The key to a better memory could be right under your nose. The smell of rosemary boosts our ability to recall past events and remember what to do in the future, research claims.
It is thought a compound that gives the herb its distinctive smell –1,8-cineole – aids a brain chemical which is the key to memory.
The same brain chemistry is targeted by Alzheimer's medicines, and researcher Dr Mark Moss, head of psychology at Northumbria University, says the plant has a 'drug-like effect'.
Volunteers did memory tests while sitting in a room infused with rosemary oil. Others sat the tests in a lavender-fragranced room, or in one with clean air.
Rosemary boosted long-term memory and the ability to do simple sums. It also improved 'prospective memory' – used to carry out plans, such as remembering to post a letter – and improved recall by about 15 per cent in men and women of all ages, an International Fragrance Association conference heard.
Dr Moss said healthy people may gain from regularly burning rosemary oil and inhaling.
He said: 'People think it might be really good for their brain if they do more exercise or reading or brain training puzzles... but you can sit and watch the telly and use aromas.'
While he doesn't think it would help those who have dementia, rosemary helps healthy brains stay young for longer. 'There's no guarantee of benefits but I would be cautiously optimistic,' he said.