Aromatic herbs have been used for therapeutic purposes for nearly 6,000 years and are known to affect mood, memory, and healing. Ancient Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, Indians and Chinese used aromatic herbs in drugs, cosmetics and perfumes to promote well-being and hygiene.
Today, using aromatic herbs in modern society has seen a resurgence through aromatherapy, or the use of essential oils from plants and herbs for healing purposes. Used for alleviating everything from hormonal mood swings to migraines to memory loss to anxiety and depression, aromatic herbs can be found throughout America in homes, doctor’s offices, therapist’s offices and hospitals.
Let’s look at five well-known herbs proven to influence mood and memory:
Peppermint Improves Alertness and Mood Stability
Recent research conducted by Jemma McCready and Dr. Mark Moss at the Brain, Performance and Nutrition Centre at Northumbria University, UK found that participants who were put through a series of computerized tests after drinking peppermint tea showed better long-term memory recall than those who drank regular tea or chamomile tea.
Long known for being mentally alerting, peppermint helped the participants of the study remember more words and pictures than their counterparts who drank tea without peppermint.
Earlier research studies like one 2009 study conducted by Raudenbush, Grayhem, Sears and Wilson found that peppermint not only helped participants remain more alert, it also produced lower ratings of anxiety, frustration and fatigue. Another study by McCombs et al. (2011) found that peppermint aroma kept participants more engaged in the tasks, enhancing their ability to be productive.
Rosemary Improves Memory Function
Rosemary has long been known for it’s positive effects on memory. Even Shakespeare penned in Hamlet “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember” back in 1599-1601.
McCready and Moss found that smelling rosemary improved the memories of people over 65 by an average of 15%. The participants in a rosemary-scented room were able to remember events and remember to complete tasks at particular times much better than those participants who were in a room with no scent.
McCready and Moss found that a compound called 1,8-cineole was present in greater amounts in the bloodstream of those in the rosemary-scented room versus those in the unscented room. 1,8-cineole is a compound found in rosemary and has previously been shown to act on the biochemical systems that underpin memory.
Other studies have found that rosemary improves concentration, reduces anxiety and lowers cortisol levels in the brain.
Chamomile Calms But Also Impairs Memory
Roman chamomile and German chamomile are prized plants for centuries, long sought out for their ability to calm and moderate strong emotions. Chamomile has anti-anxiety and stress relieving properties that help to ease depression, worry and overactive minds.
However, McCready and Moss found that chamomile also significantly impairs memory function. Those participants who were exposed to chamomile scent reported a marked decrease in the ability to remember tasks and events. Additionally, their response times to tasks were significantly slower.
Lavender Sedates But Impairs Memory
Lavender is a heavily branched shrub native to the Mediterranean but today grows throughout southern Europe, the United States and Australia. Research has shown that lavender produces a slight calming, soothing and sedative effect, often used in the treatment of insomnia, headaches and nervous disorders viagra autre produit.
A 2003 study by Moss, Cook, Wesnes and Duckett showed that while lavender encouraged a feeling of contentment in participants, it also produced a serious decrease in the performance of working memory and impaired the reaction times for both memory and attention-based tasks. McCready and Moss found similar results in their 2015 study.
So, while lavender can improve mood by calming and soothing, it decreases performance and memory recall.
Sage Quickens Nerves and Memory
As far back as 1597, well-known herbalists promoted sage as being good for the brain, for it “quickens the nerves and memory.”
Today, researchers are finding that study participants who have taken sage oil consistently had better word recall. In fact, researchers have found that taking sage extracts for four months helped improve learning, memory and information processing in people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.
However, sage only produces improved cognitive function and memory results when ingested. Using sage in aromatherapy only improved alertness, but not attention and memory.
Peppermint, rosemary, chamomile, lavender and sage all have powerful effects on the brain, influencing both mood and memory. If your goal is to be alert and improve memory, then stick with peppermint, rosemary and sage to raise your cognitive functions. If your goal is to calm yourself, shedding anxiety and depression, then use chamomile or lavender to slow down and unwind.
As with all herbs, use cautiously and consult a physician or aromatherapist to avoid any adverse interactions with medicines or ongoing medical treatment.