Scientists Find Sniffing Rosemary Can Increase Memory By 75%

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Scientists Find Sniffing Rosemary Can Increase Memory By 75 Percent
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Rosemary is a wonderful herb with a tradition of use spanning millennia. It has innumerable uses in both the kitchen and in herbal medicine.

Did you know that rosemary has been associated with memory enhancement since ancient times? It is true – and it has even been referred to from the latter part of the Elizabethan Era to the Early Romantic period as the herb of remembrance. In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Ophelia says, “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance.” (Hamlet, iv. 5.) It has also long been used as a symbol for remembrance during weddings, war commemorations and funerals in Europe and Australia. [1] Mourners in old times would wear it as a buttonhole, burn it as incense or throw it into graves as a symbol of remembrance for the dead.

It seems that this tradition of Rosemary may actually far more ancient and have its origins in the Arabic world of medieval times, which was greatly advanced in science: In Henry Lyte’s 1578 “Niewe Herball“, an English version of Rembert Dodoens’ French treatise, it is written “The Arrabians and their successors Physitions, do say that Rosemarie comforteth the brayne, the memory and the inward senses, and that it restoreth speech, especially the conserve made of the flowers, thereof with Sugar, to be received daily.” [2]

Because of this seemingly esoteric association, rosemary has at times been made into a sort of herbal-amulet, where it was placed beneath pillowcases, or simply smelt as a bouquet, and it was believed that using rosemary in these ways could protect the sleeper from nightmares, as well as increase their memory.

What’s fascinating is that several scientific studies have now found remarkable results for rosemary’s effects on memory:

Rosemary essential oil’s role in aromatherapy as an agent that promotes mental clarity was validated by the study of Moss, Cook, Wesnes, and Duckett (2003) in which the inhalation of rosemary essential oil significantly enhanced the performance for overall quality of memory and secondary memory factors of study participants. [3]

More recently, in 2012 a study on 28 older people (average 75 years old) found statistically significant dose-dependent improvements in cognitive performance with doses of dried rosemary leaf powder. [4]

Another study by Mark Moss and Lorraine Oliver at Northumbria University, Newcastle has identified 1,8-cineole (a compound in rosemary) as an agent potentially responsible for cognitive and mood performance. [5]

Further studies by Mark Moss and team have found memory enhancements of up to an amazing 75% from diffusion of rosemary essential oil. [6]

Now if you are asking “How is it even possible that an aroma can enhance memory?” – well, that’s a great question. Here’s a fascinating quote from one of the scientific papers referenced: “Volatile compounds (e.g. terpenes) may enter the blood stream by way of the nasal or lung mucosa. Terpenes are small organic molecules which can easily cross the blood-brain barrier and therefore may have direct effects in the brain by acting on receptor sites or enzyme systems.” [5]

Terpenes are primary components of essential oils and are often strong smelling, responsible for a diverse array of natural aromas. It’s also been found that 1,8-cineole enters the bloodstream of mammals after inhalation or ingestion. [7]

I’m interested to know if anyone uses rosemary as a memory enhancer. Maybe you could take some with you next time you have an examination and see if it helps with recall? One last tidbit to inspire you further: Lavender. In a 1998 study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience, rosemary was found to increase alertness but lavender was found not only to increase alertness but also to increase accuracy in math tests! [8] The way this is going, I can sense the possibility of a magical custom oil blend for total recall! 😉

Rosemary is very easy to grow in many gardens and will provide an abundant supply – almost too abundant! Just the other day when paying a Christmas visit to my family, I cut a few sprigs from my Dad’s organic rosemary bush (rosemary is an evergreen!), left them on a radiator to dry for a few days and then put the needle-like leaves in a jar, ready for use in the kitchen whenever required. So aromatic… and much better than the store-bought stuff I had before!

Another thought that springs to mind from this – here we have yet another example of an ancient herbal lore that has been validated by modern experiments. This happens again and again – and yet still the remarkable herbals, lost treasures of the ancient world are considered spurious by modern medicine. If an herb has been in use for a thousand years for a condition, it should be considered probable that there is something to it. When are we going to catch up with ancient knowledge? Let’s hope soon – while there is still some untarnished, un-GMO-ed nature left…

This scientific discovery was brought to our attention by the remarkable Robert Tisserand, whose work on essential oils is considered by many to be among the very finest. Check out his original pages reporting on the memory effects of Rosemary here – and here


[1] Henry Lyte “Niewe Herball”, 1578, p.264


[3] Moss M., Cook J., Wesnes K., & Duckett P. (2003). Aromas of rosemary and lavender essential oils differentially affect cognition and mood in healthy adults. International Journal of Neuroscience, 113(1): 15-38.






