should hopefully be obvious; as far as we’re concerned, being able to avoid those awkward situations where you bump into someone in the street and draw a total blank ought to be reason enough to start sniffing rosemary this instant.
But the superherb’s superpowers may have more interesting medical implications. Doctors may be able to more effectively treat patients with memory impairments. They may be able to improve cognitive function in healthy adults – allowing them to remember events more vividly and complete tasks more effectively. The potential is there for it to serve as a kind of vaccine, supplement, and treatment for the human memory.
For now?Though science still doesn’t fully understand the benefits of rosemary, we recommend incorporating the herb into your life however you can to improve your memory – whether you chew it as the Acciarolians do, whether you smell rosemary oil, whether you incorporate it into your meals.
Or, indeed, drink No1 Rosemary Water; a convenient way to get this potentially memory-boosting herb into any diet. Contact us today for more information, or visit our shop.