– by Julie Coles
I’ve always liked Rosemary – the name that is, mainly because it’s my mother’s and daughter’s middle name. But NOW, the more I’ve come to know this green, I don’t just like rosemary I absolutely LOVE it! It’s such a remarkable herb!
Rosemary’s Days of Yore
To understand how this green has come to have an important place among our favorite herbs, let’s start with a quick look back at how it came to be appreciated in our culture.
In the Middle Ages, believing rosemary was a gift from Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, it was customary for a bride to wear a tiara designed with rosemary as a symbol of their fidelity. The groom welcomed guests by offering a sprig of rosemary. Wouldn’t that make the wedding celebration smell heavenly?!
Here’s something else I didn’t know – rosemary symbolizes remembrance and to this day is commonly used at weddings, funerals and war commemorations. Christians called rosemary the “Holy Herb” and associated it with Mary, who, according to Spanish legend, draped her cloak over a Rosemary bush on the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt, turning the colour of the blossoms from white to blue.
Rosemary derives from the Latin name rosmarinus, which is from “dew” (ros) and “sea” (marinus), or “dew of the sea” because in many locations it needs no other water than the humidity carried by the sea breeze to live (I LOVE learning the origins of words)!
As the name suggests, it can be easily cultivated. The plant is propagated by clipping a shoot of around 6 inches, strip it of a few leaves and plant directly into the soil. In a few days a healthy off-shoot appears. Even I could do that!!
When it matures, rosemary is a woody, perennial herb with fragrant, needle-like foliage and delicate flowers. The plant bears flowers in spring and winter, ranging in hues of white, blue, purple or pink and they grow upright or creep. It is native to the Mediterranean region, Portugal and Spain.
The Fresh Fragrance of Rosemary
I’ve always had a ‘thing’ for scents. I can remember just loving the smell in my best friend’s home. Did you know lavender and rosemary are part of the same family? It’s actually from the mint family, Lamiaceae, which also includes many other herbs.
I’ve always liked rosemary for its beautiful aroma but often confuse the rosemary and lavender plants – they look so similar and now I know why. Whenever I smell lavender I think of my grandmother *smile*. My grandmother wore Yardley’s Lavender cologne. Rosemary is a fragrance you won’t forget either. It has a unique and beautiful aroma – very fresh and alive!
The Many Health Benefits of Rosemary
Rosemary can be used both as a fresh green, a dried herb, an extract, and as a tea. If you intend to use rosemary for medicinal purposes, I’d recommend doing further personal research first. FYI, in researching for this article I read a blog written by a man who was having problems remembering where he put his keys/glasses, etc. He realized that after a few weeks of eating rosemary his memory was vastly improved!
Food for thought! (literally!)
Rosemary – the Herb:
- is high in iron, calcium, and vitamin B6
- contains two important ingredients – caffeic acid and rosemarinic acid – both of which are potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents that may shield the brain from free radicals, lowering the risk of strokes and diseases like Alzheimer’s, ALS
- reduces inflammation (inflammation is associated with contributing to asthma, liver disease and heart disease)
- is a rich source of vitamin E (alpha tocopherol) a potent antioxidant, which contributes to its free radical fighting powers further still
- helps prevent breast cancer by blocking estrogen
- prevents age-related skin damage
- boosts the functioning of the liver and acts as a mild diuretic to help reduce swelling
- helps to regulate the menstrual cycle and to ease cramps
- helps to lower blood sugar and raise blood pressure
- treats migraines
- stimulates the sexual organs (mmmm, THAT’S worth checking out!)
- stimulates the appetite
- soothes aching muscles and joints and eases arthritis pain when oil or freshly cut sprigs are added to bath water
- has been shown to improve the shelf life and heat stability of Omega 3-rich oils and we all know the importance of Omega 3 in our diet!
- treat bites and stings externally
- stimulates an increased blood supply when used externally during a massage (oil distilled from rosemary leaves can be mixed with vegetable oil)
- is used in aromatherapy as an inhalant/decongestant and to enhance memory
- has been shown to possess an ability to inactivate toxins and then eliminate them from your liver, before they can inflict any serious damage
- stimulates your liver to work more efficiently, which helps you feel more healthy and energetic
If you are interested in consuming rosemary as a supplement, the recommended dosage is two 400mg rosemary capsules up to three times a day. Warning: Pregnant women should not take rosemary extract (unless under the care and guidance of a natural health care practitioner or herbalist). In addition, you should not take rosemary supplements if you suffer from high blood pressure or epilepsy.
- is a warming and stimulating drink which has pain relieving properties; it has been used for centuries to ease the symptoms of headaches and rheumatism and improves circulation.
- aids in focus and concentration
- stimulates the digestive system
- when cooled can be used as a mouthwash to combat oral bacteria
- can be used to rinse hair to ease scalp problems such as dandruff and to also ease the pain associated with Scabies. (My kids came back from a visit with their father with a case of Scabies. I was horrified. I wish I knew then about using rosemary tea to bathe their little bodies.)
To make rosemary tea, steep two teaspoons of the dried flowering tops in one cup of water for twenty minutes.
Health Precautions and Toxicology
- Rosemary in culinary or therapeutic doses is generally safe BUT, if you have epilepsy, don’t take medicinal amounts of rosemary; the camphor in the herb could potentially aggravate seizures.
- Rosemary essential oil is potentially toxic if ingested (training is required for the safe ingestion of oils)
- Large quantities of rosemary leaves can cause adverse reactions, such as coma, spasm, vomiting, and pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs) that can be fatal
- Avoid consuming large quantities of rosemary especially if pregnant or breastfeeding
- After the leaves are stripped, toss the stems into the fireplace to fill the house with a delightful, pine-scented perfume
- Both the leaves and the flowers of rosemary are edible
- Add some leaves or flowers to potpourri
- Rosemary makes a natural moth repellent
- The plant prefers warm climates and well-drained soil
- A rosemary plant can spread a good two or three feet producing plenty of herbal sprigs
- Putting a few sprigs in your next bath will create a lovely, aromatic soak
- Try garnishing a platter with rosemary instead of parsley
- Use rosemary as background greenery in a flower bouquet
- Weave branches into wreaths or garlands as a silvery, fragrant base
Of course, you can also enjoy rosemary in a green smoothie!
Remember Me: Remarkable Rosemary Green Smoothie
– by Amanda Klain
- 1/2 banana
- 1 pear
- 1/2 orange squeezed fresh juice
- handful of fresh rosemary (this is the golden key)
- mix of chard and spinach and kale (to taste)
I drank a full quart of this in about 20 minutes flat!