How Rosemary Reduces Stress, Improves Mental Efficiency and Test-Taking Performance

There’s a fragrant herb native to the Mediterranean region that has the ability to reduce stress and anxiety, improve memory, mental efficiency, concentration-and even have an important effect on your test-taking ability.

The ancient Grecian scholars traditionally used sprigs of rosemary whenever they took tests simply because they thought the herb would enhance their performance.

Two studies prove that the Greeks’ utilization of rosemary did not just stem from herbal folklore or superstition, but actually has medical merit.  Both studies—one conducted by the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing inside Boca Raton, and another by the Department of Nursing at Nambu College in Korea—found that rosemary delivers an important, measurable and positive effect on test-takers.  This effect is also evident in any high-stress situation that requires concentration, memory, and cognition.

These studies further corroborate the abundant research showing that inhaling essential oils such as rosemary reduces the anxiety one experiences during high-stress situations.

Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis) whose name means “dew of the sea” grows primarily on the Mediterranean seashore, but is now grown everywhere in the world where the climate is warm and sunny.  Over the years, it has cemented its reputation as a potent, natural solution for anxiety.

Rosemary has been traditional used throughout history to:

  • Improve blood circulation
  • Boost memory
  • Alleviate muscle pain
  • Relieve headaches
  • Improve digestion

Modern technology has enabled scientists to explore the mechanisms behind rosemary’s benefits. Evidence shows, among other things, that rosemary boosts the flow of blood to the brain, and this improves memory and promotes clear thinking.

Rosemary has also been shown to break down acetylcholine, a chemical found inside the brain. This enables nerve cells to communicate with each other more effectively, and this promotes superior mental acuity, better memory, increased concentration and a calmer disposition.

The research conducted on rosemary revolves around pure essential oils—not “fragrance” oils.  True essential oils deliver benefits significantly beyond their aromatic appeal.  The art of making use of these oils for health and wellness is referred to as aromatherapy.

Cortisol, also referred to as “the stress hormone,” is secreted by the adrenal glands. It is secreted in higher levels anytime the body goes into the “fight or flight” response to stress.  Simply inhaling the scent of rosemary has been shown to lower cortisol levels and activate the brain’s “relaxation response, which allows the body to return to normal after a stressful event.

There are many different varieties of rosemary available, which include:

• Dried whole herb
• Dried, powdered extract (in capsules)
• Tinctures, teas, and extracts made from fresh or dried leaves
• Volatile essential oil (for external use only)

Total daily intake of rosemary should not exceed 4-6 grams of the dried herb, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.  Because there have been some instances of allergic reactions in the use of rosemary, health practitioners advise caution and recommend starting with a low dose, and steadily increasing to a recommended dose according to your tolerance level.

Health practitioners advise against the use of rosemary supplements by pregnant or nursing women as high doses can result in miscarriage.  Experts also agree that before taking a rosemary supplement, you should make sure it will not interact with any medications you may be taking.   In any event, the herb is always safe to consume as a flavor enhancer in foods — e.g., adding a teaspoon of finely chopped fresh rosemary to soups, salads, stews, potato dishes or bread recipes.