Rosemary: the mind-bending herb of choice for today’s students

Sales of the plants oil which reportedly improves memory have shot up in the past year. So, which other natural remedies may aid learning?

Students are known for dabbling with mind-altering herbs, and the most recent narrative of herbal experimentation shows there has been a rush on rosemary. Following a report that the woody herb may improve memory, students have been trying it out to give them the edge in exams.

Health store Holland& Barrett has reported a 187% increase in sale of rosemary petroleum in the past year. A representative said that most in-store the issue of rosemary came from mothers hoping to boost their childrens success for exam season. The store also said that relaxation aids and natural energy drinks … have been popular this exam day as alternatives to caffeine.

Molecules in rosemary oil have been shown previously[ to] have the ability to interact with the brains neurotransmitters, according to Mark Moss, head of the psychology department at Northumbria University. Compounds are absorbed into the blood by inhaling the perfume. They interact with what is called the cholinergic system, which is involved in memory, he added.

Herbal remedies, says Moss, are not a magic bullet. Its not only one molecule; there are a number of them and you need the right molecules in the right proportions in order to get the beneficial effect. You might actually get some rosemary petroleum that isnt having any beneficial effect.

It is also worth remembering, perhaps aided by a beaker of rosemary tea, that evidence for the added benefit of herbal remedies largely comes from small-scale surveys. In any case, here are some other remedies that might be useful to students.


Last year, Moss presented findings that showed that volunteers who drank peppermint tea before tests had better memory and alertness than those who were given camomile tea. In the US, examines led by Bryan Raudenbush, an associate professor of psychology at Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia, detected peppermint scent reduced anxiety and tirednes.


Raudenbush also studied the effects of cinnamon, testing it in a simulated driving experiment. He observed it increased alertness and reduced frustration.


Moss has also examined sage. He detected performance improvements in aspects of memory and also attention the speed at which you are able to attend to something. They are small effects, but they seem to be beneficial.

Ginkgo biloba

This supplement, removed from the foliages of the ginkgo tree, is believed traditionally to give cognitive benefits, but one big examine into whether it could help prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimers disease or dementia failed to show positive results, while one review procured no compelling evidence that ginkgo biloba was helpful in healthy young people. Sometimes we have found beneficial effects and sometimes we have not, says Moss. These extracts differ significantly depending on where they have been sourced. Perhaps no sum of supplements and herbal teas can make up for rest and revision.

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