Rosemary Aromatherapy Lifts Mood, Performance

Small study finds rosemary may affect cognitive performance.

ByABC News
February 24, 2012, 12:41 PM

Feb. 25, 2012 — -- You are what you eat, so the old buzz phrase goes. But new research looking at people's moods and smarts may have us one day saying you feel as well as what you smell.

Researchers in Great Britain have concluded that sniffing rosemary aromatherapy oil makes a person feel more content and gives a slight boost to performance.

The researchers exposed 20 study participants in their 20s to the scent of rosemary aromatherapy oil anywhere from four to 10 minutes. They hid the oil under a desk so participants didn't know they were being intentionally exposed.

The participants were then asked to complete basic subtraction problems, more complex subtraction problems, and detect number patterns on a computer. They also completed a mood questionnaire and underwent a blood test.

Those who smelled the rosemary oil for less time were less likely to report feeling "content." The study found no relationship between the rosemary oil and feeling calm, alert, or pleasant, which were other mood types they were asked to assess.

Participants who absorbed more rosemary oil could accurately answer the basic questions in less than two minutes, but there was no difference in the ability to answer more complex questions or to detect number patterns compared to those who were exposed to the oil for a shorter period of time.

The researchers found that the longer the participants had time to take in the rosemary oil, the larger amounts of a chemical compound known as 1,8 Cineole – which is found in aromatherapy oils – were detected in their blood.

"This study supports the suggestion that active compounds present in aromas may be absorbed through the nasal or lung mucosa and thus provide the potential for pharmacological activity," the researchers wrote about their study, published today in the journal Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology.

The study was small, so there's no telling exactly how significant these findings are. But if nothing else, it may be satisfying to know that rosemary aromatherapy oils may just put us in a "content" mood.