Which Essential Oils Help Memory & Focus?

by Bella Martinez August 12, 2020

Which Essential Oils Help Memory & Focus?

Do you ever find yourself forgetting minor things or experiencing symptoms of mental fatigue? Whether it’s misplacing your keys, taking your vitamins twice, or forgetting to respond to messages. Minor lapses in memory can be embarrassing and disconcerting. 

Nonetheless, factors including stress and aging make forgetfulness and memory loss common occurrences.

What if we told you there was a way to strengthen your memory and improve cognitive function with essential oils for focus and memory

That’s right. In addition to their immune-boosting and skin-brightening properties, essential oils may have the ability to sharpen your focus and improve your short-term memory. But what is the best essential oil for memory and focus? In this guide, we’ll explain the science behind several of our favorite essential oils’ clarifying effects.

How Essential Oils Impact Memory

First, let’s review what causes memory loss.

To better understand how certain essential oils work to improve memory, you’ll need to get a grasp on two components:

  • The neurotransmitter called acetylcholine (ACh)  – While ACh is still the subject of scientific study, it’s clear that this neurotransmitter plays a role in encoding new memories. That means it’s also essential to learning. Higher levels of ACh can enhance memory.

  • An enzyme similarly named acetylcholinesterase (AChE) – AChE prevents excess amounts of ACh from developing. While we need ACh, too much of this neurotransmitter is linked to muscle cramps, nausea, blurry vision, and more. 

As we age, levels of ACh naturally begin to decrease. In this case, high levels of AChE may not be necessary for protecting the brain and body. Instead, it keeps us from developing sufficient amounts of ACh, which means our short term memory suffers. 

In these cases, an AChE inhibitor may be necessary to keep ACh from depleting to the point of memory loss and other issues. In terms of long-term memory loss, health conditions include:

  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Dementia
  • Mild cognitive impairment
  • Memory disorder

AChE and Essential Oils For Memory Enhancement

Now that you have a little biochemistry under your belt, let’s move on to what this has to do with essential oils and memory improvement.

Several essential oils have been shown to inhibit AChE:

  • 1, 8 cineole – This compound is a major component of essential oils, including Rosemary, Eucalyptus, and other medicinal oils.

  • Camphor – A common addition to muscle balms and other salves, camphor (not to be confused with the essential oil) is abundant in Sage and Rosemary oil. 

  • A-pinene – As its name suggests, A-pinene is found in pine trees. Other a-pinene rich plants include Rosemary, Juniper Berry, and Frankincense.

Reading this list, you may already have an inkling of some of the best essential oils for memory. Next, we’ll dive into some of our favorites.

Rosemary

Herbaceous Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) isn't just a culinary herb. Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans all used Rosemary aroma to stimulate the mind and improve memory.

Modern science is beginning to confirm this ancient wisdom:

  • A 2012 study focused particularly on the 1,8 cineole found in Rosemary. Researchers found that Rosemary essential oil directly enhanced mood, memory, and cognitive performance in the group of 20 volunteers. It also improved their overall mood.

  • Another study on older adults and dried Rosemary showed that Rosemary improved the speed of memory recall.

With numerous studies pointing in the right direction, Rosemary is one of the most potent essential oils for memory and alertness. It could be a beneficial addition to your work or morning routine.

Sage

Did you know that culinary Rosemary is closely related to Sage? The resemblance of these plants makes both excellent cooking herbs, and also gives them similar memory-enhancing and concentration effects.

  • A 2003 study on Sage tested young volunteers’ ability to recall words after experiencing essential oil aromatherapy. Researchers found that Sage improved short-term memory.

  • Sage is frequently used in cleansing, but its name comes from a Latin verb: “to save.” It’s also known to preserve health, including memory.

With a warm, herbaceous aroma, Sage may help you clear your mind and focus on the task at hand.

Peppermint

Peppermint essential oil is frequently used in aromatherapy to clear the mind and banish negative thoughts. With a cool, minty aroma, it cuts through mental chaos and confusion. If you find you’ve misplaced your sunglasses, or you’re struggling to compile your tax documents, supportive Peppermint oil may be the perfect one to reach for.

A 2018 study revealed that Peppermint essential oil also inhibits AChE, and likewise was shown to boost mood and cognitive function.

Thanks to its simultaneously soothing and uplifting effect, Peppermint is one of the best essential oils to support focus and memory.

Spike Lavender

What isn’t Lavender essential oil good for? The mother of essential oils, floral, herbaceous Spike Lavender is well known for its ability to soothe nerves, support healthy sleep, reduce brain fog (which can lead to mild anxiety), and impart soft, glowing skin.

These great benefits can be attributed to Spike Lavender oil containing significant amounts of both 1,8 cineole and camphor. Both of the components also lend Spike Lavender to be uniquely medicinal and cooling, on top of being floral like traditional Lavender. 

Ginger

Sharp, spicy Ginger is an interesting addition to this list. While the other listed plants are common kitchen herbs with genetic similarities, Ginger comes from the root of a much less closely related plant.

Yet this famous culinary and medicinal plant may have memory-boosting properties as well.

  • A number of studies on mice demonstrate that Ginger can improve short-term memory and reaction time.

