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Boost Brain Function the Natural Way: 6 Best Essential Oils for Memory & Brain Health

We’ve all been there, right? We have this idea. It’s great. If we pull it off, it could mean money, achievement, fame. So we sit ourselves down and get to it, and then… oh, look, a bee! And work emails! And bills! But let’s watch that bee for a while longer.

We know it’s not really all that funny though. There are times when we might have been right—that idea could really have been something, if only we didn’t give up on it halfway, if only we were just a little bit smarter or more creative, we could have jumped whatever hurdle was ahead and we would have reached that finish line.

Other people have done it, after all. In fact, even at this very moment, they’re pushing on, achieving their goals despite the difficulties. We see that and can’t help but wonder, why can’t I do the same?

People with poor cognitive skills find it hard to process information, recognize patterns, understand complex systems and create solutions. Photo Source: Pixabay

We have all been in that situation when we say: I can think better than this -- I know I can think better than this! Maybe we are stressed, a bit distracted, or need a little more sleep. Whatever it is that is keeping our brains from working at its best, its effects on our productivity are always frustratingly apparent.

If you've been having a hard time concentrating or meeting your goals, allow us to say: yes! you can definitely think better, focus longer, and create more. There is no doubt. With a help from our 100% pure essential oils, what might actually surprise you is how much better.

The brain-boosting abilities of these essential oils are backed by research. Who knows? Perhaps all that you need to release the genius in you is a just click away.

We did a side-by-side comparison with two of the world's biggest essential oil brands

Essential Oils for Brain Function and Mental Clarity

While some people’s chronic inability to maintain focus on anything may not be as debilitating as certain physical illnesses, it certainly puts a damper on the quality of the lives they lead. After all, each and every person could be more than they realize.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all tap into the known and unknown abilities within us and let the world know just what it is we can really do?

Allow us to tell you all about the following essential oils, along with their properties that have been known to help improve brain health and brain function.


1. Rosemary Essential Oil

rosemary essential oilScientific studies on the chemical makeup of rosemary suggest that it helps improve memory and other brain functions. Photo via Pexels.


There’s a vast body of evidence that suggests rosemary isn’t your typical plant. Several ancient cultures certainly held it in high regard, and modern science has been doing its part in debunking or confirming the long-held beliefs surrounding its uses.

Some of the things they found out are promising. For instance, the fact that rosemary and its essential oil can be beneficial for improving memory and mental alertness has been passed down in the traditional lores of many cultures, and certain studies conducted to test if there might actually be some truth to this found the answer to be in the affirmative.

See, one of the primary chemical components of rosemary is 1,8-cineole, and this has been shown to have properties that can enhance the brain’s ability to absorb and retain information. It is so good at doing this, in fact, that its effects are held to be comparable to drugs used to treat dementia.

Having this chemical as a whopping 30% of its makeup, rosemary essential oil can and has shown a capacity to improve test subjects’ cognitive performance after being exposed for a period of time to its scent.

We can easily see just how this benefit might be put to good use. Not only is it a promising natural alternative for helping slow down the progress of dementia and general forgetfulness in older people, but it is also a highly viable option for younger adults to try and enhance their memory and therefore improve their overall intelligence. As a bonus, it could also serve as a preventive measure for neurodegeneration.

In one conference in 2016, a speaker shared about how essential oils can support brain function. You can view it in this video, or you can skip and read ahead to find out about the other essential oils that could help your cognition.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Children, especially babies, should not be exposed to rosemary essential oil as it can slow down their breathing and may even stop it for a spell, making it extremely dangerous. While it might seem tempting for parents to try alternative medicines to improve their children’s performance at school, rosemary oil might not be the best option.

Please see Precautions for more information on the proper use of essential oils.

Learn more about rosemary essential oil.


2. Sage Essential Oil

sage essential oil
Sage essential oil is versatile and can be useful in a number of different ways. Photo by Hans Braxmeier / Pixabay.


