Menopause and Memory - Essential Oils to Ease the Journey

     Shakespeare’s herbal wisdom is as true today as it was over 500 years ago: Rosmarinus officinalis is a powerful ally for improving memory and speed of recall.

     Many menopausal women struggle with remembering words, names, numbers, tasks and/or appointments. A woman officially enters menopause one year after her menstrual bleeding stops. She may begin noticing changes in concentration, mood and memory even before that momentous day. Peri-menopause (literally “around the time of menopause”) is the period leading up to menopause and can last from six months to 10 years. Peri-menopausal women may experience changes in memory, too.

     Keep in mind that some women breeze through the menopausal transition with no symptoms whatsoever. Changes in mood and memory are not a requirement!

     If you are having more trouble remembering people’s names, recalling items on your to-do list, or memorizing phone numbers, you can boost your memory and recall by inhaling certain essential oils.

     In one recent study, 20 subjects inhaled rosemary essential oil while completing two different mathematical tasks. The higher the blood level of 1,8 cineole (a major active constituent in rosemary essential oil), the better the subjects scored for both accuracy and speed.i

     In a larger study with 66 participants, the test group inhaled rosemary essential oil and then were given a list of tasks to do. The rosemary group performed 60 – 75% better than the control group. The rosemary group remembered and completed seven tasks while the control group completed only four tasks. The control group also took longer to complete them. The rosemary group improved in memory (remembering to complete tasks at particular times and remembering events) and speed of recall.ii

     Salvia officinalis (common sage) and Salvia lavandulaefolia L. (Spanish lavender) also are powerful allies for enhancing memory and recall, even for patients with cognitive impairment or dementia, e.g. Alzheimer’s Disease.iii

     Inhaling peppermint (Mentha piperita sp) improves memory and alertness. In contrast, ylang ylang reduces memory and increases cognitive processing time.iv


     Inhaled essential oils quickly pass through the lungs and into the blood stream. Inhaling essential oils also directly affects the brain. Research shows that essential oils cross the blood-brain barrier. Breathing in essential oils can change your concentration and mood within seconds!

  • Saturate a cotton ball with 2 – 3 drops of rosemary, sage and/or peppermint essential oil and inhale for 5 – 10 minutes (before or during an activity that requires focus and concentration).

  • Place 2 – 3 drops on a tissue and inhale for 5 – 10 minutes. You can fold the tissue and tuck it in your pocket to open and use again later.

  • Blank inhalers are small white tubes that screw into a cap with a cotton wick inside. Saturate the cotton wick with 8 – 10 drops of an essential oil OR an essential oil combination. Because you close the tube after each use, the inhaler lasts for 2- 3 months.


     For those struggling with anxiety or stress, ylang ylang increases calmness and may be a wonderful addition to bathwater at bedtime.

  • Add 4 – 5 drops of ylang ylang to one tablespoon of milk; then swirl into your bathwater. The protein and fat in the milk helps disperse the essential oil in the bathwater.

Dr. Judith Boice is naturopathic doctor, licensed acupuncturist, and a Fellow of the American Board of Naturopathic Oncology. She can be found at the Alaska Center for Natural Medicine. To learn more about Dr. Boice, call 907.452.3600 or check out her bio here.