Exam aids

A recent study has backed up the traditional use of Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) as an aid to memory – and Holland and Barrett reports a huge surge in demand as a result. It’s exam time, and we herbalists always get asked for help in improving performance and reducing anxiety at this time of year.

The essential oil of Rosemary has a stimulating effect, unlike a lot of others which are more relaxing. Sniffing it gives a little wake-up call to the brain; it’s been found that students do better in exams if the scent of Rosemary is in the room. And if you take it as tea or tincture, it boosts your circulation, which can also help brainpower and ease headaches and fatigue. But once again, it’s not the only herb that’s worth trying.

Herbs like to work together, and you can often get much better results by combining them to suit your particular needs. So if you get very anxious about exams, you could add Licquorice to support your adrenal glands, or Passion Flower to calm your nerves. If it’s brainpower you are mainly interested in, a little Wormwood or Mugwort (Artemisia absinthium or Artemisia vulgaris), perhaps combined with Ginkgo or Gotu kola (Centella asiatica) could help give you that extra edge.

Be careful with the Ginseng family; they can boost performance, but stop you sleeping if you take too much; and the same is true, of course, of Coffee, Guarana and other stronger stimulants. Gentle, steady support is your best bet. And take frequent short breaks from study, to move around and get the blood flowing; this enables you to concentrate for longer and perform better, though it may seem counter-intuitive when you have a pile of revision to get through. Good luck!