Frontiers in Natural Product Chemistry

Volume: 4

Essential Oils and Cognitive Performance

Author(s): Snezana Agatonovic-Kustrin and David W. Morton

Pp: 91-118 (28)

DOI: 10.2174/9781681087252118040005


Plant remedies and essential oils have been used throughout history for medicinal purposes in treating physiological and psychological health conditions. However, there is limited clinical evidence to show they are effective. However, a few clinical studies show they are a safe and effective treatment for mental illness, as an aid in cognitive function, agitation, memory enhancement and mood, but further research is needed. Aromatherapy, a process using essential oils to heal, may be viewed as archaic by society, but modern researchers have found that it can be quintessential in the fight against various types of dementias. Aromatherapy with plant essential oils, mostly from the Mint family, can significantly reduce the agitated behaviors seen in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) patients and improve cognitive function. Although there is an olfactory dysfunction in people with AD, the loss of smell does not affect the effectiveness of the essential oils. Therefore, their active components must be able to be absorbed via skin or respiration, cross the blood brain barrier, and produce systemic effects. The major active components of these essential oils, terpenes like 1,8-cineole have been correlated with positive cognitive performance. However, 1,8-cineole, is found in other plants, like eucalyptus, whose essential oils do not have memory enhancing effects. Thus, it’s possible that detected blood levels for 1,8-cineole simply work as a marker for relative levels of other active components that are present in much smaller quantities in therapeutic essential oils.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease, Aromatherapy, Cognitive function, Dementia, Essential oils, Lavender oil, Rosemary oil, Terpenes.

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