Listen up Sudoku lovers. There may be another way to improve your memory and cognition and it has nothing to do with any puzzle. According to a new British study, all you have to do is take a sniff of a specific essential oil. The best news is that it’s not hard to find.
The new study was designed to show whether breathing in something called 1,8-cineole–a chemical compound found in rosemary oil–would have an effect on mental abilities. The researchers suspected that it might boost mental abilities because past research has shown that 1,8-cineole might slow the breakdown of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that’s essential for both memory and many other mental processes including recognizing sequences and performing quick mathematical tasks.
Twenty male and female volunteers, average age about 23, were selected. One at a time, they were asked to sit in an office. After the office door was closed, a device hidden under a bench in the office diffused four drops of rosemary oil into the air. The amount was enough for participants to smell it but not so strong that they would suspect that the odor was part of the study. Participants sat in the office and did nothing for anywhere from four to 10 minutes. Researchers varied the amount of time spent in the office so that each participant would breathe in a different amount of the oil.
Several minutes later, each participant was given three mental tests. The tests involved the ability to subtract from numbers flashing on a computer screen and to detect sequences in numbers that scrolled across the screen.
After the mental tests, researchers measured participants’ blood for levels of 1,8-cineole and then compared these levels with the mental test results.
The comparison strongly suggested that the rosemary aroma helped participants’ performance–the more rosemary oil that participants had absorbed into their blood streams, the better those participants performed on the three mental tests, on average.
“Natural aromas can influence mental performance,” study author Dr. Mark Moss, of the University of Northumbria at Newcastle. Those who worked in rosemary-scented cubicles had better long-term memory than those who worked in unscented cubicles.
“My major belief is that these effects are not life-changing in themselves–we cannot provide a short-cut or quick fix,” Moss stated. “However, it may be that we can use natural compounds to improve our everyday lives.”
Rosemary oil is available online and in health-food stores and vitamin stores. Prices vary but average about $5 to $8 an ounce. The researchers used a brand called Tisserand Rosemary Organic essential oil (www.TisserandUsa.com, $12.50 for 0.32 oz). You can buy a device that lets you diffuse the aroma into the air, and Dr. Moss suggests diffusing four drops for a pleasant but not overpowering aroma. But you don’t have to use a diffuser–just drip four drops onto a cotton ball. Then place the diffuser or the cotton ball somewhere in the room that you’re in, ideally a few feet away, so the smell isn’t too intense and doesn’t give you a headache or make you feel nauseated.
John Summerly is nutritionist, herbologist, and homeopathic practitioner. He is a leader in the natural health community and consults athletes, executives and most of all parents of children on the benefits of complementary therapies for health and prevention.
Source: Prevent Disease