  • Promising initial research has led scientists to conclude that Ginger may have a positive effect on people experiencing age-related memory loss.

Unlike the other listed oils, Ginger doesn’t seem to work by inhibiting AChE. Instead, it prevents cell death and improves cell signaling, two effects that might make it a welcome addition to a homemade blend aimed at improving focus and memory.

Stay Alert Synergy Blend

Not sure which pure essential oil to start with to support mental clarity? With the Edens Garden Stay Alert essential oil blend, you won’t have to choose.

This diffuser blend contains four of the best pure essential oils for brain health, all rich in AChE inhibiting compounds:

  • Peppermint

  • Eucalyptus

  • Pine

  • Lavender

Bright, minty, and earthy, this oil is designed to clear mental static and provide the clarity that helps you complete your daily tasks with ease.

Try it out the following ways:

  • Diffuse Stay Alert in your bedroom as you get dressed and ready for the day

  • Dilute with a carrier oil of your choice for topical application, and then apply to your wrists and temples when you need to focus

  • Carry a personal pocket inhaler so that you can inhale this potent blend when you’re on the go

Home Diffusion Blend

If you already have several oils in your collection, you may be interested in creating your own memory-boosting blend.

This “Unforgettable” blend is like a reminder list for your brain. Its penetrating, bright aroma is best diffused during study time or multitasking to sharpen the mind. You can even use it daily to experience enhanced effects over time.

Unforgettable Blend:

  • 5 drops Rosemary Moroccan

  • 4 drops Spike Lavender

  • 3 drops Peppermint

  • 3 drops Sage

Grow Your Essential Oils Collection

Are you hoping to grow your home essential oil garden? With Edens Garden “Create Your Own” Sets, choose 3, 6, 12, or 24 oils to improve brain function and overall wellness. Curate a unique selection of memory-enhancing, mood-lifting, and skin-nourishing blends—all with the knowledge that you’re purchasing pure, potent oils. Some other aromatherapy essential oils we recommend for memory and focus include Spearmint, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Bergamot, Clary Sage, Basil, Vetiver, Sweet Orange and Lemon oil. 

How can we guarantee quality? We source our essential oils from indigenous plants and third-party test our products to ensure they’re perfectly pure. That way, you can experience the best that healing botanicals have to offer. 


Sources:

  1. Hasselmo, Michael E. “The role of acetylcholine in learning and memory.” Current opinion in neurobiology 16.6(2006): 710-5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2659740/ 
  2. Adeyinka, Adebayo and Kondamudi NP. “Cholinergic Crisis” [Updated 2019 Dec 13]. StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing, 2020. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482433/ 
  3. Gibson, G E, and C Peterson. “Aging decreases oxidative metabolism and the release and synthesis of acetylcholine.” Journal of neurochemistry vol. 37,4 (1981): 978-84. doi:10.1111/j.1471-4159.1981.tb04484.x 
  4. McGleenon, B M et al. “Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors in Alzheimer's disease.” British journal of clinical pharmacology vol. 48.4 (1999): 471-80. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2014378/ 
  5. Savelev S, Okello E, Perry NS, Wilkins RM, Perry EK. Synergistic and antagonistic interactions of anticholinesterase terpenoids in Salvia lavandulaefolia essential oil. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2003;75(3):661-668. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12895684 
  6. Moss, Mark, and Lorraine Oliver. “Plasma 1,8-cineole correlates with cognitive performance following exposure to rosemary essential oil aroma.” Therapeutic advances in psychopharmacology vol. 2,3 (2012): 103-13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3736918/ 
  7. Pengelly, Andrew et al. “Short-term study on the effects of rosemary on cognitive function in an elderly population.” Journal of Medical Food. 15.1(2012):10-17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3736918/
  8. Tildesley, NTJ et al. “Salvia lavandulaefolia (Spanish Sage) enhances memory in healthy young volunteers.” Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior 75.3 (2003): 669-674.https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0091305703001229 
  9. Kennedy, David et al. “Volatile Terpenes and Brain Function: Investigation of the Cognitive and Mood Effects of Mentha × Piperita L. Essential Oil with In Vitro Properties Relevant to Central Nervous System Function.” Nutrients 10.8 (2018).  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6116079/ 
  10. Gomar, Ali et al. “Memory enhancement by administration of ginger (Zingiber officinale) extract on morphine-induced memory impairment in male rats.” Journal of Acute Disease 3.3 (2014): 212-217. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2221618914600470 

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3 comments

Irene

October 1, 2020 at 12:46 pm

What a fantastic article! Thanks so much for putting this information online here.

Edens Garden

September 29, 2020 at 2:37 pm

Hi Janie! When it comes to medical conditions, individual situations must be carefully assessed. We do not know what medications, quantities and allergies people may have. For this reason, we recommend working with an aromatherapist and your doctor who can provide you with safe guidelines that meet your specific needs.

Try looking at NAHA.org to find an aromatherapist near you: http://www.naha.org/membership/find-an-aromatherapist/

Janie

September 29, 2020 at 2:36 pm

The oils that are suggested for memory and learning are great, but it is very difficult to find one that can be taken with seizures. Maybe I can get some direction from here.