A key to improving memory may lie in a common herb — rosemary.
A study presented at the British Psychological Society’s annual conference in Harrogate showed that the smell of the essential oil from the herb appears to enhance the ability to remember events and complex tasks.
The researchers from the University of Northumbria had 66 adults enter one of two rooms — a room with no scent and a room with a rosemary scent. The participants were then tested on their memory functions by finding hidden objects and passing objects to researchers at particular times.
The subjects in the rosemary-scented room performed better on the memory tasks than those in the room with no smell.
“In this study we focused on prospective memory, which involves the ability to remember events that will occur in the future and to remember to complete tasks at particular times. This is critical for everyday functioning,” explained author Dr Mark Moss.
Previous work had already hinted toward the effect of rosemary on memory, showing that compounds in the rosemary aroma could improve long-term memory and mental arithmetic.
And, as the Daily Telegraph points out, the results suggest that Shakespeare knew this all along. In his play, “Hamlet,” Ophelia remarks, “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance: pray you, love, remember.”
The researchers hope the findings may help lay a (rosemary-scented) foundation for treating people with memory impairments.