According to the results of a study at Wheeling Jesuit University, participants demonstrated increased alertness and decreased levels of frustration, anxiety and fatigue when exposed to peppermint and cinnamon scents.
Cinnamon is one of the most potent antioxidants in the world and . regular consumption can lower blood sugar, help digestion, ease arthritis, lower blood pressure and even ward off Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. When it comes to the highest antioxidant values on the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) scale, cinnamon comes in third only lower than clove and sumac.
Peppermint is a perfect spice when brainstorming. An energy booster, this scent invigorates the mind, promotes concentration and stimulates clear thinking. Smelling peppermint is linked to greater cognitive stamina, motivation and overall performance.
The smell of peppermint is known to improve our cognitive memory. When administered either through the mouth or the nose, the smell can improve our recognition, working memory, and our overall response. A 2013 study published in the Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition found when participants drank peppermint-infused water for 10 days, it improved their pain threshold.
Bryan Raudenbush, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology, recently completed a research review on the effects of peppermint, and he and two Wheeling Jesuit students presented their findings on cinnamon’s effects.
The Sense of Smell Institute, a leading global resource relating to the sense of smell and its importance, commissioned Raudenbush’s review to determine whether anecdotal references to the beneficial effects of peppermint have been substantiated by scientific research.
He found several studies confirming that peppermint can improve the quality of life for many people through enhancing mental and athletic performance, cognitive functioning, digestive processes and pain tolerance.
Included in the review was Raudenbush’s study that showed peppermint’s ability to reduce perceived physical workload, temporal workload, effort and frustration in athletes. Study participants also rated their level of vigor higher and level of fatigue lower in the peppermint condition.
In the review’s conclusion, Raudenbush notes that experimental evidence and scientific interest on the beneficial effects of peppermint are growing.
“With peppermint’s ability to enhance both cognitive and athletic performance, most likely a variety of new products will soon be marketed which capitalize on the all-natural, non-pharmaceutical properties of peppermint. Research will begin examining the effectiveness of peppermint-based analgesics for mild to moderate pain reactions.”
In the present study, participants were monitored during stimulated driving under three odor conditions (peppermint, cinnamon, non-odor control). Odors were added to low flow oxygen (1.3L/min) via an oxygen concentrator and presented at the rate of 30 seconds every 15 minutes. Subjective measures of cognitive performance, wakefulness, mood, and workload were also assessed.
“In general, prolonged driving led to increased anger, fatigue, and physical demand, and decreased vigor. However, fatigue ratings were decreased in the cinnamon condition. Both cinnamon and peppermint administration led to increased ratings of alertness in comparison to the no-odor control condition over the course of the driving scenario. Periodic administration of these odors over long term driving may prove beneficial in maintaining alertness and decreasing highway accidents and fatalities,” says Raudenbush.
Results revealed a task-dependent relationship between odors and the enhancement of cognitive processing. In particular, the researchers found that cinnamon improved participants’ scores on tasks related to attentional processes, virtual recognition memory, working memory, and visual-motor response speed.
— Peppermint is associated with decreased anxiety while driving.
— Peppermint is associated with decreased fatigue while driving.
— Peppermint and cinnamon are associated with decreased driving frustration.
— Peppermint and cinnamon are associated with decreased temporal demand while driving.
— Peppermint and cinnamon are associated with greater levels of driving alertness up to 25% greater than controls.