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Scent of Rosemary Can Boost Memory by 75 Percent, Study

Update Date: Apr 09, 2013 05:45 AM EDT

A whiff of rosemary can help boost you memory by up to 75 percent, according to a new study.

Rosemary has long been associated with memory and fidelity.  In ancient Egypt, the herb was used in weddings and funeral rituals. Even English playwright William Shakespeare was aware of its memory boosting properties. In his play famous play "Hamlet" Ophelia says: "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance: pray you, love, remember."

The latest findings revealed that essential oil of rosemary help improve healthy adults' ability to recall past events and remember to perform future tasks on time.

The study also found that the memory boost was unrelated to participants' mood, leading researchers to suggest that the memory improvement could be due to a chemical influence, according to The Telegraph.

Researchers said the findings could improve the everyday lives of people with age-related memory loss.

Past studies have also suggested that compounds in rosemary scent could increase alertness and improve long-term memory, by stopping the production of enzymes that block normal brain functioning.

"We wanted to build on our previous research that indicated rosemary aroma improved long-term memory and mental arithmetic," said lead researcher Dr. Mark Moss, according to the Daily Mail.

"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, for example when someone needs to remember to post a birthday card or to take medication at a particular time," Moss said.

The latest study included 66 participants who were divided into two groups.  One group waited in a room with no scent and the other group waited in a rosemary-scented room.

Participant were then asked to complete a series of memory tests, which included hiding objects and finding them again at a later stage, or giving a specified object to a researcher at a particular time.

The findings revealed that rosemary essential oil increased the chances of remembering to do things in the future by 60 to 75 percent. Researchers found that participants in the rosemary oil group performed better at both memory tests and also had higher levels of 1,8-cineole, a compound in rosemary oil previously shown to influence chemical systems in the body which improve brain functioning, in their blood. 

"These findings may have implications for treating individuals with memory impairments," said co-researcher Jemma McCready, according to The Independent.  "Remembering when and where to go and for what reasons underpins everything we do, and we all suffer minor failings that can be frustrating and sometimes dangerous. Further research is needed to investigate if this treatment is useful for older adults who have experienced memory decline."

The new study will be presented Tuesday at the British Psychological Society's annual conference in Harrogate.

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