Botanical Name – Rosemarinus officinalis Family – Lamiaceae
Common Names – Compass-Weed, Compass Plant, Polar Plant
Description –Rosemary is a widely cultivated evergreen shrub, native to the Mediterranean. It thrives in warm, sunny climates, in full sun with well-drained soil. There are many varieties of cultivated Rosemary grown in landscapes and herb gardens throughout the world. Some are upright and can grow up to 8 feet, others are prostate, growing low and close to the ground. All are evergreen shrubs with similar leaves, branches, smell and flowers. Rosemary thrives in growing zones 6 through 8 where the temperatures stay above 10 degrees Fahrenheit.
Rosemary is a member of the mint family. It has square stems, and needle like, alternate, whirling leaves. The leaves are dark green above, a paler green and glandular beneath. The whole plant, especially the leaves are very aromic, with a camphorus, somewhat piney scent. The flowers are pale blue, lipped and about ½ inch long. The upper lip has two lobes and appear notched. The lower lip has three lobes. The upper 1/3 of the succulent branches can be harvested year round, preferably in flower.
Part used – Leaves and flowers
Primary Constituents – Tannic acid, together with a resin and a bitter principle. A volatile oil containing borneol, bornyl, cineol, pinene, limonene linalool, flavonoids, camphor, camphene acetate and other esters.
Medicinal Properties – Tonic, antioxidant, antipyretic, anti-inflammatory, stomachic, nervine, diaphoretic, astringent, anodyne, antiseptic and stimulant
Energetic Qualities – Warming, drying, pungent and spicy
Preparation – Infusion, essential oil, tea, wine, tincture, oil, salve, liniment, capsule
Medicinal use – Rosemary has a long history of culinary and medicinal use. Its use as a seasoning, which probably stems from its ability to prevent and neutralize the spread of food born pathogens, helps the food last longer, taste better and helps to make it more digestible. Today natural food and product preservatives are made from rosemary extracts, although it isn’t widely used because of its strong taste and smell.
Medicinally Rosemary has been used for centuries as a remedy for headache, colic, colds, indigestion and to relieve muscle pain and spasms. It is used to support the circulatory and nervous systems, improve memory and relieve stress. Rosemary wine, made by infusing Rosemary herb in white wine, and Rosemary tincture are taken in small quantities to quiet a weak heart, ease heart palpitation, and to relieve and reduce the buildup of fluids by stimulating the kidneys, increasing the output of urine. Long term daily intake of rosemary has been shown in studies to prevent thrombosis (the formation of blood clots inside a blood vessel).
Used externally Rosemary is an excellent treatment for arthritis, rheumatism, sores, eczema, bruises and wounds. The infused oil, salve, liniment and essential oil can be used externally to relieve pain, stimulating circulation and nerve activity. Put it in the bath to sooth sore, tired and painful joints, muscles and nerves. The liniment, water, or oil was once rubbed vigorously on effected limbs as one of the main treatments to revive the vitality of paralyzed limbs and relieve gout in the hands and feet. A formula dated 1235 called Queen of Hungary Water was famous for this purpose. An infusion of the dry plant, left to cool, can be used externally in hair conditioners for dandruff and as a treatment to prevent and cure premature baldness.
Rosemary essential oil is often used in aromatherapy to increase concentration and memory and to relieve stress. One study suggests that Rosemary, combined with other pleasant smelling oils, may lower cortisol levels and help reduce anxiety. Try a mixture of Rosemary, Lavender and Geranium for this purpose.
Preparation Methods & Dosage – An infusion of the herb is made by steeping 1 ounce of dried herb in 1 pint (2 cups) of water for a minimum of 20 minutes. It can be taken warm or cold ¼ cup at a time as needed throughout the day and should be made fresh daily.
Tea is made by steeping 1 teaspoon dried herb in 1 cup of water and steeped for 5 – 10 minutes.
Rosemary tincture is taken by the dropperful (approximately 30 drops) in a small amount of water or on a sugar cube.
Interactions and Counter-indications – People with high blood pressure, diabetes, ulcers, Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis should not take Rosemary medicinally. High amounts of Rosemary may affect the bloods ability to clot, and alter blood sugar levels, interfering with blood thinning drugs, ACE inhibitors taken for high blood pressure, diabetic medication and water pills. If taking Lithium, there is a danger that with the loss of excess water in the system that lithium could build to toxic levels. Rosemary should not be taken in medicinal quantities when pregnant because of its ability to increase menstrual flow and act as a possible abortifacient (causing miscarriage). Rosemary essential oil can be toxic if ingested and should never be taken orally.
Folklore and interesting tidbits – Historically this herb is a symbol of friendship, remembrance, and love. For this reason it was often used as corsages and carried in bouquets at weddings and funerals. The healthy growth of Rosemary in a garden was a sure sign that a strong-willed woman dominates the household.
100 lb. of the flowering tops make about 8 oz. of essential oil.
Recipe – Hair rinse for brunettes
Infuse 1 once each of Rosemary and Sage in 1 pint of water for 24 hours. Work the rinse into your scalp after shampooing to brighten your hair.
University of Maryland Medical Center
Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs, Emmaus, Pennsylvania, Rodale Press, 1987
Tierra, Tierra; The Way of Herbs, New York, NY, Pocket Books, a division of Simon and Schuster Inc. 1998
Grieve, Mrs. M; A Modern Herbal Volume 11, New York, NY, Dover Publications Inc. 1971