Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis). Used in alternative medicine since the time of ancient Greeks, it is a perennial woody herb native to the Mediterranean coastal region.
It has a slim and long stern, with fine needle-like leaves disposed of in a radial section, belonging to the mint family (Lamiaceae). The color palette of rosemary is based on silver leaves with blue, white, pink or purple flowers. Both its aromatic properties and refined look make it a common find in most spice racks.
Rosemary has different names: Romero (Spanish), polar plant, compass weed, compass plant, dew of the sea, incensier or mi-tieh-hsiang (Chinese). However, its uses are the same worldwide—harnessing the entire plant (stems, branches, leaves, and flowers).
The aromatic herb is composed of a variety of phenolic acid derivatives, phenolic diterpenes, and oils:
Phenolic acid derivatives:
Rosmarinic acid, which offers lung protection and helps fight Alzheimer’s, is found in the leaves. It also contains Carnosic acid, which has strong antioxidant properties.
Rosemary contains Carnosol, a potent antioxidant which protects the liver improves brain function.
The essential oil contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties: 1.8-cineole, α-pinene, α-terpineol, camphene, and borneol.
Rosemary Health Benefits
Rosemary contains a plethora of health benefits, some of which are listed below.
1. Brain Function and Protection
The carnosic acid found in rosemary is the primary inhibitor against brain-cell damage. Its main function is protecting the brain against oxidative stress, one of the leading causes of Alzheimer’s disease, as well as preventing beta-amyloid plaques. [R][R]
Carnosic acid along with rosmarinic acid has been found to protect the brain from tissue damage, by reducing brain swelling and blood clots in rats. Rosmarinic acid in low doses also helps with various cognitive disorders like dementia or ataxia, by suppressing acetylcholinesterase (AChE). [R][R][R]
A study done on 144 volunteers has proven that memory quality, working memory performance, and increased alertness can be obtained using rosemary essential oil. [R]
Another study trial conducted with the help of 28 elderly subjects demonstrated that memory speed could be improved using low doses (750mg) of rosemary powder. Higher dosage use obtains the contrary results. [R]
2. Antimicrobial Properties
Studies confirm that the growth of multiple strains of bacteria, gram-positive and gram-negative, can be stopped entirely with the help of rosemary extracts. Gram-positive bacteria showed better results.
3. Liver Detoxification
Rosemary has been proven helpful with liver healing, especially in severe cases of cirrhosis, by counteracting the depletion of liver glycogen, which is the liver’s energy storage molecules. [R]
At the same time, it decreases malondialdehyde, one of the liver’s primary source of oxidative stress, and the plasma glutamic-pyruvic transaminase which contributes to liver injury. [R]
4. Skin Care Improvement
Most of the oils and phenolic acids in rosemary have antioxidative properties. It is known that antioxidants are essential in the anti-aging processes and blemish reduction. [R]
A study conducted by Dr. Alice L. Pérez Sánchez has proven that rosemary extract is also helpful against UV-induced skin damage. Rosemary oil has also shown its effectiveness against P. acnes, the bacteria that causes acne. [R][R]
5. Rosemary Against Asthma
Asthma is a common condition nowadays, especially among children in urban areas. Luckily, a study conducted on 40 patients has proven that rosemary extracts can help reduce asthma symptoms like sputum production (saliva and bronchial mucus), coughing, wheezing, and chest pain. [R]
6. Promotes Weight Loss
So far, 2 studies have proven that liver steatosis and weight gain in rats fed with high-fat diets with the aid of rosemary extracts are 64% lower than that of rats on a “regular” high-fat diet. Without modifying the food intake, glycemia and cholesterol levels were also limited. [R][R]
7. Antioxidant Properties
In the conditions mentioned earlier, most of the results have been obtained due to rosemary’s antioxidant properties. Rosemary extract is useful in treating many ailments.
The antioxidant properties in crude fresh rosemary extracts were found to be more potent compared with that of antioxidants like ascorbic acid, Trolox, and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), that are widely used food. [R][R]
8. Digestive Microbiome Improvement
Several studies prove rosemary’s multifunctionality in aiding gastrointestinal (GI) and inflammatory conditions, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (UC):
- Decreased infections (rat study with colon infections) [R]
- Relieves gas [R]
- Bile discharging [R]
- Increased bile flow [R]
- Potentially helps fight gut disease [R]
9. Pain-Relieving Properties
In Eastern European homeopathy, rosemary has been widely used for centuries to treat dysmenorrhea, kidney colic pain, and stomach cramps. This is not only due to its anti-inflammatory properties but also because it has been proven helpful in treating gastrointestinal issues and lower urinary tract symptoms. [R][R]
10. Antispasmodic Properties
The antispasmodic properties of rosemary help women during their menstrual period. It also helps in reducing involuntary muscle spasm. One study conducted on guinea pigs has shown that heart spasms (ileum and atria) are reduced with the aid of rosemary oil. [R][R]
11. Cancer- Fighting Properties
Probably the most widely-known condition of the 21st century, cancer, is a very frightening word. However, naturopathic approaches have been found helpful over the years in combating the various types of cancer. In tests performed, rosemary has proven effective in killing ovarian cancer cells and halting their growth. [R]
A rosemary antioxidant powder and rosmarinic acid were evaluated in the cancer-causing molecules – heterocyclic amines (HCAs) – found in meat. The results showed that at the higher cooking temperatures, rosemary extracts were capable of reducing mutagenicity in beef patties. [R]
Rosemary has also been used in the complementary treatment of various cancer types, like lung, liver, bladder, cervical, prostate, breast, pancreatic, colon, and blood cancer.
