Latin Names: Rosmarinus officinalis

Other Names: Iklyl aljabal (Arabic), Herbe de Romarin (French), Thentrolivano (Greek), Rosmarin (Romanian), Romero (Spanish)

Taxonomy: Vegetable Kingdom, Lamiaceae (Mint) family

Part Used: the herb; the green leaves and their volatile / aromatic essential oil; the flowers

Basic Qualities: moderately heating and drying

Other Qualities: light, piercing, opening

Taste: Pungent, bitter, aromatic

Humoral Dynamics: Culpeper considers Rosemary to be mainly an herb to dissolve and clear away cold Phlegmatic and rheumatic humors from the head and eyes. He also praises its salutary effects in bilious disorders, claiming it as a treatment for jaundice. It definitely has a beneficial effect on the flow of bile as a cholagogue, which explains its use as a culinary spice, especially in connection with meat and oily foods.

Tropism: The hair and scalp; the eyes; the brain and mind; the liver, gall bladder and hepatobiliary system; the stomach and GI tract.

Constituents and Pharmacology: volatile essential oils – cineol, camphene, borneol, bornyl acetate, a-pinene; rosmarinic acid; polyphenol diterpines (broad spectrum); flavonoids – homoplantaginin, cirsimaritin, genkwanin, gallocatechin, nepetrin, hesperidin and luteolin derivatives; vitamins A and C; B vitamins – pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, riboflavin, folates; minerals – manganese, iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, etc… This is only a partial listing; suffice it to say that the biochemistry of Rosemary is extremely complex.

Medicinal Properties: antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antirheumatic, antiseptic, aromatic, carminative, cholagogue, cosmetic, hepatoprotector, nervine, stomachic.

Cautions and Contraindications: As with all essential oils, Rosemary oil should not be taken internally in doses greater than 3 to 5 drops.

Medicinal Uses: as a carminative, cholagogue and stomachic in gas, distension, bloating, colic and other digestive complaints; to improve the flow of bile and the health of the liver, gall bladder and hepatobiliary system; to sharpen the brain and mind and to improve memory; to medicate massage oils as an anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxant (essential oil); as a hair tonic rubbed into the hair and scalp (essential oil); as aromatherapy to calm and clear the mind and senses (essential oil).

Other Uses: As a culinary herb.  As one of the pungent, bitter and aromatic savory spices, Rosemary goes well with chicken and fowl, lamb, potatoes, etc…  Along with Lavender, Rosemary is an ingredient of the Mediterranean culinary herb formula known as Herbes de Provence; the other ingredients are Thyme, Marjoram, Savory, Mint, Fennel and Sage.  The essential oil of Rosemary is also used extensively in the fragrance industry.

Preparation and Dosage: A tea or infusion of Rosemary can be made by steeping one rounded teaspoonful of the dried herb or leaves in a cup of boiling water for five minutes; strain and drink. The essential oil can be taken internally in doses of from 3 to 5 drops, no more. Externally and topically, the essential oil can be used as needed, or in liberal doses.

Herbal Formulation: Rosemary, being an herb that is basically pungent and bitter in flavor, goes best with other herbs of a similar character, like Yarrow, Sage, Tarragon, etc…

Classic Combinations: Perhaps the most classic combination when it comes to Rosemary is to combine it with Lavender (Lavandula vera) – the two herbs were literally made for each other.  Both herbs calm the mind and spirit; Rosemary clears the mind and senses, while Lavender balances the two halves of the autonomic nervous system.  Digestively, Rosemary facilitates the flow of bile and has a beneficial effect on the liver, gall bladder and hepatobiliary system, while Lavender is very good as a carminative to aid the elimination of retained gas and flatulence, especially from the middle GI tract.  Both herbs contain antiseptic essential oils that promote healthy intestinal flora and discourage fermentation and putrefaction in the GI tract.  With Sage (Salvia officinalis) to stimulate the appetite and digestion, cleanse the liver and gall bladder, soothe and settle the stomach, and calm the mind and spirits.  With Juniper (Juniperus comunis) to stimulate the stomach and appetite, kindle the digestive fire, and stimulate the liver metabolism.

Description: Talk to many who have an herb garden in their backyard, and you will find that Rosemary is one of their favorite herbs; talk to any chef or connoisseur of fine cuisine, and you may also discover the same thing.  Rosemary is a hardy evergreen shrub whose leaves resemble little pine needles; the whole plant gives off a fresh, evergreen scent.  Rosemary prefers moist, marine air to thrive, and so, its botanical genus name, Rosmarinus, means, “dew of the sea”.  For me, the herb Rosemary will always be connected with my favorite cat, who was a constant companion of mine when I lived in California.  The cat’s favorite perch was nestled underneath a Rosemary bush, and her leonine countenance looked absolutely majestic when framed by that bush.  Rosemary was quite common in California, whose coastal regions are frequently bathed in ocean fog and mist. 

