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New research has found the herb contains a special compound which may help boost ability to recall things.

We’ve all enjoyed the herb with our roast lamb and potatoes, but did you know that rosemary could also be useful in helping to improve memory?

A study carried out at the University of Northumbria found a compound called 1,8-cineole – which is also what gives rosemary its distinctive smell – was linked to better memory skills.

During the study, three groups of volunteers sat in different rooms while doing memory tests. One room was infused with the scent of rosemary, one with the scent of lavender and one had no scent.

In the room which was infused with rosemary, researchers found it boosted the long term memory and the ability to do simple mathematics of those volunteers, while also helping with prospective memory (which is what we use to remember to carry out plans, for example, buying a gift or sending a card).

The herb also boosted people’s ability to recall information by 15 per cent in both men and women.

‘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,’ says Dr Mark Moss, head of psychology at Northumbria University.

After taking blood tests of the study participants, researchers discovered the special compound in rosemary – 1,8-cineole – was present in their blood stream, which suggests the aroma is actually absorbed in the body.

‘It supports our previous research indicating that the aroma of rosemary essential oil can enhance cognitive functioning in healthy adults, here extending to the ability to remember events and to complete tasks in the future,’ says co-researcher Jemma McCready.

But before you start digging up your back garden and filling it with rosemary, it’s worth remembering this study was carried out on healthy people who had no memory problems, such as dementia.

‘These findings may have implications for treating individuals with memory impairments…[but]…further research is needed to investigate if this treatment is useful for older adults who have experienced memory decline,’ adds McCready.

For more information on how scent can be useful in dementia care, read some of our advice blogs by Unforgettable expert panel member and scent expert, Linda Harman.

For information on aromatherapy in dementia care, click here.