How to Use
Rosemary can be used in many forms, according to one’s needs or pleasure. It is best known as an aromatic herb, pairing perfectly with baked or boiled potatoes. However, if you wish to benefit from of its medicinal properties, having the tea, tincture, or rosemary oil are the best ways to use it.
1. Rosemary Tea
Even though it is preferable to use fresh leaves, not having rosemary in your backyard garden is not an issue at all. You can still make tea by adding 1 ½ teaspoon of dried rosemary leaves to a cup of hot water and letting it sit for approximately 3 to 5 minutes.
The result will be a highly aromatic tea, caffeine-free, which you can drink to reduce stress and strain after a hard day’s of work, or deep anxiety.
At the same time, drinking 3 cups per day for at least 3 weeks will help with digestive tract issues and improving the microbiome environment in your stomach and colon.
Similar to rosemary tea, rosemary infusion can be used for both its aromatherapeutic properties, to relieve stress and anxiety, but also for colds and the flu and to help with respiratory problems.
Use 5 teaspoons of dry rosemary leaves to 1 liter of boiled water. Let it sit for 5 minutes in a wide pan and then place your face over it and cover yourself and the pan with a clean towel. Try to sit as long as possible and inhale the steam that comes from it.
Its effect is to reduce and release the bronchial mucus, easing the cough, and cleaning your airways.
Because rosemary has a calming effect, it is best to try this infusion before you go to bed, ensuring you will have a restful sleep.
Rosemary tincture gives you the benefit of the tea but packed with a punch. However, it takes longer to make and you have to pay attention to the dosage, as its concentration can lead to unwanted side-effects.
To make rosemary tincture, it is best to use fresh leaves and flowers. There are no exact quantities, but the ground rule is to fill a glass container with them while pressing down the content inside.
When it has been filled, ad pure 85% to 95% alcohol and keep away from direct sunlight for the next 4-6 weeks. It is important to shake the bottle every 3-4 days. When the period has passed, strain the content and place it in a dark tincture bottle.
The recommended dosage is no more than 2 teaspoons per day — once in the morning and once in the evening.
4. Rosemary Oil
Another way to reap the benefits of rosemary is by making and using the oil. Rosemary oil can be used in the kitchen, or as a complementary aid for various illnesses.
To prepare it, you’ll need about 5 fresh rosemary sprigs, 2 cups extra-virgin olive oil, and a glass jar. Completely immerse the herb in the jar with the olive oil, ensuring no part is exposed to air.
Cover the jar tightly and place it in a warm (or sunny) location for at least 6 weeks. After which you’ll strain the mixture with a clean muslin to separate the oil from the herb.
5. Other Uses
Rosemary oil will give you the Mediterranean feel to any dish you choose, making your pasta unbelievably rich. However, it can also be used for light massages and to relieve muscle tension.
Massaging your scalp daily with rosemary oil has been proven to increase scalp circulation. It also provides nutrients to restore hair root keratin, required for hair growth.
Another area in which rosemary oil has been proven effective is skin care and hair growth. With its antioxidants and phenolic acids, it is helpful in regenerating the skin’s collagen, thereby counteracting stretch marks.
As with almost every medicinal plant, rosemary also has multiple side-effects, which should not be taken lightly, especially when using high doses.
1. Fertility Reduction
Tests conducted on adult rats have shown that their reproductive organs became smaller after long-term exposure to rosemary extracts. In the male subjects, the sperm count, density, and mobility of the cells were reduced. In female rats, a higher percentage of fetal loss has also been observed. [R]
2. May Increase Scalp Itching
Used for hair-loss treatment, even if efficient, a study conducted with 50 permanent bald patients has shown that rosemary oil increased scalp itching. [R]
3. Skin Irritation
This might seem surprising, but rosemary oil and infusions can affect people with sensitive skin instead of helping them. Prolonged exposure can lead to erythema (skin redness) or even dermatitis. [R]
4. Blood Glucose Level Spikes
As helpful as it may be with its anti-inflammatory properties, when it comes to blood glucose levels, rosemary can significantly affect such.
A study conducted on rabbits with induced diabetes showed a spike in blood glucose levels by 55% in just 2 hours. [R]
5. May Induce Convulsions
Even though rosemary is widely known for its calming properties, camphor, one of its components can induce epilepsy-like convulsions. [R]
6. Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Even though rosemary has antispasmodic effects, it is not recommended to use during pregnancies, as in large amount, may induce abortion.
High doses of may also impede implantation of fertilized eggs. It is also not recommended to take while breastfeeding.[R]
Where to Buy
Rosemary can be found on almost every supermarket’s spice rack, health foods stores, or at the farmer’s market.
Buying online in dried form, oil or tincture, from reputable Mediterranean suppliers is also another way of acquiring this powerful herb.