Although Avicenna doesn’t have an entry for Rosemary in his Canon of Medicine, it is discussed at length by Nicholas Culpeper in his famous herbal.  Culpeper puts Rosemary under the dominion of the Sun, perhaps because it is an evergreen herb, and puts it under the sign of the celestial Ram, or Aries, principally because of its affinity with the head and brain.  It is a very interesting expression of the doctrine of signatures that this herb, Rosemary, which drinks in the marine mist, can help one dispel cold, wet Phlegmatic and rheumatic humors from the head and the sensory orifices to clear the mind, improve the memory, and brighten the eyes by piercing through and dissolving these wet, misty humors.  This is a manifestation of Rosemary’s solar qualities, and its warming and drying energetics.  Rosemary isn’t brashly hot like a Jalapeno pepper; rather, its warming, drying solar action works on a subtler level, by concocting and drying off undue moisture and turbidity, thereby bringing clarity and lucidity to the mind and senses.  This is kind of like the rising Sun burning off the morning fog and mist. 

The fresh, evergreen-like scent of Rosemary or its essential oil clears the mind and senses, and calms and settles the whole nervous system.  Being an herb that is both pungent and bitter, Rosemary decongests the liver and improves its patency and humoral metabolism; it also balances the liver, stomach and spleen, having a beneficial effect on the whole biliary apparatus, including the balance of Black and Yellow Bile.  Like Sage, Yarrow and other herbs with a similar taste and character, Rosemary calms and fortifies the nervous system, and is therefore a good remedy for those of a nervous or Melancholic temperament, like these other herbs.  In addition, Rosemary’s essential oils not only stimulate, balance and harmonize the digestion; they also have a beneficial antiseptic effect on the whole GI tract, making it similarly fresh and clean.  Because of its calming, clarifying and restorative effect on the brain and nervous system, Rosemary has long been recognized as an herb that benefits the memory.  Traditionally, students taking an examination at school would wear a sprig of Rosemary behind the ear to help them remember.
“Yes, yes,” I hear you saying.  “That could all be nothing more than an old wives’ tale.  Is there any modern scientific research to back up these claims?” 

It just so turns out that there is.  One such scientific study is the Northumbria study.  Sixty elderly test subjects were divided into three groups and asked to participate in an aromatherapy study.  One group inhaled the essential oil of Lavender, the next group inhaled the essential oil of Rosemary, and the final group received no aromatherapy at all.  After inhaling the essences, or lack thereof, each one of the groups of test subjects were given puzzles to test their mental ability, as well as simple tasks to assess their memory function.  The Lavender group fared the worst, the non-aromatherapy group showed some improvement, but the Rosemary group showed a statistically significant rate of improvement – to the tune of 75 percent!  Why was aromatherapy used instead of the ingestion of the herb or its essential oil?  Because with aromatherapy and direct inhalation, the aromatic active ingredients are absorbed directly through your nasal mucosa into your brain.

It actually turns out that there are chemical constituents of Rosemary oil that interact with the brain in much the same way that conventional Alzheimer’s medications do – minus all the debilitating negative side effects.  One such aromatic compound is 1,8-Cineole, which inhibits the action of Acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme that breaks down Acetylcholine, which allows more of this vital neurotransmitter to remain active in the brain.  For an Alzheimer’s patient, this action of preserving Acetylcholine has the overall effect of drastically reducing memory loss.  This makes Rosemary a real blessing when it comes to preserving memory and brain function, especially considering all the negative side effects of conventional Alzheimer’s medications, which include appetite loss, nausea, vomiting, headaches, fatigue and insomnia.

Another scientific study, based on animal research, focuses mainly on the polyphenolic diterpine constituents of Rosemary, while still acknowledging that the sheer diversity and broad spectrum of active constituents in Rosemary attack Alzheimer’s Disease from a wide variety of angles, from a general anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effect of protecting brain cells, to protective effects on neurotransmitters, which include the 1,8-Cineole mechanism discussed previously, to constituents that remove or reduce the formation of amyloid plaques on the brain cells and neurons, which is widely believed to be one of the chief pathological processes in Alzheimer’s Disease.  Not only are certain individual chemical constituents of Rosemary beneficial in treating Alzheimer’s, but the individual constituents can also act together in a synergistic manner for enhanced effect. 

