For the study, researchers from Northumbria University tested the effects of certain herbs and scents on mood and memory. The team asked 180 volunteers to complete a questionnaire relating to their mood and then consume a randomly chosen hot drink — either peppermint or chamomile tea, or hot water. Twenty minutes after finishing their drinks, the participants completed tests meant to assess their memories among a range of other cognitive functions. They were also asked to take another mood test, according to a press release.
Results showed a link between peppermint tea and enhanced mood and cognition. Those who drank peppermint tea also exhibited improved long-term memory, working memory, and alertness. On the other hand, volunteers given chamomile tea experienced a calming sedative effect, which the team noted also seemed to slow their memory recall and attention speed.
In a second experiment, the team tested whether herbal scents could have a measurable effect on the cognitive abilities of older individuals. This time, the team had 150 healthy volunteers aged 65 and older sit in a room scented with rosemary or lavender essential oils. A control group sat in an unscented room. At the end of the experiment, volunteers were asked to take memory tests and complete mood assessments just like the previous group.
Once again, the herbs had affected the volunteers’ mood and memory. Those who had been put in a rosemary-scented room showed greater memory, scoring an average 15 percent higher than those who had been placed in an unscented room. Those placed in the lavender-scented rooms, however, showed higher levels of calmness, which once again seemed to worsen their memories.
Each of these herbs have been associated with varying effects on mood and cognitive abilities for centuries, and this study provides scientific backing to the folklore. In addition to improving memory and alertness, peppermint has also been associated with reducing headache pain, nausea, gas, indigestion, colds, diarrhea, and stomach pain. Some even suggest that sipping on peppermint tea can relieve your hangover.
Study author Dr. Mark Moss said that while these benefits remain unproven, they suggest peppermint could play an active role in improving our mental performance.
“It is interesting to see the contrasting effects that different herbs can have on both mood and memory, and our research suggests that they could have beneficial effects, particularly in older age groups,” Moss said in a statement. “If you were otherwise healthy, then this research suggests that there is an opportunity to have an improved memory.”
Source: Moss M, et al. Contrasting Effects of Peppermint and Chamomile Tea on Cognition and Mood. British Psychological Society Conference. 2016