Does Rosemary Boost Memory?
In a song from their hit 1966 album, Simon & Garfunkel asked if we were off to Scarborough Fair, and, if so, could we pick up a little parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme? They were really onto something, not only because “Scarborough Fair/Canticle” is a musical masterpiece; it’s also a convenient list of medicinal herbs. Parsley, for example, may protect against diabetes, while sage is used to treat a variety of digestive problems. Now, rosemary is getting in on the health act, too.
In a 2018 study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, drinking a concentrated rosemary water drink boosted cognitive and memory performance by up to 15 percent. The study was by Dr. Mark Moss, of Northumbria University in England, who has in the past researched the positive effects of inhaling rosemary to boost memory. For this study, participants were given 250 ml of concentrated rosemary water. After 20 minutes, a control group (who had a placebo drink) and the rosemary-quaffing group both did long-term and working memory tasks while having their brain blood flow measured. This measurement looked to see how efficiently the body could extract energy for the brain to do its job.
The researchers found that there was a 15 percent average improvement in the memory tasks of the rosemary drinkers versus the placebo group. Brain blood flow was also increased, signaling that ingesting rosemary may benefit the brain’s vascular system. Rosemary’s 1,8-cineole and rosmarinic acid may be what helps boost cognitive performance, the research team posits.
Is it worth cooking more with rosemary, sniffing the plant’s oil, or sipping rosemary water? Well, as Moss added in the study, “rosemary offers a number of interesting possible health-promoting applications, from antioxidant and anti-microbial to hepatoprotective and antitumorigenic activity.” Perhaps it’s “thyme”—pardon the pun—to take a closer look at this herb.
- by Kathryn Drury Wagner