Rosemary – The Memory Spice

The ancient Greeks and scientists of the 21st century agree: that rosemary improves memory. In addition, the kitchen herb is a well-known home remedy for many ailments – and it can be used in just as many ways.

Rosemary brings Mediterranean flavors to the plate

Rosemary (Salvia Rosmarinus or Rosmarinus officinalis) is one of the most well-known spices in Mediterranean cuisine. The aromatic branches of the shrub refine grilled and vegetable dishes, stews, and sauces or are processed into herbal mixtures that are then used in salads, marinades, and the like.

Like sage, mint, and lavender, rosemary belongs to the mint family. The robust shrub originally comes from the Mediterranean region but is now cultivated worldwide. Its needle-like leaves are used for cooking and taste intensely spicy and slightly resinous.

Rosemary – popular spice, medicinal and aromatic plant

In addition to its use in the kitchen, rosemary was used early on as a scented plant, for example in perfumes, and essential oils, or as a substitute for incense – the ancient Greeks and Romans used it for ceremonial purposes, for example. The plant is a symbol of friendship, loyalty, devotion, remembrance, and love. Rosemary was already part of bridal bouquets in ancient times.

Rosemary has also been known as a medicinal plant for thousands of years: as a tea, it counteracts flatulence – in bath water it stimulates blood circulation and cleans infected wounds with its antiseptic effect. The herb also helps with joint and muscle pain and states of exhaustion and stimulates digestion.

The nutritional values, vitamins, and minerals of rosemary

Since rosemary is usually only eaten in small amounts, it makes no relevant contribution to covering the nutrient or vitamin requirements.

The health effects of rosemary

The health effects of rosemary are primarily based on its essential oils (0.6 to 1.35% in the dried plant) and the secondary plant substances they contain, such as rosmarinic acid, carnosic acid, chlorogenic acid, rosemary, hesperidin, eucalyptol, etc. These substances have been found to have incredibly diverse healing effects established. Among other things, they work:

  • Antibacterial
  • antiviral
  • antidepressant
  • antioxidant
  • Antidiabetic
  • anti-inflammatory
  • cholesterol-lowering
  • anticancer
  • Diuretic
  • digestive

It is not without reason that rosemary was voted medicinal plant of the year in 2011 – the main reason for this was its large area of ​​application. Rosemary is therefore also a popular home remedy and is used in naturopathy to support rheumatic complaints, colds, menstrual cramps, migraines, nervousness, and depression. The scent of rosemary is also considered to improve concentration and stimulates memory.

Rosemary strengthens memory

The ancient Greeks were already convinced that rosemary could improve memory. In order to increase their performance, students in ancient Greece wore a wreath of rosemary for exams.

This effect has now also been scientifically proven: In a study, the effects of essential rosemary oil on brain performance were examined. The 144 subjects were divided into three rooms, in which either 4 drops of rosemary oil, 4 drops of lavender oil, or 4 drops of water were placed in an aroma diffuser. Then the subjects had to be cognitive.

It was found that the rosemary essential oil improved the subjects’ memory and attention overall. In addition, both the rosemary oil and the lavender oil increased the mood of the study participants.

In another study that was published a few years later, the researchers also determined the level of the secondary plant substance eucalyptol in the test subjects’ blood. The higher the eucalyptol level in the blood, the better the test subjects’ memory performance. The substance enters the bloodstream via the mucous membranes of the nose and lungs and from there via the blood-brain barrier into the brain. Rosemary essential oil is 35 to 45 percent eucalyptol.

But not only inhaling the essential oil has a positive effect on memory: In a small study with 28 elderly subjects, the effect of dried rosemary powder on cognitive performance was examined. The subjects were on average 75 years old. They were divided into several groups that took 750 mg, 1500 mg, 3000 mg, or 6000 mg of rosemary powder (each mixed in tomato juice) five times a week for five weeks. The control group received the juice with a placebo powder. Cognitive tests were carried out on each day of administration.

