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General Health Channel
Reported February 29, 2012

Boosting Brain Power with a Sniff!

(Ivanhoe Newswire) – Can smelling rosemary make you smarter? A new study aims to find out!

Rosemary is one of the many medical plants that yield essential oils, but how it affects human behavior remains unclear.  The study investigated the pharmacology of one of rosemary's main chemical components', 1,8-cineole.

Researchers tested mood and cognitive performance on 20 participants who were exposed to various levels of rosemary scents.  They collected blood samples to observe the amount of 1,8-cineole absorbed.  Then they applied mood assessments, and speed and accuracy tests, to obtain the oil's affects.

For the first time in human subjects, the 1,8-cineole concentration in the blood was found to be directly related to cognitive performance.  Higher concentration resulted in improved performance, speed, and accuracy.  However, it affected the participants' mood with a negative correlation between changes in blood levels of 1,8-cineole and contentment levels, suggesting that compounds given off by the rosemary essential oil affect cognitive performance and subjective state through different neurochemical pathways.

Chemical compounds, such as 1,8-cineole, can enter the blood stream through nasal or lung mucosa as small, fat-soluble organic molecules crossing easily over the blood brain barrier.  Volatile 1,8-cineole found in many aromatic plants (including bay, eucalyptus, sage, wormwood, and rosemary) has already been included in research that suggests it inhibits acetyl cholinesterase (AChE) and butyrylcholinesterase enzymes important to brain and central nervous system neurochemistry.  This study suggests that rosemary components may prevent the breakdown of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. 

"Only contentedness possessed a significant relationship with 1,8-cineole levels, and interestingly to some of the cognitive performance outcomes, leading to the intriguing proposal that positive mood can improve performance whereas aroused mood cannot," Mark Moss, researcher at the Brain, Performance, and Nutrition Research Centre at Northumbria University, UK, was quoted as saying. 

SOURCE:  SAGE, February 2012


 

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