This Popular Herb Shows Promise In Easing Stress & Anxiousness
Rosemary is well-known for its wonderful scent and unique flavor, but the plant's perks don't stop there. Research continues to find that consuming the rosemary plant (Rosmarinus officinalis L.) can support healthy cognition and brain function.*
A new clinical study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition further explored the herb's effects on mental health,* and the results are worth a sniff.
What the research found.
In this small study, 22 healthy individuals between the ages of 20 and 50 drank a cup of rosemary tea (a simple brew of 5 grams of dried rosemary in water) every day for 10 days.
Before and after the experiment, researchers ran blood tests to measure key markers of participants' stress levels and immune response.
While the immunity markers stayed relatively consistent after the daily tea, researchers did find a significant increase in the concentration of one protein: brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF is an essential molecule for brain health.
Essentially, it helps our noggins grow new neurons and synapses while protecting the ones we already have. BDNF seems to help shield our brain's neurons from stress-induced damage, and it's often excreted during bouts of exercise.
Normal levels (i.e., not low) of BDNF are considered a biomarker for a healthy mood and mental well-being.
Since BDNF levels increased following the intervention, researchers believe that rosemary might help promote a positive mood and ease everyday stress and anxiousness.*
They also found that participants experienced a slight decrease in cortisol levels following their teatime, another signal of a healthy stress response.*
This was only one small trial, and there was no control group (so you can't rule out the placebo effect), but the results track with existing research on rosemary.
Previous studies have found that the herb can help promote calm and improve sleep quality in college students and have a mood-boosting effect on mice.*
Supplementing with rosemary led to an increase in self-reported focus, enthusiasm, and outlook in another clinical study, and there's also good reason to think the herb can help promote memory and cognitive function.*
In short, consuming rosemary seems to be one (delicious) botanical approach to supporting mood and overall brain health.*
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How to start a rosemary routine.
There are many ways the home cook can work more rosemary into their rotation. For starters, you can promote the herb from garnish to key player in aromatic recipes like this plant-forward portobello "pot roast," veggie-packed Italian soup, and savory squash pancakes.
Infusing a few sprigs into your olive oil will also impart a delicious, nutrient-dense flavor. And of course, brewing your own rosemary tea is an easy option—but beware, the concentrated flavor can be potent.
To reap the health benefits of rosemary, eating it consistently is key. Blue Zone creator Dan Buettner previously told the mindbodygreen podcast that he noticed many communities of centenarians around the world tend to sip the herb daily.
"It's not because they drink these teas once in a while but because they drink them every day for years or decades that probably is adding to their longevity," he said.
For this reason, you can also find daily supplements that contain the herb, like mindbodygreen's hemp multi+. Created to help alleviate everyday stress, the blend pairs rosemary with other relaxing plant ingredients like hemp extract, black cumin seed, clove, and black pepper.*
When taken together, these botanicals work synergistically to support a sense of calm in the face of life's many stressors (with no funky aftertaste).*
The bottom line.
Rosemary is one of those herbs that does a lot more than taste great on chicken. The more we look into the plant, the more we realize that it can support a healthy body and mind when consumed regularly.* No need to tell us twice.