Rosemary improves memory according to data presented at a meeting of the British Psychological Society. The study involved memory tests on 60 subjects in a room filled with the scent of rosemary. The scent helped.
Aromatherapy is a bit out of fashion nowadays, and most of the claims made on its behalf were based on nothing more than fanciful thinking. But it turns out that the basic premise can be demonstrated. What you smell can affect your physiology in beneficial ways. This isn’t a license for people to simply make stuff up, but it does suggest that looking for other beneficial effects from this and other plants might be fruitful.
How does it work? We don’t know. The researchers are on the case and have already established that the blood of the test subjects contained higher levels of a compound called 1,8-cineole. This is a member of my favourite chemical family the terpenes. (Have a look at my post about vanillin for my panegyric to the terpenes.) I wouldn’t put anything past a terpene to be honest. I would not be at all surprised to find that the terpenes in an essential oil might have some effect on the brain that bucks it up a bit.
I hope more researchers pile into this area. I’d love to know more about what is going on.