Many of us worry about experiencing cognitive decline in our later years. Following a non-smoking lifestyle with adequate sleep and physical activity, along with a prudent diet, can help us stay healthy longer (JAMA Internal Medicine, April 6, 2020). Presumably, people who avoid diabetes, heart disease and stroke also have a better chance of keeping their brains in good shape. But what about the details of the diet? Are there particular items that might protect our faculties, such as drinking rosemary water?
Where Can You Find Rosemary Water?
Q. You have written about rosemary water improving performance on some cognitive tests. What is this? I have never seen it. Where could I get it?
A. We wrote about a study in which 80 people were randomly assigned to drink a cup of commercial rosemary water (No. 1 Botanicals, a British brand) or plain water. The differences in cognitive performance were small but statistically significant (Journal of Psychopharmacology, Dec. 2018).
We don’t know if it is possible to purchase rosemary water in the US. Shipping it from London would probably be very pricey.
Make Your Own:
You could make your own rosemary water, but we don’t have a way of standardizing the active compounds such as rosmarinic acid. When we make it, we use six six-inch sprigs of fresh rosemary from the backyard bush and steep them in a quart of water for an hour. We boil the water before pouring it over the sprigs. Unfortunately, we don’t know how this compares to No. 1 Botanicals product. However, it is quite tasty.
Some experts consider rosemary, along with other herbs and spices, a promising nutraceutical to slow cognitive decline (British Journal of Pharmacology, March 2020). The investigators have also found evidence of benefit from lemon balm, saffron, sage and turmeric. You won’t find lemon balm at the supermarket, but it is easy to grow if you have a yard. The others are readily available as herbs; turmeric, the best-studied, is a primary component of curry powder.
If you are interested in the health-giving properties of herbs such as rosemary and spices like turmeric, you may be interested in our book. It is Spice Up Your Health: How Everyday Kitchen Herbs & Spices Can Lengthen & Strengthen Your Life.