Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), the hardy Mediterranean shrub that not only looks gorgeous, smells divine but has many health benefits in addition to it being a wonderful herb for flavouring lamb, adding to strews and casseroles, to breads, muffins, as well as for flavouring desserts. Beautifully versatile!
Whilst adding flavour to food, the bitters in Rosemary stimulate the appetite and absorption, as well as aiding digestion of fats and helping both hepatic and cellular detoxification. Tannins present in rosemary protect the gut lining from irritation and inflammation.
Rosemary has historically been used for strengthening memory. It is the “herb of remembrance” and its name means “Dew (Ros) of the Sea (marinus)”. In ancient Greece and Rome from 500 BCE rosemary’s popularity, came in part from the widespread belief that it stimulated and strengthened memory. Today we use rosemary in much the same way because it increases blood flow to the head and brain, thus heightening concentration and memory, as well as stimulating hair growth. In the fourteenth century rosemary oil was first extracted to make “Queen of Hungary” water, a popular cosmetic at the time. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, rosemary became popular as a digestive aid and was sold through apothecaries. In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Ophelia says “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance.”
Rosemary is high in essential oils and due to rosmarinic and carnosic acid has powerful antioxidant properties, which provide many benefits. It is uplifting and raises the spirits, whilst increasing vitality. Studies have shown that these properties can act to reduce inflammatory responses by altering the concentrations of inflammatory messenger molecules, potentially making this herb useful for inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, bronchial asthma and atherosclerosis. Additionally, cell mediated oxidation of low density lipoproteins (LDL) is inhibited by rosemary.
The flavonoids and volatile oils are useful for stimulating the immune system, and increasing circulation. Used externally as an infused oil it is excellent for respiratory problems and catarrhal congestion. It can be used on aching muscles to soothe muscle and joint pain, sciatica, neuralgia and arthritis. It can be rubbed into the scalp to cure head lice and stimulate hair growth. The oil can be applied to the temples to relieve tension headaches, stress and drowsiness, and used in an infuser the aroma of rosemary aids concentration and increases memory. Perfect for long revision days and nights, and a much better alternative to caffeine! If added to bath water it makes a wonderful reviving soak.
And we thought it is just good for flavouring lamb!
NOTE: Avoid during pregnancy.
The Encylopaedia of Healing Foods, Dr Michael Murray and Dr Joseph Pizzorno
Dispensing with Tradition, Anne McIntrye, Michelle Boudin
Adaptogens in Medical Herbalism, Donald R. Yance