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  • By Lili McHenry, January 2, 2014 @ 6:12 pm

    Very interesting! I’m in planning stage for fall and spring landscaping as well as spring vegetable garden. Want to be pesticide free and healthy so this article was great and other publications will be on my list to consider!!!

  • By Ruthie in Dallas, January 2, 2014 @ 6:20 pm

    I knew rosemary had been used as a “strewing” herb but this article has further enlightened me. I first grew from seed & had a large plant grow in a small bed that unfortunately held too much water a few years later when we had rain. Next I tried a small Christmas tree that I’d received in a sunnier & well drained area. From that, I now have 7 3-5 ft. plants that I constantly have to trim. Put all the trimmings in various pots & places & try to share for cooking or growing with neighbors & friends. Many of whom did not know it could be grown in this area let alone in the sun with very little water. Now I have more reasons to share of it’s history. Thank you.

  • By lorena castaneda, January 3, 2014 @ 7:46 am

    i like this rosemary and i try this because i have a migraine and heart problem i hope someday is done.thank you so much.

  • By gina, January 3, 2014 @ 10:32 pm

    thank you for the information. Regards.

  • By John Posner, January 4, 2014 @ 12:34 am

    Not surprising as rosemary is one of the most valuable herbs ever; all its properties have surely yet to be discovered.

  • By Molly Blonde, January 4, 2014 @ 1:57 pm

    Thank you for this valuable tip.
    I’d certainly like to try this. Have a language exam on 16th & 23rd. Will keep you posted concerning my results.

  • By russ hardy, January 4, 2014 @ 11:17 pm

    my question ,would this help with those who have early onset dimentia or alzsheimers ????

  • By Judy Powers, January 7, 2014 @ 5:31 am

    too cool

  • By robert, February 4, 2014 @ 10:04 am

    Can rosemary airspray freshner help memory too?

  • By Julia, February 7, 2014 @ 5:36 am

    I have been diffusing high quality lavender essential oil while sleeping for several months. I have noticed that my memory seems better lately but did not attribute it to the lavender until reading your article. I recently took an online memory test and scored well. Now I will add rosemary and see if my recall improves even more.

  • By Karen, February 14, 2014 @ 11:01 pm

    How would you try this? Use the oil or use fresh in a satchel? It didn’t say how to try this.

  • By BHOOMI, February 25, 2014 @ 4:31 pm

    Is there any medicine for joint pain in hand and in leg(both left and right) then please mail to me.

  • By Kisa Johnson, April 12, 2014 @ 5:58 am

    I am going to have to try this. I am not sure if I can grow Rosemary where I am, but I will look into and it see what I can do. 😀

  • By Mickalin Camp, May 13, 2014 @ 8:27 pm

    I think I am going to try buying some fresh organic Rosemary at the farmers Market and them them in a bunch and leave at my desk at work. maybe this will help with the longer days.

  • By irene ronson, May 29, 2014 @ 9:22 pm

    I think it’s time schoolchildren should be taught about herbs at school as it is so useful to know about them and their uses.They could paint or draw them ,or grow them. I love herbs especially Rose mary and Lavender.Let’s get back to natural remedies as God intended.

  • By Sharon, June 29, 2014 @ 5:16 pm

    We have a huge Rosemary bush outside our back door. We allow visitors to take what they want but we only seem to use it for mashed potatoes and lamb recipes. It’s nice to know the medicinal values of Rosemary. Although the article does not mention how to use it, I imagine chopping it up to release the oils and placing it in a satchel and smelling it would work. Thanks for the information!

  • By Marcia, July 1, 2014 @ 9:13 am

    The French treatise said the use of the flowers is what benefits the brain. Have lots of rosemary growing on my property because the deer don’t eat it. I don’t like the taste either. As for the ancients smelling it, I always thought it was the pungent small that covered up the smell of the people’s body odor. The next time mine is in bloom I’ll have to pick some of the flowers and see what they smell like see about using them.

  • By mike wilt, July 1, 2014 @ 10:58 am

    Rosemary is easy to grow both indoors and out. It makes a great potted plant for in the kitchen. I love the aroma and can see why it has a positive effect on folks. I would like to see more scientific testing (some of these test groups are very small and the length of the study is suspect). But, it does smell great and is wonderful to cook with. So… why not?

  • By Francois, July 1, 2014 @ 2:36 pm

    What a great magic herb!

