Rosemary could help with mood and cognitive performance

Rosemary could help with mood and cognitive performance

By Liz Lockhart

It would seem that, in many instances, our ancestors really did know what they were doing when they turned to natural medicines in the form or herbs to cure themselves.  There is still much to be learnt about just why many herbs seem to work but in the case of rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) there is some new understanding and good news.

Researchers from Northumbria University have designed an experiment to look at the effects of rosemary.  Mark Moss and Lorraine Oliver researching at the Brain, Performance and Nutrition Research Centre investigated the main component of rosemary, 1,8-cineole (2,2,2)octane).

In this study there were 20 participants who were tested for cognitive performance and mood.  They were exposed to different levels of the rosemary smell by using rosemary oil.  Blood samples were used to detect the levels of the 1,8-cineole which were absorbed . The participants were then tested in the areas of speed and accuracy and were also assessed for mood.

The results suggest that the participants’ cognitive performance is related to the concentration of 1,8-cineole in the blood.  The higher the concentration the more improved the performance.  An improvement was found in both speed and accuracy.  The chemical also had a less pronounced but definite effect on mood.  Attention and alertness did not seem to be affected either positively or negatively.

Herbs such as eucalyptus, bay, sage and wormwood as well as rosemary contain volatile 1,8-cineole and these have previously been studied with results suggesting that it inhibits acetylcholinesterase (AchE) and butyrylcholinesterase enzymes.  These are important to the brain and to the central nervous system neurochemistry.  It is thought that the breakdown of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine may be prevented by these.

Moss said ‘Only contentedness possessed a significant relationship with 1,8-cineole levels, and interestingly to some of the cognitive performance outcomes, leading the intriguing proposal that positive mood can improve performance whereas aroused mood cannot.’


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