Essential oil of rosemary boosted healthy adults’ ability to recall past events and remember to perform future tasks, which could include taking medication or sending a birthday card, at the correct time.
The improvement was unrelated to the participants’ mood, suggesting it was having a chemical influence which improved their memory, the study found.
Researchers, who will present their findings at the British Psychological Society’s annual conference in Harrogate on Tuesday, said the results could improve the everyday lives of people with age-related memory loss.
Rosemary has long been linked to memory and fidelity, and was used by ancient Egyptians in weddings and funeral rituals.
Shakespeare, it seems, was also aware of its properties. In Hamlet, Ophelia remarks: “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance: pray you, love, remember.”
Previous studies had already suggested that compounds in rosemary aroma could improve long-term memory and mental arithmetic, by inhibiting enzymes which block normal brain functioning.
Dr Mark Moss, who led the study, said: “We wanted to build on our previous research that indicated rosemary aroma improved long-term memory and mental arithmetic.