Rosmarinus officinalis

Native to sunny Mediterranean shores, rosemary is an evergreen member of the mint family. Its genus name, Rosmarinus, means “dew of the sea” in Latin, a reference to the plant’s coastal habitat and delicate, pale blue, droplet-size flowers. Rosemary’s piney aroma and bittersweet flavor work well in both sweet and savory foods, and it has been a staple in herb and kitchen gardens for many centuries. The herb also has a long history of use as a fragrance in soaps, lotions, and cosmetics. Since ancient times, rosemary has been a symbol of love, loyalty, and remembrance, often included in rituals and ceremonies associated with both marriage and death. Sprigs of the herb were entwined into bridal wreaths or tucked in to bridal bouquets. In some European countries, it is still customary for mourners to carry rosemary in funeral processions and to cast the herb into the grave during the burial.

Therapeutic Uses

Topical antioxidant
Muscle and joint pain
One of those herbs that the nose knows, rosemary leaf produces extracts that are common ingredients in many hair and skin care products. They can combat dandruff and greasy hair and promote general hair health. Their most convincing use, however, is as an antiseptic and antioxidant. Preliminary research indicates that rosemary extracts can kill bacteria, fight skin inflammation relevant to many skin conditions, and even inhibit cancer in laboratory animals. They may also block the detrimental effect of sunlight on skin cells.
Applied topically, rosemary packs an antioxidant punch. One potential application is its topical use in antiaging skin care products.
To make the essential oil, rosemary leaves are distilled to yield a fragrant, concentrated oil containing compounds responsible for rosemary’s medicinal effects. Rosemary essential oil is antimicrobial. One test-tube study found that rosemary essential oil had a synergistic action with the antibiotic ciprofloxacin against a bacterium that can cause pneumonia.
Ingested or inhaled, rosemary oil has been used for other conditions, such as muscle and joint pain, indigestion, bronchitis, and sinusitis, or to improve circulation. There is also some data supporting the use of rosemary aromatherapy for memory and mental function. When 40 people underwent rosemary aromatherapy for 3 minutes, changes in their brain tests indicated increased alertness, reduced anxiety, and improved ability to do mathematics.

How to Use

Essential oil: The essential oil is used in aromatherapy to enhance mental focus. To apply the oil topically, mix 10 drops in 1 ounce of carrier oil (olive, jojoba, almond, apricot).
Cream/ointment/salve: Topical products use various concentrations of rosemary’s essential oil for skin conditions, such as minor bacterial or fungal infections. Apply daily to skin, joints, or muscles, as per manufacturer’s directions.
Tea: Add 1 to 2 teaspoons dried rosemary leaves to 1 cup hot water.
Cover for 10 minutes. Strain. Drink 1 to 3 cups a day.
Capsules: Generally, 500 to 1,000 mg, once or twice daily; follow product instructions.


Rosemary extracts with concentrated essential oils can cause a rash with sun exposure. If that happens, discontinue use. Using rosemary as a seasoning during pregnancy is fine, but medicinal doses are not recommended.

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