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I love herbs for their ability to enhance any dish and to support optimal health. Rosemary is no exception. Rosemary has many amazing benefits, ranging from boosting hair health to even having some anti-cancer properties.
Rosemary: Dew of the Sea
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is Latin for “dew of the sea.” It’s often found growing naturally along sea cliffs. Today, rosemary is grown in many climates and is a very hardy herb. Rosemary leaf is an aromatic herb in the mint family that grows on an evergreen bush. It is most often used in cooking but has a wonderful woodsy scent that is great in air fresheners and aromatherapy mixes.
Rosemary is an amazing herb with many (some surprising!) benefits. Its health benefits are most often attributed to its high level of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. These antioxidants include carnosic acid, ursolic acid, carnosol, rosmarinic acid, and caffeic acid.
Improves Cognitive Function
Rosemary is a very aromatic herb, and as it turns out, its scent can help boost cognitive function.
In one controlled study, rosemary and lavender essential oils were studied for their aromatherapy uses. Participants that performed cognitive assessment tests while inhaling rosemary essential oils were significantly more alert than the control or lavender groups. The rosemary and lavender groups were significantly more content than the control group.
Rosemary can also be used to inhibit the cognitive decline of some patients. Rosemary has been used traditionally to reduce cognitive decline in aging, and at least one study confirms this connection. What it found was that culinary doses of rosemary significantly helped reduce cognitive decline.
Interestingly, a high dose of rosemary had the opposite effect, showing that more is not always better.
May Have Anti-Cancer Properties
One of the amazing benefits of rosemary is its anti-cancer properties. In a study published in the journal Phytomedicine, rosemary extract inhibited the proliferation of ovarian cancer cells.
In another study published in Cancer Letters, researchers found that rosemary had promise as a treatment for many cancers, including:
They also found that the rosemary treatment seems to only affect cancerous cells, not healthy cells.
Helps Reduce Stress
Stress is such a health hazard that even if you have everything else under control (diet, exercise, etc.), stress can derail your wellness goals. That’s why stress management is so important. A 2007 study found that inhaling lavender and rosemary essential oils decreased cortisol levels in the saliva. It also increased free radical scavenging activity.
Improves Hair and Skin Health
One of rosemary’s oldest uses is for healthy hair and skin. An article published in Evidence-Based Complementary Alternative Medicine explains that rosemary essential oils can help relieve skin issues such as:
- bacterial infections
- sebum imbalance
- congested and oily conditions
- dry scalp
Another study found that rosemary essential oil was as helpful in regrowing hair as a conventional treatment (minoxidil).
Reduces (Menstrual) Pain
Rosemary is helpful in reducing the pain of dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation). Research shows it’s also likely safe to use alongside pharmaceutical pain medications.
Improves Mental Energy
Inhalation of rosemary essential oils can benefit the brain. This study found that rosemary aromatherapy can stimulate the brain and affect brain wave activities, autonomic nervous system responses, and mood.
Supports Gastric Health
Rosemary has been used for centuries for stomach and gastric issues though there are no studies that support this use. However, a 1999 review article concluded that rosemary supports liver health by increasing bile production and protecting the liver from damage. When the liver is functioning well, digestion works much more smoothly.
Uses of Rosemary at Home
Rosemary is a wonderfully fragrant herb that has many uses around the home and not just in food recipes. Here are some ways I use it:
Fresh or Dried Herb Uses:
- Dried or fresh rosemary can be used in cooking. Rosemary is great with meat dishes (especially lamb). Add black pepper and other Italian herbs for a Mediterranean flavor.
- Rosemary can be infused into an oil (like olive oil) and used externally for skin irritations like eczema and other irritations listed above.
- A strong infusion of rosemary and nettle leaf is an excellent herbal rinse for hair. It can help get rid of dandruff and speed hair growth when used after each washing.
- Rosemary-infused oil is an intensive treatment for bad dandruff or hair loss and can be rubbed on hair, left for at least an hour, and washed out. This really improves scalp condition!
- My favorite natural air freshener is to put a small handful of rosemary sprigs, one sliced lemon or orange, and a splash of vanilla into a saucepan and simmer on low all day (watch the water levels). It smells amazing and freshens the house for days.
Essential Oil Uses:
- Rosemary oil can be used externally on the skin or hair (always dilute with a carrier oil first).