“Sage” is often used to describe a person or a piece of advice that has proven to be wise or prudent. Coincidentally, during the medieval times in Europe, the sage plant was considered to be helpful in improving memory as well as wisdom in those that ingest or use it.

This herb has definitely proven itself to be quite useful time and time again. It was found to be versatile and advantageous to use thousands of years ago, way back when ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks had to make do with whatever Mother Nature had to offer. Fortunately, for them, nature offered up a potent and useful herb in sage.

The name “sage” actually came from the Latin word “salvere,” which means “to save.” This is likely because the ancient Greeks and Romans found the herb to be so useful, and even considered it to be sacred.

Since the ancient times, people have found many ways to take advantage of sage, from culinary purposes to aromatherapy.

sage oil for brain function

The ancients had a lot of ideas that have since been debunked, but it seems that their belief that sage can improve memory has some basis in science.

In a 2003 study on the effects of sage, researchers found that healthy young adults between the ages of 18 and 37 displayed improved recall after taking sage oil capsules. Those that ingested the capsules were shown to perform consistently better than those in a control group that did not ingest the sage oil.

Of course, this is a small study on a field that needs to be delved into more deeply. However, it seems that people that observed the memory-sharpening effects of sage centuries ago may be onto something.

Sage essential oil is thus worth including in your aromatherapy sessions when you’re studying for a big test, preparing for an important presentation, or if you simply want to make sure that you’re taking care of your mind and mental health. After all, what’s there to lose in trying essential oils for brain health and improved thinking processes?

Learn more about sage essential oil.


3. Lemon Essential Oil

lemon essential oilGet a kick out of what lemon essential oil can do for your brain.


Ever had that classmate who claims he never studies for exams but would still get top scores? Don’t be so quick to dismiss him for a liar and a show-off, there’s a good chance it’s true. Try to check what he’s doing during class, and you might see that his eyes are glued to the instructor in front, paying close attention to the lessons. Even if he's looking down and doodling, his ears at least are probably actively absorbing the information.

But why are we talking about this? For one thing, there’s this strong and obvious relationship between attention and memory. Being able to maintain sharp focus for long periods of time leads to a greater capacity for retaining information. But though this ability doesn’t come naturally to everyone, it can be promoted artificially. Enter lemon essential oil.

lemon essential oil for brain function

In one study, rats were divided into two groups—one for experimenting on and one to serve as controls, which is another way of saying the scientists didn’t do anything to them. The experimental group was made to inhale the scent of lemon essential oil each day for five minutes, then both this and the control group were released in completely separate but identical mazes.

This part of the experiment lasted for ten days, and its aim was to measure the amount of time it would take both groups to memorize the way to a predetermined “goal.”

The results were as you’d expect. The rats exposed to the scent of lemon needed shorter and shorter amounts of time each experimental day to reach the goal.

According to the researchers, the success of the experiment can be attributed to the lemon oil aroma’s stimulation of the rats’ central nervous system, which then led to increased levels of attention.

As we mentioned, sustained focus is key to an enhanced memory. It is also key to increasing work accuracy by more than 50 percent, as a famous Japanese study found after releasing the scent of lemon oil in a room full of workers.

Improved attention span, memory, and accuracy—sounds like a recipe for greatness, wouldn’t you agree?

Learn more about lemon essential oil.


4. Basil Essential Oil

basil essential oilEssential oil from the basil plant has been shown to help combat chronic stress. Photo via Pexels.


Basil essential oil has been used for centuries to treat a range of illnesses, both of the body and of the mind. It has been described as the “oil that uplifts and renews,” and its regular use is said to be able to impart mental strength and clarity.

Containing properties that are known to reduce anxiety, nervousness, stress, and fatigue, basil essential oil has also traditionally been used to combat inattention, increase energy, and improve recall. It is considered as one of the best essential oils for memory; a quick inhalation of its scent could drive up focus and strengthen your mental muscles.

