History: Rosemary has been used for thousands of years and is surrounded by symbolism. It is mentioned in Cuneiform tablets dating to 5000 BCE, and in reference to ancient Egyptian burial rites. The Ancient Greeks and Romans mentioned rosemary in the writings of Pliny the Elder and Dioscorides. Rosemary appeared in China during the Han dynasty (220 CE) and was grown in Britain in the 8th century, as an herb cultivated in monastic gardens.
Rosemary has long been known as the herb of remembrance, with references strewn throughout literature including Shakespeare's Hamlet. We see evidence of its use for cerebral stimulation in the writings of Nicholas Culpeper. In his 17th-century herbal, Culpeper writes…
"The decoction thereof in wine, helps the cold distillation of rheums into the eyes, and all other cold diseases of the head and brain, as the giddiness or swimmings therein, drowsiness or dulness of the mind and senses like a stupidness, the dumb palsy, or loss of speech, the lethargy, and falling-sickness, to be both drank, and the temples bathed therewith."
Maude Grieve writes that rosemary was often used to adorn both weddings and funerals and that it was burned to ward off illness during the plague and in sick chambers. In more recent times, Juliette de Baircli Levy writes that rosemary was a favorite of both the Gypsies and the Arabs, whom she traveled and learned the use of herbs from. Levy used rosemary as a heart tonic, to promote the flow of breastmilk, to prevent nightmares in children, for high blood pressure, headaches, and “all nervous ailments”.
Throughout the centuries, rosemary has been used as a hair and skin tonic. It is credited with preventing and treating hair loss, strengthening hair, and keeping skin youthful and healthy. It is a key herb in the famous Queen of Hungary’s water, which some sources claim was used as a skin treatment by Catherine of Hungary, and others claim was used to treat her aching joints.
Tissue states: damp, lax, stagnation
Properties: antidepressant, antiseptic, circulatory stimulant, carminative, cerebral tonic, expectorant, antirheumatic, antioxidant, anxiolytic
Constituents: tannins, resin, bitter principle, volatile oil (borneol, bornyl acetate, dipentene, eucalyptol, camphene)
Key uses: Rosemary is stimulating and strengthening to the circulatory system, the nervous system, and the digestive system. It can be used for low energy, memory problems, headaches, aching joints, sluggish digestion, and as a heart and circulatory tonic. Its antiseptic and astringent properties make it useful externally as a wound herb, both for preventing infection and promoting healing. Its warming, drying, and expectorant properties make it useful for congestion in the upper respiratory system.
He goes on to say that rosemary stimulates metabolism, “enhancing the burning and consumption of blood sugars and fats”. This makes rosemary useful in cases of metabolic syndrome and diabetes.
Rosemary may also be useful in cases of congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, and cardiac edema. It serves both as a circulatory tonic and also stimulates and opens blood vessels and capillaries, helping to clear congealed blood. It can improve circulation to the limbs and stimulate nerves, helping to restore function.
Rosemary’s ability to increase circulation to the brain, bringing blood and oxygen to the cells makes it useful for headaches. Sometimes an external application of the infused oil or salve is enough. Dr. Christopher recommends a tea with rosemary, sage, and peppermint, taken every hour or two until relief. For migraines, he recommends a formula with equal parts rosemary, vervain, skullcap, and wood betony taken over several weeks.
Studies: In a 2011 study published is the journal Chemico-Biological Interactions (Ferlemi, Katsikoudi, Kontogianni, Kellici, Iatrou, Lamari, Tzakos, and Margarity) researchers tested the effects of rosemary tea on mice and their ability to perform anxiety and depression inducing activities. In this study, mice were divided into two groups. A control group was given food and water, the other group had rosemary infusion added to the diet. After 25 days both groups were tested with a maze, swimming, and cognitive tests. Results indicated a significant anxiolytic and antidepressant effect on the mice in the rosemary group.
In a 2004 study published in Life Sciences (Amin and Hamza) water extracts of rosemary, hibiscus, and sage were tested in their ability to protect the liver against the toxic effects of azathioprine (AZP). For this study, rats were divided into 5 groups. The first group received a dose of AZP on the first day. Groups 2, 3, and 4 received infusions of either rosemary, hibiscus, or sage daily for 5 weeks before receiving AZP one hour later. The last group was the control group. Blood samples were taken to measure the elevation of liver enzymes ALT and AST. This study concluded that “pretreatment with water extract of any of the three herbs used in this study (HA, RO, or SO) blocked the AZP-induced elevation of serum ALT and AST activities”. The authors go on to say that the study “demonstrates that all herbs examined in this study restore the levels of AST and ALT to normal and can be regarded as good protecting agents against the toxicity of AZP as they all improve the GSH and lipid peroxidation along with AST and ALT levels”.
Dosage and method of delivery: Infusion of the leaves as a mild tea, 3 cups a day. Tincture of the dried leaves (1:5, 65%, 10% glycerine), 10 drops to 3 MLS. up to 3 times a day. Capsules, 500-1500 mg up to 3 times a day. Soxhlet extract of the freshly dried leaves, 3 to 5 drops up to 3 times a day. Topical preparations of infused oil, salve, hydrosol, or diluted essential oil.
Cautions and considerations: none known
Easley, T., and Horne, S. (2016). The Modern Herbal Dispensatory. California: North Atlantic Books
Wood, M. (2008). The Earthwise Herbal (Old World edition). Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books.
Christopher, J. R. (2010). Herb Syllabus. Springville, Utah. Christopher Publications.
Culpeper, N. (1990 reprint). Culpeper’s Complete Herbal & English Physician. Illinois: Meyerbooks.
Grieve, M. (1982 reprint). A Modern Herbal. New York: Dover Publications.
Storl, W. (2012) The Herbal Lore of Wise Women and Wortcunners. Berkeley, California. North Atlantic Books.
Levy, J. (1996). Common Herbs for Natural Health. Woodstock, New York. Ash Tree Publishing.
Wikipedia, [Rosemary]. Retrieved August 1, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosemary
Ferlemi, A., Katsikoudi, A., Kontogianni, V., Kellici, T, Iatrou, G., Lamari, F., Tzakos, A., Margarity, M., (2011).
Rosemary tea consumption results to anxiolytic- and anti-depressant-like behavior of adult male mice and inhibits all cerebral aria and liver cholinesterase activity; phytochemical investigation and in silico studies [Chemico-Biological Interactions]. Retrieved August 3, 2020, from https://scihub.to/10.1016/j.cbi.2015.04.013
Amin, A., Hamza, A., (2004). Hepatoprotective effects of Hibiscus, Rosmarinus, and Salvia on azathioprine-induced toxicity in rats [Life Sciences]. Retrieved August 3, 2020, from https://scihub.to/10.1016/j.lfs.2004.09.048