- Rosemary is also helpful in warding off smaller pests like mosquitos and is an ingredient in my homemade Bug-Off Bars.
- Used externally, rosemary oil can help soothe the stomach and relieve pain from indigestion, menstrual cramps, or other difficulties.
- Rosemary antioxidant extract is a very effective natural preservative that can extend the shelf life of homemade lotions, cosmetics, or other homemade body products.
Where to Buy Rosemary Leaves
I like to get my dried herbs from Starwest Botanicals and my essential oils from Plant Therapy. Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs to grow. It’s easy to care for if you follow some tips:
- Because it’s a Mediterranean plant, rosemary loves warm sunny spots.
- It can even be grown indoors.
- It can go long periods without water.
- Prune after flowering.
- Prune regularly to keep the plant healthy and attractive.
Many people who are not good with plants can keep a rosemary bush alive—it’s that easy to grow!
Is Rosemary Safe?
Rosemary is considered safe for most people in culinary amounts and has few side effects. But there are some people who should avoid it in medicinal amounts.
- Pregnant women should not use rosemary in large amounts (cooking is fine) and should avoid the essential oils.
- Breastfeeding women should also avoid large amounts of rosemary as there’s not enough known about how it affects this population.
- Those with an aspirin allergy should not take medicinal amounts of rosemary.
- Those with seizure or bleeding disorders should also avoid large amounts of rosemary.
- Rosemary can raise blood pressure, so it may not be safe for those with elevated blood pressure.
If you’re unsure, check with your doctor to see if rosemary is safe for you.
Rosemary Benefits and Uses: Bottom Line
There are many uses for rosemary leaf beyond its use in cooking. Rosemary has been used by traditional communities for centuries, and science is just beginning to back up some of these traditional uses.
Ever used rosemary for something other than cooking? Tell me about it below!
- Moss, M., Cook, J., Wesnes, K., & Duckett, P. (2003, January). Aromas of rosemary and lavender essential oils differentially affect cognition and mood in healthy adults. International Journal of Neuroscience, 113(1):15-38.
- Pengelly, A., Snow, J., Mills, S. Y., Scholey, A., Wesnes, K., & Butler, L. R. (2012, January). Short-term study on the effects of rosemary on cognitive function in an elderly population. Journal of Medicinal Food, 15(1):10-7.
- Tai, J., Cheung, S., Wu, M., & Hasman, D. (2012, March 15). Antiproliferation effect of Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) on human ovarian cancer cells in vitro. Phytomedicine, 19(5):436-43.
- Johnson, J. J. (2011, June 01). Carnosol: A promising anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory agent. Cancer Letters, 305(1):1-7.
- Atsumi, T., & Tonosaki, K. (2007, February 28). Smelling lavender and rosemary increases free radical scavenging activity and decreases cortisol level in saliva. Psychiatric Research, 150(1):89-96.
- Orchard, A., & van Vuuren, S. (2017, May 4). Commercial Essential Oils as Potential Antimicrobials to Treat Skin Diseases. Evidence-Based Complimentary and Altnerative Medicine.
- Panahi, Y., Taghizadeh, M., Marzony, E. T., & Sahebkar, A. (2015, Jan-Feb). Rosemary oil vs minoxidil 2% for the treatment of androgenetic alopecia: A randomized comparative trial. SKINMed Journal, 13(1):15-21.
- Raskovic, A., Milanovic, I., Pavlovic, N., Milijasevic, B., Ubavic, M., & Mikov, M. (2015, January). Analgesic effects of rosemary essential oil and its interactions with codeine and paracetamol in mice. European Review for Medical and Pharmological Sciences, 19(1):165-72.
- Sayorwan, W., Ruangrungsi, N., Piriyapunyporn, T., Hongratanaworakit, T., Kotchabhakdi, N., & Siripornpanich, V. (2013, April-June). Effects of Inhaled Rosemary Oil on Subjective Feelings and Activities of the Nervous System. Scientia Pharmaceutica, 81(2): 531–542.
- Al-Sereiti, M. R., Abu-Amer, K. M., & Sen, P. (1999, February 1). Pharmacology of rosemary (Rosmarinus oificinalis Linn.) and its therapeutic potentials. Indian Journal of Experimental Biology.