Is Rosemary the Key to Memorizing?

May 10, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

The next time you need to remember something, smell some rosemary.

Northumbria University’s Mark Moss and Vicotria Earle showed that traditional ideas about rosemary’s effects on memory are consistent with scientific evidence.

What did he find?  Students working in a room in which they can smell rosemary as an essential oil earn between five and seven percent better results on memory tests than those who don’t.

Dr. Moss conducted a series of memory tests on 40 students, ages 10 and 11.  The students didn’t know that they were taking memory tests related to scent.  One group of students sat in a room with the smell of rosemary. Another group sat in a room without the scent of rosemary.  Those that smelled the rosemary did between five and seven percent better.

Great news—but why does it work?  Electricity. 

Dr. Moss says that humans’ highly selective sense of smell can affect neural reactions.  Smell can affect neurotransmitters associated with scent.  In an article on the BBC, he said, “It could be that aromas affect electrical activity in the brain or that pharmacologically active compounds can be absorbed when adults are exposed.”

How do they plan to use the results of their study?  To help lower-performing students.

In a press release on Science Daily, Dr. Moss said, “We do know that poor working memory is related to poor academic performance and these findings offer a possible cost-effective and simple intervention to improve academic performance in children. The time is ripe for large-scale trials of aroma application in education settings."



Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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