According to an American trial, using an essential oil diffuser while we sleep would lead to an improvement in cognitive performance, including memory. If confirmed, this discovery would offer a non-invasive way to preserve one’s health from cognitive decline.
We knew the smells are strongly attached to our memories, but are these the key to preserving our brain from decline? That’s a possibility, according to a new US study conducted by the Center for Neurobiology of Learning and Memory at the University of California, and published in late July in the journal Frontiers in neurosciences. According to her, olfactory stimulation, by simple diffusion of essential oils during the night, could represent a simple, non-invasive way of preventing or even potentially treating cognitive decline.
Concentrated essential oils increase cognitive performance
The nocturnal aromatherapy trial was conducted in about forty people aged 60 to 85, in good health and without memory problems. Each participant received an aroma diffuser, as well as cartridges containing 7 different natural oils (rose, orange, eucalyptus, lemon, peppermint, rosemary, lavender), with a very simple instruction: launch a different perfume each evening, before bedtime and for two hours during the night. A control group, meanwhile, was entitled to the same instructions, but with lower dose cartridges. The experiment lasted 6 months.
A battery of tests before and after the experiment then compared the memory, verbal learning, planning and attention switching abilities of all the volunteers. For a blatant result since according to their tests, the group having benefited from the concentrated odors increased their cognitive performance by 226%!
An improvement confirmed by a functional MRI performed at the start and then at the end of the trial in the participants. According to the imaging results, the researchers found better integrity of the brain pathway connecting the amygdala to the cortex in people who conducted aromatherapy. This pathway tends to deteriorate with aging.
A new phase planned on people with cognitive decline
On the strength of this observation, the researchers now wish to carry out new work… on people who actually experience cognitive loss: “It is possible that high levels of olfactory stimulation protect the brain and that symptoms of these neurological disorders only become evident when olfactory stimulation is low”they argue.
And why not ? Given the harmless, accessible and non-invasive practice, scientists see the possibility of offering aromatherapy as a health program in its own right. Supported by a giant of cosmetics and hygiene, Procter & Gamble, these same researchers are already working on a product available from the fall.