Rosemary is an herb with numerous benefits. We’ve previously reported on research showing that Rosemary boosts memory, even for Alzheimer’s disease sufferers. Now we find clinical research indicating that Rosemary also reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression, and improves sleep as well as memory in younger people.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is an evergreen shrub and a member of the mint family. It has been used for thousands of years as a medicinal herb. The Egyptians, Greeks and Romans used it more than 3,500 years ago.
It is said the name was ascribed to Mother Mary’s use of it. It grows profusely in temperate climates of North America, the Mediterranean region and temperate climates of Asia and Southern Europe.
Clinical study on university students
Most of us know that students can experience a significant amount of anxiety and depression. A clinical study from the Kerman University of Medical Sciences included 68 medical students. The study was double-blinded and randomized. The students were aged between 20 and 25 years old.
The researchers divided the students into two groups. One group was given 500 milligrams a day of dry powdered rosemary in a capsule. The other group was given a placebo – the capsules looked identical to the rosemary capsules.
The treatment period was 30 days.
The rosemary was collected as fresh leaves and flowers. After picking, it was dried and crushed into the powder and encapsulated.
The researchers used the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) to measure relative anxiety and depression among the students. Anxiety and depression are scored differently from the test. Each has the following scale:
• Normal = 0 to 7 points
• Mild = 8 to 10 points
• Moderate = 11 to 15 points
• Severe = 16 to 21 points
Anxiety scores improve after Rosemary treatment
Prior to the treatment, 64.71 percent of the students has normal scores, while 17.65 percent had mild anxiety. And 14.71 percent had moderate anxiety, while 2.94 percent had severe anxiety.
After the treatment with Rosemary, 82.35 percent of the students had normal scores (up from 64.71). None of the students had severe anxiety scores, while only 11.77 percent (down from 17.65) had moderate scores. Only 5.88 percent had mild anxiety scores, down from 17.65 percent.
Meanwhile, the placebo scores were mostly unchanged after the 30 days, with similar scores in the beginning of the study.
Depression scores improve with Rosemary
The researchers also found that depression scores improved after the 30 days of Rosemary treatment. The researchers saw the moderate depression scores go down from 5.88 percent to 2.94 and mild depression from 14.71 to 8.83 percent. Meanwhile, the normal scores went up from 79.41 to 88.23.
The placebo group had similar scores in the beginning of the study, but saw no improvement at the end of 30 days.
Sleep also improved with Rosemary
The researchers also found that sleep improved among the Rosemary students. Students reporting good sleep went up from 47 percent to 62 percent at the end of the 30 days of Rosemary supplementation.
Students reporting poor sleep went down from 53 percent to 38 percent after the 30 days of Rosemary.
Memory scores also improved
The researchers also found that memory scores went up among the students taking the Rosemary. Prospective and retrospective memory scores improved by about 14 percent.
Meanwhile, memory scores didn’t change much for the placebo group.
As we’ve reported with previous research, Rosemary has been shown to improve memory for seniors. But now we find with this research that Rosemary can also improve memory for younger people too.
Anxiety reduced with Rosemary essential oil
Other research has found that Rosemary essential oil can also reduce anxiety.
For example, a 2009 study from Srinakharinwirot University in Thailand found that a massage with Rosemary oil significantly improved the moods of healthy adults. The researchers found the subjects felt, “more attentive, more alert, more vigorous and more cheerful” after receiving the Rosemary oil massage.
In 2005, research from Western Oregon University studied 73 adults. They tested each with anxiety-producing situations, using Rosemary, Lavender or water scents. They used the Profile of Mood States to gauge their mood changes.
The researchers found that Rosemary resulted in the highest scores of reducing tension and anxiety, compared to the Lavender and water scents.
The bottom line is that Rosemary is a healing plant for the nerves and moods.
Nematolahi P, Mehrabani M, Karami-Mohajeri S, Dabaghzadeh F. Effects of Rosmarinus officinalis L. on memory performance, anxiety, depression, and sleep quality in university students: A randomized clinical trial. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2018 Feb;30:24-28. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2017.11.004.
Burnett KM, Solterbeck LA, Strapp CM. Scent and mood state following an anxiety-provoking task. Psychol Rep. 2004 Oct;95(2):707-22.
Hongratanaworakit, T. Simultaneous aromatherapy massage with rosemary oil on humans. Scientia Pharmaceutica. Volume 77, Issue 2, 2009, Pages 375-387
Case Adams is a California Naturopath and a Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and diplomas in Homeopathy, Aromatherapy, Bach Flower Remedies, Blood Chemistry, Clinical Nutritional Counseling and Colon Hydrotherapy. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies.