“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray you, love, remember. And there is pansies, that’s for thoughts.” -William Shakespeare (Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 5)
Common Name: Rosemary
Botanical Name: Rosemary officinalis
Family: Lamiaceae – mint family
Genus: Rosmarius – Latin words row (dew) and marines (sea) “dew of the sea”
Rosemary belongs to the mint family and is related to other well-known herbs such as the basils, thymes, and mints. Its closest relative is the genus Salvia, which includes common garden sage (Salvia officinalis).
Rosemary is an aromatic evergreen shrub that typically grows to 4-6′ tall in areas where winters are mild. It has stiff branches with long, needle-like leaves that are dark green above and white underneath. Pale blue flowers grow on the ends of the leaves. Rosemary is an outstanding perennial performer in zones 7 to 10. Plants can be brought indoors to overwinter in colder zones.
The rosemary plant is native to the hot, dry and windy environment of the Mediterranean seaside surviving on the dew and misting from the sea. It is cultivated in nearly all parts of the Mediterranean region and Asia minor. Major producers for export are Yugoslavia, France, Spain, and Portugal.
During the Jin Dynasty, rosemary was brought to China from the Mediterranean. It has been used as a brain tonic in Chinese traditional medicine for centuries. Rosemary is considered bitter and pungent with a warm temperature that targets the small intestine, spleen, stomach, lung, and large intestine (promotes digestion, strengthens the spleen, lungs, and stomach). The volatile oils help stimulate brain activities and increase brain alertness.
In Europe rosemary is often used to treat indigestion (dyspepsia) and it was traditionally used to help alleviate muscle pain, improve memory, boost the immune and circulatory system, and promote hair growth. Rosemary herb extractions, when applied to the scalp, stimulate the hair-bulbs and help prevent premature baldness. It is historically known to improve memory by increasing blood flow to the brain and head, which by extension also helps improve concentration.
“A collaborative group from the Burnham Institute for Medical Research (Burnham Institute) in La Jolla, CA and in Japan, report that the herb rosemary contains an ingredient that fights off free radical damage in the brain. The active ingredient in rosemary, known as carnosic acid (CA), can protect the brain from stroke and neurodegeneration that is due to injurious chemical free radicals. These radicals are thought to contribute not only to stroke and neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s, but also to the ill effects of normal aging on the brain.” – October 31, 2007, News-Medical.Net
A study published in the journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, led by Stuart A. Lipton, M.D., Ph.D. and colleagues at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, revealed that the carnosic acid found in rosemary can significantly promote eye health. This could have clinical applications for diseases like macular degeneration that affects the outer retina of the eye.
Rosmarinic acid, a natural polyphenolic antioxidant found in rosemary, has been found to have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant functions. The leaves are the usual source of rosmarinic acid and the content is greatly enhanced by environmental stress because the polyphenol defends against such stress. Sage, peppermint, oregano, thyme herbs also contain appreciable levels of rosmarinic acid.
Rosemary, whether fresh or dried, is a rich source of minerals like potassium, calcium, iron, manganese, copper, and magnesium. Fresh rosemary is exceptionally rich in many B-complex groups of vitamin, such as folic acid, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, riboflavin and the leaves are a good source of vitamin C.
Fresh rosemary is superior in quality and has a subtle flavor. Dried rosemary is stronger and quite pungent (a sharp, strong taste or smell). In order to keep the fragrance and flavor intact, the herb is generally added to cooking recipes at the last moments, since prolonged cooking would result in the evaporation of its essential oils.
Rosemary oil is distilled from the flowering tops which often includes the top of the leaves. The main chemical components of rosemary oil are a-pinene, borneol, b-pinene, camphor, bornyl acetate, camphene, 1,8-cineole and limonene. These compounds are known to have tonic, astringent, diaphoretic, and stimulant properties.
Used externally, rosemary oil is a rubefacient that soothes painful ailments in gout, rheumatism and neuralgic conditions. A rubefacient is a substance for topical application that produces redness of the skin by causing dilation of the capillaries and an increase in blood circulation.
United Kingdom researchers from Northumbria University discovered that when an amount of 1.8-cineole, a prime chemical found in rosemary oil, makes its way into the bloodstream, the end result leads to improved brain performance.
Rosemary oil should not be used during pregnancy and is unsuitable for people with epilepsy. Rosemary, fennel, sage and hyssop essential oils have always been the classical oils to be avoided in epilepsy.
Depending on the way rosemary is prepared, the following daily doses are recommended:
Typical Internal Dosages
Tincture (1:5): 2-4 ml
Infusion: 2-4 grams
Fluid extract (1:1): 1-2 ml
Rosemary wine: 20 grams of rosemary added to one liter of wine and allowed to stand for five days
Typical External Dosages
Essential oil: two drops semisolid or liquid in one tablespoon base oil
Infusion: 50 grams of rosemary in one liter of hot water added to bath water
Sharlene Peterson, Educational Administrator
Genesis School of Natural Health, April 2014