Sow There!: Rosemary and memory, room for study 3-9-18

A pile of chocolate helps when studying as cocoa causes blood vessel dilation that increases brain function.
A pile of chocolate helps when studying as cocoa causes blood vessel dilation that increases brain function.Photo by Heather Hacking

Folks have shared a few amazing things about rosemary, so here’s my pitch for the almost overly odiferous plant.

It’s not my favorite. The scent reminds me of household cleaners. The leaves feel like a stubby pine tree. In fact, the rosemary plant growing by my cyclone fence began as a “Christmas tree.” I bought the tree on a whim for $9 at a grocery store, determined to bring a little cheer into my little house one lonely winter.

Sometime in February I moved the “tree” outside, where it suffered through a few more months of mostly neglect. Eventually it was planted in the yard, where it survived more torture.

A few years ago, the neighbor decided to decimate the weeds in his yard with herbicide. I was glad. I didn’t want those weed seeds blowing into my raised bed. Yet, it must have been a windy day because most things along our fence line were blasted and blackened.

I clipped back the rosemary to a stub and figured that was the end of my $9 investment.

The plant survived.

There’s not much I want to do with rosemary, besides admire its tenacity. I don’t cook with it. I’ll douse my potatoes in Tapatio sauce, but I don’t want to taste hunks of rosemary stuck in my teeth. The look of the plant doesn’t make me think “wow.” However, the papery purple flowers are nice for a few weeks in the spring.

Recently, I took a walk with my friend Michael, who is also studying to become a teacher.

“Grab that plant there,” he said, “and rub it under your nose.”

For some reason, I followed his directions immediately. He must have used “his teacher’s voice.”

“Rosemary is known to help with memory,” he continued with an official tone. I should sniff it when I’m studying, he stated explicitly.

The website for the Mayo Clinic concurs, The herb can help by increasing the blood flow to the brain. The writers at the Mayo did not specify whether thin mint Girl Scout cookies can do the same trick.

Rosemary, my teacher friend explained, grows in the landscaping near the Meriam Library at Chico State University, where I have been spending most of my weekend hours. He suggested I ransack the bushes before heading to the “silent floor,” to hit the books.


About this same time, a kind reader named Susan sent me an email. She said she had suffered from unwanted visitations by neighborhood cats. The felines like her yard, and specifically like using her raised bed as a cat box. One day, she needed to trim the rosemary bush and placed the fragrant clippings on top of the soil in the “cat box.” To her delight, the cats stayed away.

Other info. I found while digging online claims rosemary can be used to keep bugs out of your home and to help with dandruff (tips here: Please send me an email if you want to share a testimonial.

Spring is a good time to plant small rosemary plants. (See more growing info from Bonnie Plants: The plants won’t have a good growth spurt until a year from now, but by then you might have forgotten how much time went by. I suggest waiting until the holidays when you can add a string of LED lights to the plant and really get your money’s worth.


Other foods recommended by the Mayo Clinic for brain function include blood-flow foods like beets and avocados. I was pleased to see that cocoa was on the list. Something in cocoa called “arginine” helps with blood vessel dilation. A study had been conducted with people who drank cocoa several times a day.

I can only give you anecdotal evidence that when I have an open book, a quiet library, and a pile of Ghirardelli chocolates, I’m much more likely to stay put for a while. This, no doubt, increases memory.

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