There’s a line in Hamlet that says, “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance…”
What did Shakespeare know about rosemary and memory? Could he have known that rosemary may help improve memory and cognitive functions?
Rosemary is a shrub in the mint family of plants. It’s native to the Mediterranean area and usually grows near the sea. In fact, it’s Latin name can be translated “Dew of the Sea.”
Ancient Greeks and Egyptians considered rosemary to be sacred. They used it to improve memory and as an overall tonic. Greek students would braid sprigs of rosemary into their hair to help them when taking exams.
Because of its reputation for strengthening memory, rosemary was carried by newlyweds on their wedding day to symbolize remembrance and fidelity. It was also used at funerals to help mourners remember the dead.
I’ve said many times that we can learn so much from ancient wisdom. Many things may be considered by some to be “woo woo” or lack scientific basis yet science is confirming some of those things to be valid.
For example, the Egyptian Journal of Basic and Applied Sciences reported on a study that involved 53 secondary school students (24 boys and 29 girls) between the ages of 13 and 15 years. The control group received no essential oils while the second group used rosemary essential oil. Both groups were tested for short-term memory and the study demonstrated statistically significant differences between the values of short-term memory of the participants in each group. Specifically, the group that used rosemary essential oil had a statistically significant increase in image and numeric memory compared to the control group. To read the details of this study, go to Egyptian Journal of Basic and Applied Sciences Volume 4, Issue 2, June 2017, Pages 107-111
More evidence-based research shows the potential for rosemary to have positive effects on patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and possibly Parkinson’s Disease. For more on that research, go to https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4749867/
Essential oils have been used for centuries by many different cultures. They are mentioned in the Holy Bible numerous times and were used by medics on soldiers during WWI. Jean Valnet, a French physician and Army surgeon, used essential oils as antiseptics during the Indochina War from 1948-1959.
There may be more wisdom in the lyrics, “everything old is new again,” than we realize and it seems pretty certain that Shakespeare got it right when he penned the lines for Ophelia in Hamlet.
When we take thyme to learn from ancient wisdom, we learn some pretty amazing truths!