In fact, basil is so good at “renewing” that it’s been called an “adaptogen,” and that’s a pretty rare property for an essential oil to boast of. In one study, it has been shown that among other things, the use of basil essential oil could help combat chronic stress.

This is especially beneficial in this day and age where everyone is constantly under pressure Also, one of the known effects of chronic stress on the body is early signs of aging--which isn't something that anybody would like.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Pregnant or breastfeeding women are discouraged from using basil essential oil. It has known anti-fertility properties, so those trying to conceive must also avoid it. As with other essential oils, it might also have effects that could run counter to doctor-prescribed medication. Please seek your health provider’s advice prior to use.

Learn more about basil essential oil.


5. Ylang Ylang Essential Oil

ylang ylang essential oil
Ylang ylang is a mysterious flower, but there's no doubt about its sweet scent and plethora of benefits. Photo via Freepik.


The use of ylang ylang essential oil to improve cognitive function may be considered by some to be somewhat controversial. After all, improved cognitive function is often tied to alertness and improved memory, but ylang ylang has been proven to have sedative and calming effects. Thus, wouldn’t it be counterintuitive to those who need to be mentally alert and awake?

It would definitely seem so. However, in some cases, calmness can actually contribute to improving cognition.

A cluttered, racing mind may definitely seem alert, but it would be able to help much if you need to retain, absorb, and digest information. That state of mind might be even less conducive if you actually need to produce something out of the information you just absorbed, like a research paper or a presentation.

ylang ylang essential oil

Meditation has been proven to be an effective way to clear your mind and ease worries. Ylang ylang essential oil is a staple in meditative aromatherapy sessions, and for good reasons. It can help ease worries, reduce feelings of anxiety, and promote an overall sense of calm and clarity of mind.

Ylang ylang essential oil is thus more of a “support” oil--capable of helping clear and calm anxious minds, making them more ready to process and retain more information. You can also meditate with ylang ylang essential oil before starting an aromatherapy session with a more stimulating oil.

Learn more about ylang ylang essential oil


6. Grapefruit Essential Oil

grapefruit essential oilOften referred to as the "millennial oil", grapefruit essential oil is known to uplift people's moods and aid in retrieving old memories. Photo via Pixabay.


Ready for a refreshing boost to your creativity? There’s a theory that says introducing pleasant odors during attention-sensitive tasks is enough to have an effect on cognition, simply because the pleasant smell has elevated the person’s mood first. Under this theory, any aroma that an individual deems “pleasing” can give similar results.

Furthermore, the link between scents and memory is well-established. Not only would specific scents help you remember things quicker, but it could also facilitate faster recall if you inhale the same scent you used during the memorization process.

This principle could work the same way for evoking older memories, especially if they’re tied to a particular emotion. And although this theory isn’t substantiated yet, that shouldn’t stop anyone from trying to see if it could apply to their situation. But why grapefruit? And how does that tie in with creativity?

grapefruit essential oil for brain function

Some of the things grapefruit essential oil is known for are how its inhalation can ease tension, bring back balance to a tired and overwhelmed mind, increase levels of energy, and provide an uplifting and rejuvenating effect owing to its refreshing scent that stands out even among other citruses. Emotionally, this type of fragrance can only tap at positive and hope-filled thoughts from your past.

Plus, grapefruit essential oil isn’t dubbed the “millennial oil” for nothing. This essential oil and its scent arere perfect if you need something from your past to inspire you, or if you just want to bring back some of the youthful vigor and excitement you used to feel when this particular dream or pursuit of yours was all you could think of.

If you tie all that in with the properties grapefruit shares with other essential oils for cognitive function on this list (i.e., how its scent, as well as its main component limonene, can stimulate the “fight-or-flight” system of the body, acting as a stimulant that may promote alertness and improve focus), you might not even have to look beyond it for all your motivational needs.

