by Cristina Harabor, ND
Since ancient times, rosemary has had uses as a fragrance, as well as for culinary and medicinal uses far beyond the countries of its native Mediterranean region, where the shrub grows wild. Its strong and spicy fragrance speaks for itself about the vigour it sends to those who use it. This herb’s preference for growing along the rocky seashore is where its name comes from—the Latin “ros marinus” means “dew of the sea.”
Rosemary is one of the most common herbs in our gardens and pantries. The needle-like leaves have a bitter, astringent taste that complements a variety of dishes such as soups, vegetables, lamb, fish, and egg, as well as dressings and fruit salads. The herb can be used fresh or dried.
Rosemary was a symbol of everlasting love and friendship for the ancient Greeks and Romans, and it was believed to improve memory. The Middle Ages’ practice of burning rosemary for the purification of air in European hospitals, especially in France, was preserved until the 20th century.
Rosemary was once believed to cure poor digestion, migraines, and joint and muscle aches. It is mentioned by ancient physicians such as Dioscorides and Galen. The story goes that in the 14th Century AD, Queen Isabella of Hungary created what is known as Hungary water—an alcoholic extract of rosemary—to ease her headaches. Nicholas Culpeper, a 17th century herbalist, called rosemary the “sovereign balm” and an herb of great use.
It is not surprising that nowadays there is an increasing body of scientific research that supports these therapeutic properties of rosemary and more.
The essential oils contained in the herb play a vital role in its fragrance and culinary properties. These aromatic compounds are also responsible for the antioxidant and antimicrobial actions, as well as for their cancer-inhibiting properties.
Rosemary diterpenes is another important group of compounds. They have shown promising potential in improving depression, cloudy thinking, and headaches. The results of a study suggest that the carnosic and rosmarinic acids found in rosemary may have a brain protective action against inflammation and lower the risk of stroke and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Rosemary is also high in iron, calcium, and vitamin B6. It is used as a circulatory and digestive stimulant and for easing excessive menstrual flow.
In external treatments, rosemary has proven its effectiveness in strengthening and regenerating hair and in activating scalp circulation. It is also known to help treat insect bites.
How to Use Rosemary as a Medicine
Rosemary can be used as a tincture (an alcohol extract), a glycerite (a non-alcoholic glycerine extract), or a tea, in accordance with the Naturopathic Doctor’s Recommendations. In preparing a tea, it is recommended to use a small amount of dried herb (1/2 tsp) steeped in a cup of hot water for 15–20 minutes, and consumed once or twice a day for a couple of weeks.
The essential oil of rosemary diluted in a carrier oil is useful as a massage oil to relieve muscle pain and sprains.
Daily scalp massages with a mixture of essential oils of thyme, rosemary, lavender, and cedar wood in jojoba oil as a carrier have been proven successful in promoting healthy hair growth in alopecia.
Rosemary is generally safe in culinary or therapeutic doses; however, it should be used cautiously if one is known to have an allergy to the herb, or if there is a history of epileptic seizures.
Rosemary essential oil is potentially toxic if ingested. One should avoid consuming large quantities of rosemary if pregnant or breastfeeding, although the small quantities used to season foods are considered safe.
Cristina Harabor, Naturopathic Doctor (ND), believes active patient involvement is the key to helping you achieve your health goals naturally. She offers expertise in nutrition, nutritional supplements and lifestyle counseling, botanical medicine, and Traditional Chinese Medicine for the treatment of chronic degenerative diseases, autoimmune diseases, allergies, eczema, asthma, inflammatory diseases, hormone imbalances, neurologic disorders, and digestive concerns. To contact her see the Cathedral Centre for Wellness display ad on this page 23 of the 25.3 September/October issue of the WHOLifE Journal.