Other names Salvia Rosmarinus, Rosmarinus Officinalis, EORO, 1,8-cineole


Rosemary is a natural herb and spice used by people historically to enhance memory. But is it effective? Read on to find out what the science says.

This nootropic has no healthy human placebo-controlled studies that meet our inclusion criteria. Negative side effects can occur if used carelessly, so make sure you’re aware of the risks of Rosemary.


Read about the effects of Rosemary in relation to the amount of evidence we've found

Can rosemary improve your memory?

The strongest science available suggests rosemary is an effective memory booster for healthy young people during the day of use. It appears especially effective for increasing the speed of memory, but there is also some evidence in support of improvements in the accuracy of memory performance.

In one study on the cognitive effects of rosemary water in healthy humans, it was found that rosemary improved memory with similar size of the effect to that observed in studies on the memory-enhancing effects of rosemary essential oil [1].

Interestingly, there is evidence that rosemary may be more effective for enhancing memory in younger users than in older people [2]. Usually, cognitive enhancers are more effective for the elderly since they have a relatively poor baseline of cognitive performance on average.

Amongst 28 people with an average age of 75, 750mg rosemary improved the speed of memory performance, but 6000mg of the rosemary extract led to an impaired speed of memory performance [3]. Rosemary impaired working memory and episodic memory, but only when participants had taken a high dose. Alertness was increased with the 750mg dose but reduced with the 6000mg dose.

In another study [4], 53 students around 15 years of age had improved numeric and image memory when exposed to rosemary essential oil. It should be noted that the control group did not receive placebo treatment, they received nothing but still did the cognitive tests. This is a downside of this study for sure but on the other hand, the children who were in the room in which rosemary essential oil was sprayed were not told (but maybe aware due to smell) that there were aromas in their room. Results from this study were promising but should be interpreted with caution due to methodological flaws.

When 20 participants were exposed to varying amounts of the aroma of the essential oil of rosemary, not a single person said they believed the aroma had affected them in any way [5]. However, people who had been exposed to more of the essential oil aroma performed faster and better (with higher accuracy) on memory tasks. There was a negative correlation between the absorption of one of the active ingredients in the essential oil, 1,8-cineole, and subjective mood (contentedness, specifically).

Two findings from this study were of extra practical relevance to people who might want to use rosemary essential oil as a cognitive enhancer. The higher the dose was, the better the memory-enhancing effects. This might appear intuitive, but when people received varying amounts of rosemary extracts in another study [6], the smallest dose was the most effective. This suggests that rosemary essential oil has different cognitive effects than rosemary extracts. The other interesting takeaway from this study was that rosemary essential oil improved both the accuracy and speed of memory. In the study in which people received an extract of rosemary, the accuracy of memory was unaffected or impaired. This suggests rosemary is more effective for young people than older people. It also suggests that the memory-enhancing effects of rosemary essential oil are not due to a speed-accuracy trade-off, but thanks to true cognitive enhancement.

In yet another study, 48 young people received rosemary [7]. Enhancement of accuracy of memory was noted, but in contrast with the findings from the other studies reviewed here, an impairment of speed of performance from rosemary essential oil was found. The authors of this study concluded that there likely is not a speed-accuracy trade-off effect when rosemary essential oil is inhaled, since only working memory speed, and not long-term memory speed, was impaired. Both working memory accuracy and long-term memory accuracy were enhanced.

Finally, in an old study, participants who were exposed to rosemary essential oil aroma reported feeling more relaxed and alert than those exposed to lavender essential oil aroma [8]. The people who had been exposed to rosemary were also faster but not more accurate at completing math computations.

Based on all of this evidence, rosemary appears to be an effective memory booster for healthy young people during the day of use. It appears especially effective for increasing the speed of memory, but there is also some evidence in support of improvements in the accuracy of memory performance. A U-shaped dose-response curve has been found, indicating that smaller or larger doses than optimal will lead to relatively impaired memory performance. See the FAQ's below for more information about doses used in the studies that have examined the cognitive effects of rosemary.


The legality and side effects of Rosemary


Frequently asked questions about Rosemary


Studies conducted on the effects of Rosemary in healthy humans

Last updated Saturday, June 10, 2023