A group of older adults showed a remarkable improvement in memory and brain function after scientists put aroma diffusers emitting a variety of pleasant scents in their bedrooms for 2 hours over a 7-day period.
Neuroscientists at the University of California, Irvine were searching for low-cost ways that ordinary folks and their families could use to deal with age-related memory loss and intellectual decline. The positive connection between aromatherapy and improvements in brain function has long been known, they noted.
The scientists conducted the study with 43 men and women test subjects between the ages of 60 and 85. Half of the group received the 2-hour aromatherapy treatment. The other group did not. Six months later, the researchers tested those in both groups.
The aromatherapy group showed a 226% improvement in memory and learning on standard, well-established tests of learning and brain function. The group that did not receive the aromatherapy showed no comparable improvement.
The U.C. Irvine researchers pointed out how easily aromatherapy treatment could be used by any person or family suffering age-related memory or cognitive loss. It could also help dementia sufferers.
“Even minimal olfactory enrichment, delivered at night, is sufficient to induce an improvement in cognition and neural function,” they wrote in the July 23 issue of the journal Frontiers of Neuroscience. “This type of sensory enrichment … is low cost, as well as low effort. This type of enrichment also appears even to be capable of successfully improving the cognitive ability of individuals living with dementia.”
Group members were given diffusers and 7 essential oil odorants: rose, orange, eucalyptus, lemon, peppermint, rosemary, and lavender, obtained from The Essential Oil Company in Portland, Oregon.