For a brain boost, stop and smell the rosemary

Put down the crossword puzzles and the Sudoku, because there is another way to keep your memory running like a thoroughbred stallion well into old age. One that is surprisingly simple…

It doesn’t involve any prescription pills or supplements. And you don’t even have to change your diet, or do any physical or mental exercise.

All you need to do is sit back and smell the rosemary.

Because it turns out that a quick whiff of rosemary essential oil can have some major benefits on your brain.

A study conducted by researchers at Northumbria University in the UK found that healthy people over the age of 65 who sat in a room containing an essential oil diffuser filled with rosemary oil were better able to remember events and more likely to remember to complete future tasks.

“In this study we focused on prospective memory,” said post-graduate student and study author Lauren Bussey. “This involves the ability to remember events that will occur in the future and to remember to complete tasks at particular times. It’s critical for everyday functioning. For example: when someone needs to remember to post a letter or to take medication at a particular time.”

But this isn’t first time researchers have honed in on rosemary’s brain-enhancing powers.

In 2012, we wrote about research at Northumbria University that found that the smell of rosemary increases your concentration and improves your overall cognitive performance, allowing you to complete tasks with more speed and accuracy.

So whether you’re constantly forgetting to return your library books, or you just want to give your powers of concentration a shot of adrenaline, a whiff of rosemary oil could do you some good.

And even if your concentration and memory are still in tip top shape, you may want to try aromatherapy as a preventative measure—especially if you’re approaching 65— the time in your life when your dementia risk skyrockets.

Other essential oils that are known to boost your brain performance and memory include peppermint oil, sage oil and basil oil. To enjoy the brain-enhancing effects of these oils you can purchase an essential oil diffuser like the researchers used, or you can add a few drops to the hot wax of a burning candle. You can also mix a few drops of oil with water in a spray bottle and use it as an air freshener…or even take a bottle of essential oil with you on-the-go for a quick sniff when you need it.

  1. “Herbs that can boost your mood and memory.” Northumbria University-Newcastle. Retrieved May 26, 2016.
  2. Moss, L. Oliver. “Plasma 1,8-cineole correlates with cognitive performance following exposure to rosemary essential oil aroma.” Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology. 2012 Jun;2(3):103-13.
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and