More research will be required to determine the efficacy of this approach for clinical anxiety. “It is highly possible that it would be effective, as the experimental model used in our study is pharmacologically validated,” said study co-author Flavia Teixeira-Silva, PhD.

Rosemary aroma may improve cognition, according to a small study from 2012.9 Participants exposed to the scent during cognitive tests had a particular compound in their bloodstream afterward, and the higher the concentration, the better their performance was.

“I think a number of active compounds, including 1,8-cineole, are absorbed via the lungs when people inhale the aroma of rosemary essential oil,” study co-author Mark Moss, PhD, head of the psychology department at Northumbria University in the United Kingdom, told Psychiatry Advisor. “These compounds may then cross the blood brain barrier and act on the neurotransmitter systems that support cognition.”


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Previous research by Moss found beneficial effects of peppermint aroma on memory and alertness.10 “These herbs certainly offer new opportunities for research regarding cognitive decline,” he said.

Plant-based medicines may be effective as stand-alone treatments or as supplements to pharmaceutical interventions. Despite the emerging interest in such remedies outlined here, “the majority of these alternative treatments lack scientific support, but simply disregarding them for this reason might be depriving patients from recovery,” says Teixeira-Silva. “That’s why the possible beneficial effects of herbal remedies in mental disorders must continue to be scientifically investigated.”

Tori Rodriguez, MA, LPC, is a psychotherapist and freelancer writer based in Atlanta.

References

  1. Pratt LA and Brody DJ. Depression in the U.S. household population, 2009–2012. NCHS data brief, no 172. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics; 2014.
  2. Twenge, JM. The age of anxiety? Birth cohort change in anxiety and neuroticism, 1952-1993. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2000; 79(6):1007-21.
  3. Pratt LA, et al. Antidepressant use in persons aged 12 and over: United States, 2005–2008. NCHS data brief, no 76. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics; 2011.
  4. Pratte, MA, et al. An Alternative Treatment for Anxiety: A Systematic Review of Human Trial Results Reported for the Ayurvedic Herb Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera). Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine. 2014; 20(12): 901–908.
  5. University of Maryland Medical Center. Ayurveda. Retrieved May 6, 2015 from http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/treatment/ayurveda.
  6. Mao JJ, et al. Rhodiola rosea versus sertraline for major depressive disorder: A randomized placebo-controlled trial. Phytomedicine. 2015; 22(3):394-9.
  7. University of Maryland Medical Center. Herbal Medicine. Retrieved May 6, 2015 from http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/treatment/herbal-medicine.
  8. Goes TC, et al. Effect of sweet orange aroma on experimental anxiety in humans. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2012; 18(8):798-804.
  9. Moss M and Oliver L. Plasma 1,8-cineole correlates with cognitive performance following exposure to rosemary essential oil aroma. Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology. 2012; 2(3): 103–113.
  10. Moss M, et al. Modulation of cognitive performance and mood by aromas of peppermint and ylang-ylang. The International Journal of Neuroscience. 2008; 118(1):59-77.