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Essential Oils Studied for Effects on Cognition and Mood

Study: Positive modulation of mood and cognitive performance following administration of acute doses of Salvia lavandulaefolia essential oil to healthy young volunteers. Tildesley NT, Kennedy DO, Perry EK, Ballard CG, Wesnes KA, Scholey AB.Human Cognitive Neuroscience Unit, Division of Psychology, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8ST, UK. Members of the Sage family, such as [...]

Study: Positive modulation of mood and cognitive performance following administration of acute doses of Salvia lavandulaefolia essential oil to healthy young volunteers.

Tildesley NT, Kennedy DO, Perry EK, Ballard CG, Wesnes KA, Scholey AB.Human Cognitive Neuroscience Unit, Division of Psychology, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8ST, UK.

Members of the Sage family, such as Salvia officinalis (sage essential oil) and Salvia lavandulaefolia, have a long history of use as memory-enhancing agents coupled with cholinergic properties that may potentially be relevant to the amelioration of the cognitive deficits associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The current study utilised a placebo-controlled, double-blind, balanced, crossover design in order to comprehensively assess any mood and cognition modulation by S. lavandulaefolia. Twenty-four participants received single doses of placebo, 25 microl and 50 microl of a standardised essential oil of S. lavandulaefolia in an order dictated by a Latin square. Doses were separated by a 7-day washout period. Cognitive performance was assessed prior to the day’s treatment and at 1, 2.5, 4 and 6 h thereafter using the Cognitive Drug Research (CDR) computerised test battery. Subjective mood ratings were measured using Bond-Lader visual analogue scales. The primary outcome measures were scores on the five cognitive factors that can be derived by factor analysis of the task outcomes from the CDR battery. The results showed that administration of S. lavandulaefolia resulted in a consistent improvement for both the 25- and 50-microl dose on the ‘Speed of Memory’ factor. There was also an improvement on the ‘Secondary Memory’ factor for the 25-microl dose. Mood was consistently enhanced, with increases in self-rated ‘alertness’, ‘calmness’ and ‘contentedness’ following the 50-microl dose and elevated ‘calmness’ following 25 microl. These results represent further evidence that Salvia is capable of acute modulation of mood and cognition in healthy young adults. The data also suggest that previous reports of memory enhancement by Salvia may be due to more efficient retrieval of target material.

Study: Aromas of rosemary and lavender essential oils differentially affect cognition and mood in healthy adults.

Moss M, Cook J, Wesnes K, Duckett P.
Human Cognitive Neuroscience Unit, Division of Psychology, Northumberland Building, University of Northumbria, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8ST, UK. mark.moss@unn.ac.uk

This study was designed to assess the olfactory impact of the essential oils of lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and rosemary (Rosmarlnus officinalis) on cognitive performance and mood in healthy volunteers. One hundred and forty-four participants were randomly assigned to one of three independent groups, and subsequently performed the Cognitive Drug Research (CDR) computerized cognitive assessment battery in a cubicle containing either one of the two odors or no odor (control). Visual analogue mood questionnaires were completed prior to exposure to the odor, and subsequently after completion of the test battery. The participants were deceived as to the genuine aim of the study until the completion of testing to prevent expectancy effects from possibly influencing the data. The outcome variables from the nine tasks that constitute the CDR core battery feed into six factors that represent different aspects of cognitive functioning.

Analysis of performance revealed that lavender produced a significant decrement in performance of working memory, and impaired reaction times for both memory and attention based tasks compared to controls. In contrast, rosemary produced a significant enhancement of performance for overall quality of memory and secondary memory factors, but also produced an impairment of speed of memory compared to controls. With regard to mood, comparisons of the change in ratings from baseline to post-test revealed that following the completion of the cognitive assessment battery, both the control and lavender groups were significantly less alert than the rosemary condition; however, the control group was significantly less content than both rosemary and lavender conditions. These findings indicate that the olfactory properties of these essential oils can produce objective effects on cognitive performance, as well as subjective effects on mood.

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