Learn more about grapefruit essential oil.



Pregnant and breastfeeding women should refrain from using essential oils as many have components that might be adverse to babies. Some essential oils are also natural emmenagogues, which promotes menstruation. While this effect is typically not strong enough to induce a miscarriage, complications might still occur which could endanger both the mother’s and the fetus’ lives.

If you have serious conditions for which you’re taking medications, please consult with your health provider on the advisability of using alternative treatments like essential oils. Many may have properties that could interfere with the effects of the drugs you’re taking. People with epilepsy are also highly discouraged from using essential oils.

Although some essential oils labeled “food grade” or “therapeutic grade” can be safe for consumption in small doses, it is generally not recommended to take essential oils orally, most especially without undergoing proper dilution or further processing. The potent nature of these oils means that even a little could go a long way—one drop of peppermint essential oil, for example, is said to be the equivalent of twenty cups of peppermint tea.

This would also apply to other types of essential oils, and doubly so for cold-pressed citruses which tend to be a lot more concentrated while also being highly acidic. They could burn the mouth and throat linings, so please consult a qualified aromatherapy practitioner before ingesting essential oils to learn about proper dosage and administration.

When applied topically, dilution must also be properly observed. For most essential oils, the ratio of essential oil to carrier agent is usually one drop per one milliliter, or one teaspoon, as is often used as well.

Before any large-scale skin application, perform a patch test first in a non-sensitive part of the skin to see if you have any adverse reaction. If irritation or allergy occurs, please refrain from further use.

If you’re applying photosensitive oils like those made from citrus, wait for at least twenty-four hours before exposing your skin to the sun as the citrus essential oil might react to the strong light and cause burns or skin pigmentation. Wear sun-protective clothing as an added measure.

Keep away from children’s and pets’ reach. Avoid getting essential oils in the mucous membranes like those in the eyes. If undiluted essential oil accidentally spills on the skin, please do not use water to wash it away as oils are not water-soluble and doing this would only spread the oil further on the skin. Instead, use carrier oils to simultaneously dilute and remove the excess.


How to Use Essential Oils to Boost Brain Function

Any of the essential oils listed here can be used on its own to great effect. But to make the most of their benefits, they can also be blended together in a personal formula specific to your needs at any given situation.
To make it easier for you, Aroma Foundry has packed them all in a convenient bundle. You won’t have to go far and wide, we have them all here: six all-natural and 100% pure essential oils that can help increase your focus, boost your creativity, improve your memory, and so much more.


There’s a variety of ways you can enjoy these benefits, including:


1. Diffusion

Pop a few drops in your diffuser, turn it on, and you’re all set. The exact number of drops would depend on the type of oil you’re using and how long you want the session to last.

Three to five drops are usually enough for a 100-ml capacity tank in a modest-sized room, and citrus essential oils like grapefruit that were made using the cold pressing method would need even less because they’re much more concentrated. Do make sure your diffuser is designed to handle its high acidity, though.

Of course, simple inhalation straight from the bottle could work as well, but the advantage of diffusion is that it spreads the beneficial molecules around the space you’re moving in and you can receive them each time you breathe in.

This would also make sure that no drop would go to waste because a good diffuser would convert every last one to something your entire body can use—anything your lungs couldn’t gather would go to your skin, as it’s also a highly effective conductor of essential oils. Which brings us to…


2. Topical application

Want the rejuvenating properties of these oils on your body as well? If you can find the time during a hectic day, then massage your aching head or limbs with these oils, or simply apply some on your pulse points.

For the sake of convenience, you can blend your personal mind-boosting formula beforehand and carry it with you wherever you go.

All you’ll need is a compact, UV-filtering bottle to mix and store your blend in and you’ll always be able to keep it on your person, to be whipped out whenever you think you need it. Make sure the oils are properly diluted in a carrier agent like coconut or olive oil. As we’ve discussed in the Precautions section, a 1:1 ratio of essential oil drop to a milliliter or to a teaspoon of carrier oil is usually the standard.


