Whiff of Rosemary gives your brain a boost

Published On: Apr 02 2013 04:19:54 AM EDT   Updated On: Apr 02 2013 06:59:27 AM EDT

Could the smell of rosemary enhance your time on a crossword puzzle?

It's possible, according to a new study.

Researchers noted the surprising appearance of a component of rosemary oil in the bloodstream, leading to new ideas about how rosemary aroma can be used therapeutically.

The results will be published in Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology, a journal published by SAGE Publications.

Rosemary has a long history as a traditional remedy with such widespread uses as a hair rinse and a cat repellent. When steamed, some say it can treat bronchitis and other forms of congestion, while the link between rosemary and improved cognitive function has long been established.

Nbcnews.com reports Dr. Mark Moss, who devised and wrote the study, was interested in rosemary’s fragrant aroma, which has long been cherished by chefs and bakers. Could the 1,8-cineole, a constituent part of rosemary oil, be detected in the bloodstream after exposure to just the aroma?

“We were not surprised by the improvement in cognitive performance following exposure to rosemary aroma as this has been demonstrated previously,” Moss wrote in an e-mail. “What excited us was the demonstration that performance was linked to plasma levels of 1,8-cineole following exposure.” 

In the study, a cohort of 20 subjects were exposed to varying levels of the aroma, then given a battery of cognitive tests and mood assessments. Not surprisingly, the cognitive performance of the subjects increased, with a corresponding mood increase of lesser magnitude. However, the real surprise came when the blood tests were processed.

The results showed absorption of 1,8-coneole into the bloodstream, meaning the natural compound was absorbed through the nose and into the blood plasma. For Moss, this means there is a more traditional biochemical explanation for the increased cognitive performances previously demonstrated.


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