Dried or used fresh in culinary dishes or extracted as an oil and used in hand creams, soaps, and applied topically to treat chronic dry skin (eczema) and ward off insects—it would seem that rosemary has limitless uses.
Let’s find out the true health benefits this fresh, pine-filled herb…
Rosemary, or Rosmarinus officinalis, grows as a woody, perennial evergreen shrub with pink, purple, blue, or white flowers. This fragrant herb is native to the Mediterranean and Asia, where it’s long been a triple threat as far as its many culinary, aromatic, and therapeutic purposes.
A popular fragrance, rosemary oil is often applied as a perfume, dispersed in air fresheners, burned as incense, and infused into body creams, shampoos, and cleaning products for its pleasing pine and subtle peppermint scent.
In the Middle Ages, rosemary was considered a powerful love charm. Herb sprigs were worn in the bride’s headpiece, in the groom’s lapel, and donned by wedding guests as symbols of love and luck.
Therapeutically, rosemary has been used for thousands of years as a traditional medicine to treat digestive woes, remedy gout, boost cognitive function, and banish insects.
Research from the “Journal of Neurochemistry” and the “Journal of Medicinal Food” credit rosemary with improving brain circulation and preventing Alzheimer’s disease.
The herb’s rich phytochemical content—particularly in a potent antioxidant known as carnosic acid—helps protect the body from free radical DNA damage and wards off both cancer and heart disease.
Of course, for safety reasons I always recommend discussing all herbal therapies with your health care professional prior to usage. For instance, research from the University of Maryland Medical Center indicates that rosemary can interact badly with medications.
Common prescription drugs such as lithium, diuretics, blood thinners, and ACE inhibitors all have a history of interacting negatively with the herb. In addition, experts from WebMD note that pregnant women should avoid large quantities of rosemary as the herb can act as a powerful uterine-stimulator.
In the kitchen, the fresh and dried rosemary leaves (or needles) are often used to flavor roast meats, stuffing, and Italian dishes. Due to the slightly bitter tang of this herb, rosemary is often reserved for roasted, barbecued, and baked cuisine as opposed to raw dishes.
Rosemary can also be steeped into an herbal tea, purportedly to help aid digestion after a large meal, ease headaches, and even improve memory function.