There are plenty of strange alternative uses for herbs. Rosemary, for instance, is supposed to soothe the skin and cure dandruff — though I can't promise how well it will do either. Science, however, now tells us it definitely can make you smarter.
A team of scientists from the University of Northumbria, UK, has discovered that one of the oils which gives rosemary its pungent scent improves speed and accuracy when performing certain mental tasks. Which means you definitely want to start cooking more herb-crusted lamb right about now.
To work that out, subjects were asked to complete numerical reasoning tests before and after being exposed to the scent of rosemary oil. The researchers then measured the levels of 1, 8-cineole, the main chemical constituent in rosemary's oil, after the experiments and compared it to the test scores. The higher the levels of 1, 8-cineole, the higher the score test. The research is reported in Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology.
Sadly, nobody has any idea how it works, which makes it a tortuously frustrating finding. One other big question remains, though: is it possible to overdose on rosemary? "Rosemary has been used as an herb for generations, and there is nothing to say it is potentially harmful, at least in the short term," Dr Christy C. Tangney told WebMD. Phew. Let's get cooking. [Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology via WebMD]