Rosemary and Lavender Oils Do Entirely Different Things to Mood and Mind


By Heather Callaghan

Ancient Greeks esteemed essential oils in the highest regard, believing that rosemary oil in particular could improve memory. In the 15th century, oil users believed rosemary to be a disinfectant. The documented, clinical use of essential oils for mood disorders goes back to 1920s Europe. Throughout the centuries, people have reported consistent effects for essential oils like rosemary and lavender.

In the last decade, researchers who hadn’t often officially studied essential oils, wanted to know – Is this just a belief? A placebo or the power of suggestion? Or do the claims of these far-reaching, complex oils actually produce a biological shift?

In a controlled blind study in 2003, published in International Journal of Neuroscience, researchers not only confirmed one wide belief about rosemary oil, but unwittingly showed the importance of knowing the recommended uses of oils like lavender.

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READ: How To Naturally Make An Essential Oil Diffuser Plus Blends

M. Moss et al wanted to evaluate the olfactory impact of the essential oils (EOs) of lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and rosemary (rosemarinus officinalis) on cognitive performance and mood in healthy volunteers.

One hundred and forty-four participants believed they were merely taking a Cognitive Drug Research (CDR) test. That is, a computerized cognitive assessment battery test. Each individual was randomly placed in one of three cubicles with doors: one containing rosemary EO aroma, one containing lavender EO aroma, and the other, none (control).

Before exposure to the aroma (or none), they completed visual analogue mood questionnaires, and subsequently after completion of the test battery. The participants were deceived as to the genuine aim of the study until the completion of testing in order to prevent the effect of anticipation from influencing the data. The CDR tested their cognition and memory with or without exposure to the EO.

Notably, lavender actually showed a significant decline in performance of working memory and delayed reaction times for memory and attention-based tasks compared to controls. (Lavender is usually used for anxiety.)

Rosemary in contrast, significantly enhanced performance for overall memory quality and secondary memory factors, but the researchers thought it impaired the speed of memory compared to controls. Better memory, less speed execution of memory.

As for the mood factor – while both the control and lavender groups were less alert than the rosemary group – both lavender and rosemary groups were found to be more content than the control group.

READ: Mix And Match: Using Essential Oils To Create Personalized Insect Repellent

One psychiatry critique (against rosemary?) thought that the results of this study were mixed at best, although this study continues to be cited in not only other EO studies, but cognitive and mental health ones as well. Interestingly, the critique mentioned another study showing that instead of rosemary decreasing anxiety – it might actually increase it during an anxiety attack. (It makes sense when you consider the keen alert factor of rosemary.)

By sorting through belief and fact, researchers are confirming age old beliefs about the health benefits of EOs, but also proving the importance of knowing the EOs’ intended purpose. Knowing that difference can improve your well-being and prevent unintended results.

In conclusion, M. Moss et al wrote:

These findings indicate that the olfactory properties of these essential oils can produce objective effects on cognitive performance, as well as subjective effects on mood.

What do you think about all that – did you learn something new about Rosemary and Lavender essential oils? Sound-off below and don’t forget to share!

Image: Naturablaze, pixabay

This article (Rosemary and Lavender Oils Do Entirely Different Things to Mood and Mind) can be republished with attribution to Heather Callaghan and Natural, keeping all links and bio intact.

Heather Callaghan is an independent researcher, natural health blogger and food freedom activist. You can see her work at Like at Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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