3. Miscellaneous uses

There are plenty of other ways you could reap the brain-boosting and mind-healing benefits of these six essential oils. If you don’t have a diffuser, you can improvise by adding the drops to a bowl of hot water. Wait a bit for it to cool, then cover the bowl and your head with a towel and inhale the steam.

If you want a mixture you can spray on yourself or in your space, mix up to six drops of your essential oils of choice in 100 ml of purified water or alcohol. Shake the mist bottle well before each use.

As a last example, you can pop a few drops into your bath to unwind after a long stressful day, or add some to your liquid soap or shampoo to motivate you at the start of yet another one. You can also do both. We promise no one’s going to blame you for it.



You’ve got this idea, and it could be great. But for the entire world to see that, you have to give form to it first.

But that’s easier said than done. There are so many considerations to think of, things that need to be gotten out of the way first. Try to consider this too: we all have the potential to get past those challenges, whatever they may be. It’s just a matter of finding the right tools to help us.

For instance, using nature’s bounty in the form of essential oils to help boost our creativity, focus, intelligence, and mental stamina. And just like with people, there’s a right oil for every job.

If a person’s brain is overstimulated, so much so that it couldn’t possibly function optimally anymore, a sedative type like ylang ylang essential oil can be used to give it a break from work while also preparing it to handle more. If fatigue or persistent inattention is the problem, a stimulant type like sage essential oil might be the right answer.

If you need a refreshing way to improve your memory or take your creativity to new heights, the essential oils of lemon and grapefruit would be happy to serve. And to protect your brain and body from untimely degeneration so that you could extend your future as far as it could go, using rosemary and basil essential oils could prove to be the key.

essential oils for brain health by Aroma Foundry

The best part is, you don’t have to choose just one essential oil from this collection. Aroma Foundry has gathered all these essential oils for brain function in just one package. 


  1. Jyoti, S., S. Satendra, S. Sushma, T. Anjana, and S. Shashi. "Antistressor Activity of Ocimum Sanctum (Tulsi) against Experimentally Induced Oxidative Stress in Rabbits." Methods and Findings in Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17922070.
  2. Moss, M., J. Cook, K. Wesnes, and P. Duckett. "Aromas of Rosemary and Lavender Essential Oils Differentially Affect Cognition and Mood in Healthy Adults." The International Journal of Neuroscience. January 2003. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12690999.
  3. University Of Newcastle Upon Tyne. (2003, September 1). Sage Improves Memory, Study Shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 10, 2019 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/09/030901091846.htm.
  4. Ogeturk, Murat, Evren Kose, Mustafa Sarsilmaz, Burhan Akpinar, Ilter Kus, and Sedat Meydan. "Effects of Lemon Essential Oil Aroma on the Learning Behaviors of Rats." October 2010. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/47459871_Effects_of_lemon_essential_oil_aroma_on_the_learning_behaviors_of_rats.
  5. Tan, Loh Teng Hern, Learn Han Lee, Wai Fong Yin, Chim Kei Chan, Habsah Abdul Kadir, Kok Gan Chan, and Bey Hing Goh. "Traditional Uses, Phytochemistry, and Bioactivities of Cananga Odorata (Ylang-Ylang)." Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : ECAM. 2015. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4534619/.
  6. Tanida, M., A. Niijima, J. Shen, T. Nakamura, and K. Nagai. "Olfactory Stimulation with Scent of Essential Oil of Grapefruit Affects Autonomic Neurotransmission and Blood Pressure." Brain Research. October 05, 2005. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16168968.
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Fagjun Santos is an avid reader who eventually decided to try her hand at writing her own stuff. After spending her teen years writing what can be considered to be Vogon poetry, she now writes things that aren't a pain to read. Her favorite Aroma Foundry scent is peppermint, with lavender coming in a close second.

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