Benefits of Rosemary (Brain Function)

In folk medicine, rosemary has been associated for centuries with having a good memory.  Rosemary is a Perennial herb with evergreen, needle-like leaves and white, pink, purple or blue flowers.  Its name is derived from Latin “dew of the sea”.  It is Mediterranean in origin, but the plant is  hardy in colder climates and is used in cooking as well.

Researchers from Northumbria University in the United Kingdom found that,8-cineole, a main chemical in rosemary oil is linked with brain performance. Subjects were tested in a room infused with rosemary or lavender essential oils or no aroma. Participants were told they were there to test a vitamin water drink. Any comments about the aromas were passed off as irrelevant and “left over from the previous group to use the room”.

Results indicated that there are compounds in rosemary oil that may be responsible for changes in memory performance. One of them 1,8  may act in the same way as the drugs licensed to treat dementia, causing an increase in a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. These compounds prevent the breakdown of the neurotransmitter by an enzyme. Inhalation is one of the best ways of getting drugs into the brain. When you eat a drug it may be broken down in the liver which processes everything absorbed by the gut, but with inhalation small molecules can pass into the bloodstream and from there to the brain without being broken down by the liver. As further confirmation researchers analyzed blood samples and found traces of the chemicals in rosemary oil in the blood.

Mark Moss and Lorraine Oliver, Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology, June 20, 2012