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Scent-sational Solutions: 9 Essential Oils for Combatting Memory Loss

Image by shurkin_son on Freepik
Image by shurkin_son on Freepik

Forgetfulness and lapses in memory are common challenges often associated with aging. Other factors such as stress, mental fatigue, ailments like Alzheimer's disease, etc can take a toll on a person's ability to remember things.

Memory loss, whether mild or severe, can be distressing to the sufferer and to those around the individual. Fortunately, with the help of aromatherapy, memory loss can be effectively managed. This article explains how essential oils help to sharpen your cognitive functions and improve your memory. You'll also discover the best essential oils for memory loss.

How Essential Oils Improve Your Memory

Aromatherapy is a branch of natural medicine which involves using essential oils obtained from plants to elicit healing and wellness. Essential oils are loaded with chemical compounds that have medicinal properties, and some have been scientifically proven to be effective in boosting brain functions including memory retention and recall.

Meanwhile, in the brain there is a neurotransmitter whose function is to facilitate memorisation and memory recall. This particular neurotransmitter is named acetylcholine (ACh). The amount of ACh in your body is regulated by an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase (AChE), as high amounts of ACh may cause nausea, muscle cramps, blurry vision, etc.

However, as we get older the levels of the neurotransmitter ACh begin to decrease, resulting in a lowered short-term memory. For optimal cognitive functions to continue, the quantity of the enzyme AChE needs to stay reduced at this point. If this enzyme is left to continue doing its normal function of lowering your ACh, your ACh levels will drop further and increase risks of memory loss. Ailments like Alzheimer's disease, dementia, cognitive impairment and other memory disorders are marked by a depleted ACh. Hence, to manage memory loss effectively there's need to increase the neurotransmitter ACh and reduce AChE.

This is where essential oils come in. Many essential oils contain certain compounds that stops AChE from increasing. Examples of these AChE-inhibiting compounds include 1, 8-cineole, camphor and A-pinene. Essential oils such as rosemary, clary sage, eucalyptus, frankincense, etc are highly rich in these compounds.

In addition to the above, research shows that regular exposure to scents can enhance cognitive abilities in the elderly. Scientists observed that lack of olfactory stimulation leads to deterioration of the memory centers of the brain. Increased stimulation with scents and odorants improves the memory centers. Aromatherapy is a good and effortless way to stimulate the brain's memory centers through smell. Exposure to essential oils builds olfactory enrichment that enhances brain functions, which in turn boosts memory. Significant improvement in word list recall and memory function was observed in older adults after a few months of nightly aromatherapy regimen.

9 Effective essential oils for memory loss

1. Rosemary Essential Oil

Right from ancient times, rosemary oil has been in use as a stimulant to keep the mind alert and focused. In act 4, scene 5 of Shakespeare's Hamlet, Ophelia alludes to this remarkable medicinal use of rosemary saying, "There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray you, love, remember".

Different research studies have been carried out to verify rosemary's ability to enhance memory and mental alertness. The studies proved that rosemary essential oil is effective in improving cognitive function, memory and focus.

Its high content of 1,8-cineole is responsible for this memory-enhancing properties. When rosemary essential oil is inhaled, this compound gets absorbed into the bloodstream where it impacts on the nerve cells in your hippocampus. Hippocampus is the region of your brain responsible for memory, navigation, learning and perception. 1,8-cineole also helps to stall the breakdown of acetylcholine (ACh) in the brain.

2. Clary Sage Essential Oil

Together with its stress-relieving action, this is one of the best essential oils for memory. Clary sage essential oil is popularly used in traditional medicine around the world to combat dementia and enhance memory. This essential oil, as demonstrated by research, significantly increases the production of nitric oxide (NO) in the body. The brain needs a large amount of oxygen to function optimally. Shortage of oxygen to the brain (a condition known as hypoxia) could lead to poor memory, forgetfulness, lack of concentration, and disorientation. Nitric oxide alleviates hypoxia by improving blood flow and oxygen supply to the brain cells, as well as regulating oxygen consumption. Hence, clary sage essential oil optimizes brain functions and memory recall by making adequate oxygen available.

3. Peppermint Essential Oil

Peppermint essential oil helps to clear your mind. Several studies have backed up the use of peppermint essential oil as a memory booster in aromatherapy. One of these studies observed that peppermint essential oil inhibits AChE. It also enhances cognitive function by stimulating the neurons responsible for memory and learning.

4. Lavender Essential Oil

In a recent study, nightly usage of lavender essential oil was shown to increase memory recall by over a whooping 200%. The oil proved to have a tremendous impact on a major chemical pathway that controls learning and memory in the brain. Coupled with its anti-stress properties, lavender essential oil has proven to be particularly effective at minimizing memory loss resulting from pressure and stress.

5. Ginger Essential Oil

It may interest you to know that the usefulness of this culinary plant is not restricted to the kitchen. Ginger essential oil has many therapeutic benefits, one of which is its potential to improve attention and memory. Results from several studies evaluating the memory-boosting actions of ginger essential oil acknowledge that it has the capacity to improve short-term memory and reduce age-related memory loss.

