Science Reveals Which Herbal Teas Boost Memory

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By James Oliver Cury Posted May 02, 2016

Plus: Sniffing rosemary could improve your mental faculties too.

Long before Apple came up with the slogan, "there's an app for that," an equivalent range of cure-alls existed in the beverage world: "There's a tea for that." Got stomach problems? Drink ginger tea. Wanna mellow out? Try chamomile. Need to wake up the senses? Drink peppermint. These old folk remedies had a lot of fans but desperately needed scientific proofs. Now, a new study backs up what grandma has been telling you all along.

Psychologists at Northumbria University in the UK have hard data to support the theories that peppermint tea boosts memory and chamomile slows it down. They gathered the evidence using a simple series of questions administered before and after drinking various teas.

First, they asked 180 participants to fill out a questionnaire about their mood. Then they instructed the subjects to drink one of three hot drinks: peppermint tea, chamomile tea or hot water. And finally, twenty minutes after the liquids were consumed, they gave the tea drinkers a final test that measured memory, cognitive functions, and mood.

"It's interesting to see the contrasting effects on mood and cognition of the two different herbal teas," said Dr. Mark Moss, lead author of the study, in a press release. "The enhancing and arousing effects of peppermint and the calming/sedative effects of chamomile observed in this study are in keeping with the claimed properties of these herbs and suggest beneficial effects can be drawn from their use."

Dr. Moss and his team also discovered that sniffing rosemary may improve memory in senior citizens by 15 percent. In this study, the researchers asked 150 randomly selected elderly people to answer questions in rooms filled with either rosemary aroma, lavender aroma, or no scent whatsoever. Those who took a memory test in the rosemary room performed best—in a statistically significant way.

Moss believes that "when you inhale rosemary its compounds are absorbed in the blood through the lungs and then are sent to the brain where they can actually act on your brain chemistry." Now all you need is a rosemary-scented recipe paired with peppermint tea before a big exam or presentation. Sounds like a nice combo for a soap, actually.

[h/t Munchies and The Science Explorer]

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