  • By Richard, July 2, 2014 @ 5:24 am

    I intend to try it but I keep forgetting to do so…

  • By Lennie smith, July 2, 2014 @ 4:38 pm

    I love to read about Herbs ! Rosemary is one of my favorites ! I can hardly wait to take this to the Herb
    Society Meeting next week! Thanks!

  • By Mirdza Hayden, July 3, 2014 @ 3:00 pm

    Very interesting! Thanks for writing and sharing this blog. I will share it with others.

  • By Gracie mcbride, July 3, 2014 @ 4:28 pm

    Rosemary oil is also a fabulous hangover remedy from the Irish
    They can drink thru the evening and rub the oil on their arm in the morning and within five minutes they are bright eyed and ready for the day
    I have tried this and it truly works so I keep some essential oil at home and work just in case

  • By bikerjohn, July 3, 2014 @ 11:46 pm

    Gonna have to bring some with me to the Wednesday chess match…

  • By Catherine Miller, July 5, 2014 @ 9:45 am

    Rosemary is a stimulant and care should be taken if you suffer from hypertension……

  • By Steve Perkins, July 5, 2014 @ 2:28 pm

    Modern medicine will use these herbs when they can make a profit from them. Right now, they are getting kick-backs from the Pharm. Companies and all Modern Medicine cares about is their bottom line.

  • By Barbara Nickles, July 6, 2014 @ 4:27 pm

    My mother has fibromyalgia and quite often experiences “fibrofog” which effects her short term memory … What a shock to find out that something that God put on the earth can help. We are going to try this. I 100% believe in the natural cures over medicinal.

  • By david njones, July 7, 2014 @ 11:48 am

    i am surprised that no mention is made of the fact that rosemary is very dangerous to those suffering with epileptic fits

  • By Counterclocked circle, July 30, 2014 @ 12:21 pm

    Sniffing peppers also increase the memory…you’ll never forget it.

  • By George Besteder, July 30, 2014 @ 2:16 pm


  • By Anette Beightel, July 31, 2014 @ 7:56 am

    I think it’s about time people started looking towards the natural herbs. I was taught along time ago to trust in the healing power of herbs.

  • By Amit Tada-india, October 20, 2014 @ 3:57 pm

    It’s too big news.

  • By Monica Ramos, October 20, 2014 @ 8:28 pm

    This can actually work with many scents, Rosemary is just one, but it’s a good choice. When studying for an exam, for example, sniff some rosemary (or another scent) either directly from the herb sprig or use essential oils. Reintroduce the same scent at exam time (dab a little oil on your wrist) and the brain will make the connection and recall the information that was stored when the smell was present during study.

  • By Vijay Mainkar, December 7, 2014 @ 5:31 am

    Nice information indeed. Thanks

  • By Gerhard, August 24, 2015 @ 7:41 am

    Natural is the way to go, today we are poisoned by all our generic manufactured medications and foods. We also believe in natural cures for health related problems.

  • By judytorrens, September 13, 2015 @ 3:12 am

    It is very nice article of information about ‘rose mary’ I use it in cooking. Ill try the memory test. Thank you for sharing.

  • By Papa Joe Gaudet, November 5, 2015 @ 4:44 pm

    I’ve been sniffing rosemary essential oil for about a year now. Living with with my disappearing past was bad enough, but I could no longer hold onto a phone number long enough to dial it. I exercised my brain (seriously) to no avail. My history was evaporating and I struggled to remember what I was saying.

    Then I was introduced to Rosemary and while I had no expectations (actually didn’t believe it would help any more than the ‘other things’), it has been incredible. The lost memories are still returning and I can do math in my head again. There are still times when I struggle to remember things, but now I usually succeed.

    I sniff a lot, about a quarter ounce a year, several time a day, more when I’m struggling or stressed. I don’t know how or why it works and I really don’t care. Living without memory is a horrible and scary experience which I am very glad to leave behind. I pray daily this doesn’t stop working.

    I do not say it will work for anyone. It works for me and is worth trying for anyone who experiences chronic memory issues.

  • By Mike De Fleuriot, July 5, 2016 @ 4:44 pm

    Actually none of the papers cited accurately ascribe flowers to improve memory, nor do these papers suggest a mechanism for this function.

    But then most of you would not even read the papers, let alone understand them and the methods that they use. You love your woo, until you get a real medical problem, then you run to a real doctor for real medicine.

  • By ;;Bob Adams, November 19, 2016 @ 6:30 pm

    wonderful reference material. very informative. wish there was a “print article” button. would be most helpful.

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