6. Lemon Essential Oil

The citrus scent of lemon elevates your mood, eases your mind and dispel anxiety. This unclogs your brain, helps you focus and recall things easier. A 2005 study demonstrated that lemon oil sharpened alertness and concentration in students. Alertness is one of the focal points in creating short-term memory. Concentration helps you recall memories you have internalised.

7. Eucalyptus Essential Oil

The refreshing smell of eucalyptus essential oil helps to balance mental function and improve memory. The oil is particularly rich in eucalyptol (also known as 1,8-cineole). Eucalyptus effectively improves memory and is a great essential oil for Alzheimer’s disease. This essential oil is particularly good for senior citizens as it helps to relieve insomnia, anxiety and impaired cognitive functions.

8. Frankincense Essential Oil

Right from as way back as the 10th century, frankincense oil has been in use as treatment for amnesia in the Middle East. Several scientific studies validating the use of frankincense essential oil to improve memory abound. In one of these studies, frankincense oil was shown to facilitate the acquisition and retention of motor memory in older adults with memory impairment. This essential oil has a high content of sesquiterpenes, and these compounds efficiently oxygenate the brain cells and improve their functioning.

9. Bergamot Essential Oil

A study to assess the pharmacological action of bergamot essential oil on patients with dementia yielded promising results. The outcome of the study validates the use of bergamot essential oil for memory retention. Bergamot oil has also been found to trigger the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin in the brain. These two hormones play a key role in regulating your memory and mood. Inhaling bergamot essential oil boosts the release of these hormones.

How to use essential oils to improve your memory

It's important to note that essential oils are for external use only, and should never be ingested. Endeavour to keep essential oils out of reach from children. If pregnant or breastfeeding please check with your doctor before use. Moreover, should you experience any pain, discomfort or irritation, please discontinue using the essential oil until you ascertain the cause of your reaction.

Inhaling essential oils for memory

Inhalation is the easiest and fastest way to enjoy the benefits of your memory-boosting essential oils. You can drop the oil on a handkerchief, tissue paper or your beddings and breathe in the scent. Some people use oil burners or pocket inhalers to inhale essential oils. However, we recommend using a diffuser to inhale essential oils. The process is less cumbersome and gives you substantial benefits better than other methods of essential oil inhalation.

Diffusers are small electronic devices that transform your essential oil into an airy mist that disperses and fills your room with the essential oil particles. They come in different shapes and sizes, and are quite easy to use. Simply add water up to the fill line, place 5-10 drops of your essential oil/blend, turn on your diffuser and enjoy. Diffusers present a convenient inhalation method for everyone.

Inhaling essential oils during any time of the day works well. You can inhale in the morning before stepping out for the day, and can even dab some on your wrists to keep you alert and focused during office hours. Nightly inhalation of essential oils for memory loss has been found to be most effective in improving cognitive function and memory.

Topical Application of essential oils for memory

Before using any essential oil on your skin, make sure you dilute the essential oil with a carrier oil. Essential oils are highly concentrated and should be diluted before applying directly to the skin. Also, do well to perform a patch test before use, as skin sensitivity may occur. Keep away from your eyes.

Dilute your essential oil with a carrier oil of your choice and apply to your wrists and temples to help you focus and remember things.

To use your memory essential oils for massage, dilute 2-3 drops in a tablespoonful of carrier oil and massage into skin.

Using essential oils for memory in bath

Add 4-6 drops of diluted essential oil into warm bathwater, soak in for at least 5-10 minutes. Make this part of your night time routine for best results.

Essential Oil Blends for Memory

In aromatherapy, it's common to mix two or more essential oils. The synergy of essential oils tends to give the best targeted result. Here are our three choice essential oil blends for enhancing memory recall.

A. Special blend 1

  • 2 drops peppermint

  • 2 drops eucalyptus

  • 3 drops rosemary

  • 2 drops lavender

B. Special blend 2

  • 3 drops rosemary

  • 2 drops lavender

  • 2 drops frankincense

  • 2 drops clary sage

This blend is perfect for creating focus and concentration, especially in the elderly.

C. Special blend 3

  • 2 drops rosemary

  • 2 drops bergamot

  • 2 drops lavender

  • 2 drops lemon

Diffuse any of these essential oil blends and inhale for 20-30 minutes to help you maintain mental clarity all through the day. You can also dilute the blend and add to your bath or for topical use.

DIY Memory Booster Roller

What you need:

Direction: simply add 20-30 drops (about 1ml) of essential oils/blend to your bottle. Fill the rest of the bottle with carrier oil. Cover with a roller top, and shake until well mixed. Store in a cool, dark place.

Dab on to your pulse points any time you need to maintain a clear mind and a sharp memory.


Memory is everything. Your brain's ability to retain memories and recall information is paramount to your survival as a living person. Essential oils provide a natural, safe and effective means of improving memory and combatting memory impairment.


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