It was found that 750 mg of rosemary powder daily significantly improved the subjects’ memory performance, particularly the speed with which they could retrieve information from their short- and long-term memories. The high dose of 6000 mg, on the other hand, had the opposite effect. 750 mg of rosemary is comparable to the amounts used in cooking. In addition, the rosemary powder was provided by a spice manufacturer, so it is no different from conventional rosemary spices. Rosemary not only tastes good but in normal amounts, it also has a positive effect on memory.

Rosemary could reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia

The above study results suggest that rosemary may also help with dementia and Alzheimer’s. In a 2020 cell study, researchers found that rosemary extract injected directly into cells increases glucose uptake in the brain. Energy in the form of glucose is vital for the brain. In neurodegenerative diseases, however, glucose uptake is reduced, so the observed effect of rosemary is promising here – especially since reduced glucose uptake can precede dementia for decades.

The rosemary acid, carnosic acid, and carnosol in rosemary are responsible for the increased glucose uptake in the cells. Since these substances can pass the blood-brain barrier, the researchers suspect that this effect would also occur when rosemary is used therapeutically. Rosemary could possibly help to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Medicinal plant combinations for the brain: rosemary, brahmi, and ashwagandha

In addition to rosemary, there are other medicinal plants that can lead to better memory performance, such as the two Ayurvedic medicinal plants Brahmi and Ashwagandha. Brahmi is used to improve cognitive abilities, regenerate nerve cells in the brain, and thus also to prevent dementia.

In studies, ashwagandha was able to improve memory, reaction time, and the ability to concentrate. The plant has a general regulating effect, makes you alert during the day, and facilitates restful sleep at night – for example with the help of the Ashwagandha sleeping drink. All three can be combined, morning rosemary in aromatherapy, ashwagandha as a nightcap, and brahmi as a simple capsule to take.

Rosemary for anxiety and depression

Rosemary is even considered a mood enhancer. Iranian researchers examined this in more detail in 2018 in a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study. 68 university students took part in the study. 34 of them took one capsule containing 500 mg of dried rosemary powder twice a day for one month. The other group received a placebo. The effects on memory performance, depression, anxiety, and sleep were examined.

After one month, the differences from the start of the study were compared: The rosemary group showed better memory performance (as in the studies above). Anxiety, depression, and the quality of sleep of the participants had also improved. Additionally, participants reported skin improvements, increased libido, and increased appetite, all of which were not examined in the study. This study also shows that even a small amount of rosemary has positive effects. 1g of rosemary per day can easily be ingested with food or drinks.

Rosemary extract for cancer

There are now numerous cell and animal studies that have shown that rosemary extract can inhibit the growth of cancer cells in a wide variety of cancer types – such as colon cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer. The tumor size could also be partially reduced.

The anti-cancer effect is also mainly due to the carnosic acid and carnosol contained in rosemary. The effect of all the substances in the rosemary extract was greater than the effect of the individually administered substances. However, the amount of the ideal dose has not yet been sufficiently researched, as this differed greatly in the studies.

This is how rosemary is used

The healing power of rosemary can be enjoyed in many ways: as a spice, tea, aromatherapy, or cosmetically in the form of soaps, baths, creams, and hair tonic. These applications have been used in folk medicine for centuries.

Rosemary tea

Rosemary tea is effective against indigestion, nausea, kidney and bladder diseases, low blood pressure, menstrual problems, missed periods, and general states of exhaustion. A study also showed that drinking rosemary tea (4 g rosemary in 150 ml water) daily for two months could alleviate burnout symptoms. It also has an antibacterial effect, which is why it can help with colds.

To prepare a tea, a teaspoon of dried or fresh, chopped rosemary leaves (approx. 2 to 4 g) is infused with a quarter liter of boiling water. Cover and let the tea steep for 8 to 10 minutes, then strain. You can drink tea three times a day.

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