Study: The Scent of Rosemary Can Make You Smarter

Rosemary© Ambernectar 13/Flickr

The scent of rosemary wafting from a dish of roasted potatoes is one thing -- but when distanced from the aromas of garlic and olive oil, the astringent scent of rosemary, although lovely, can seem downright medicinal. It’s no wonder that the perennial herb has had a long history of performing therapeutic feats.

Now researchers have shown for the first time that blood levels of a rosemary oil component correlate with improved cognitive performance, as reported in Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology, published by SAGE.

Mark Moss and Lorraine Oliver, working at the Brain, Performance and Nutrition Research Centre at Northumbria University, UK exposed a group of 20 people to varying levels of rosemary aroma, testing the cognitive performance and mood of the group.

Focusing on 1,8-cineole, one of rosemary's main chemical components, the investigators analyzed blood samples to check the amount participants had absorbed. The researchers applied speed and accuracy tests, as well as mood assessments, to determine the rosemary oil's affects.

Results show for the first time in human subjects that concentration of 1,8-cineole in the blood is linked to one’s cognitive performance--the higher the concentration, the better the performance. Both speed and accuracy were improved, suggesting that the relationship is not describing a speed–accuracy trade off.

Meanwhile, although not as pronounced, 1,8-cineole also had an effect on mood. The component did not appear to effect attention or alertness.

So whether or not the scent of rosemary can actually raise IQ points may still be up in the air, but improved cognitive performance is looking pretty certain.