Merry Christmyths #2: Candy Canes on the Brain

To celebrate the holiday season, ASO is bringing you a science-filled 12 Days of ASO Christmas! This will be a series of ‘mini-blogs’, by Rosemary Wills, centered on the science of some of our most cherished traditions. This is the sixth in the series. 

The Myth:

Peppermint improves cognitive function.

The Reality:

Your grade school teachers were right all along.

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Image credit: Liz West via Flickr.

To me, the sharp scent of peppermint calls to mind glowing Christmas trees, carols on the radio, warm mugs of hot cocoa… and standardized testing. Teachers often gave us peppermints before important exams, claiming the smell would help improve our performance.

It might seem a bit far-fetched, but peppermint’s brain-boosting abilities have been backed up by multiple studies. Whiffs of peppermint were found to enhance their subjects’ attention and memory, all while helping them feel more alert. In fact, one study found that peppermint scent improved drivers’ focus and dampened feelings of frustration.

So if coffee alone isn’t cutting it this finals week, take advantage of the season and try a candy cane.

About the Author

Rosemary WillisRosemary Wills is an undergraduate at UGA majoring in Plant Biology and Science Education. When she’s not writing, coding, or spending time with family, she enjoys growing plants in her windowsill and crocheting science-related things. More from Rosemary Wills.