Another web page cites a whole host of scientific studies with positive results regarding the therapeutic potential of Rosemary in treating age-related dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease, and in improving cognitive function.  One study conducted in Miami, Florida tested the effectiveness of antioxidant extracts from Bacopa monnieri, an Ayurvedic herb used to improve cognitive and brain functioning, as well as Rosemary; it found that the combined use of Bacopa and Rosemary was more effective than either of them alone.  Among the beneficial changes noted was an inhibition of amyloid protein production, which also reduced the phosphorylation of tau tangles in the brain.  Another study at Maryland’s Tai Sophia Institute found that lower doses of Rosemary, optimally 750 mg., were more effective than higher doses in improving cognitive function, with higher doses actually having a negative effect.  Another study conducted at Japan’s Tottori University Medical School used aromatherapy on 28 elderly test subjects, including 17 with Alzheimer’s Disease, with Rosemary oil being among the essential oils used; it found significantly increased cognitive scores in the TDAS test, and concluded that aromatherapy was an effective therapeutic modality for improving cognitive function, especially in AD patients.

Aromatherapy is indeed an effective therapeutic modality for accessing the mind and consciousness, and improving brain and cognitive function when it comes to Rosemary.  And for this, the essential oil of Rosemary, which is distilled from the leaves, is what is used.  Three to five drops of the essential oil can be put into a cup of water with a dropper, and the water drunk with the essential oil in it.  But this method of ingestion may not be as effective as the direct inhalation of the essential oil, since, when inhaled, the volatile, aromatic constituents, which seem to be the main active ones, go directly to the brain via the nostrils and nasal mucosa, and don’t get filtered or metabolized into something else by passing through the digestive system.  You may either tilt your head back and drop drops of Rosemary essential oil into the nostrils, or you may coat the rims of your nostrils with the essential oil and inhale it for hours.  Also, rubbing the essential oil of Rosemary into the temples can be effective for dispelling a headache. 

Another great way to use the essential oil is in bathing and bodywork.  Rosemary oil may be added to base oils to make a medicated massage oil, either by itself or in combination with other oils, like Lavender.  Applied topically in this manner, it will loosen and relax the muscles while easing arthritic, rheumatic and neuromuscular aches and pains.  Rosemary oil can be inhaled as well as absorbed through the skin simultaneously by putting some on the heating element in a sauna bath, and also pouring water on it to create steam.  When taking a bath, a few drops of Rosemary oil may be added, or a few cups of concentrated rosemary tea may be added to the bath water for a good, relaxing soak to ease away your aches and pains. 

Rosemary tea, or an infusion of Rosemary leaves, can be drunk to soothe and ease all manner of digestive complaints.  According to Culpeper, “It is very comfortable to the stomach in all the cold griefs thereof, helps both retention of meat and digestion, the decoction or powder being taken in wine.  It is a remedy for the windiness in the stomach, bowels and spleen, and expels it powerfully.  It helps those that are liver-grown, by opening the obstructions thereof.”  Culpeper also touts a decoction of Rosemary as being singularly effective against jaundice; modern medical research affirms that it is indeed a cholagogue, which promotes the flow of bile, as well as a hepatoprotector, which protects the liver and regenerates liver cells.  The antiseptic essential oils of Rosemary fight intestinal fermentation and putrefaction, as well as the gas or flatulence that might be generated therefrom, which Culpeper calls wind.

Rosemary is even used as a hair tonic.  Rub some into the hair and scalp daily to preserve and beautify the hair, and to protect against balding.  Rosemary tea is also used as a hair rinse.  The fresh, evergreen scent of rosemary is a manly fragrance.  All in all, Rosemary is a very pleasing and useful herb.

What Is Rosemary Good For? 
Herbes De Provence
Scientists Discover Rosemary Fights Alzheimer’s Disease!
The Therapeutic Potential of Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) Diterpenes for Alzheimer's Disease
Rosemary Boosts Memory and Fights Alzheimer’s
Culpeper’s Complete Herbal by Nicholas Culpeper, pp. 219 – 220  @ by Wordsworth Editions Ltd., 1995.

DISCLAIMER:  The information in this article is for educational purposes only, for general health maintenance and prevention, and is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical disease or condition. The reader assumes all personal responsibility and liability for the application of the information contained in this article, and is advised to seek the services of a physician or licensed healthcare practitioner should his or her symptoms or condition persist or worsen.