🌿This month’s Herb of the Month is Rosemary or Salvia Rosmarinus (Rosmarinus officinalis L.)
Part Utilised: Leaves and branches
🌿Botanical name and description
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L.) is an evergreen, perennial, woody shrub that is naturally occurring along the Mediterranean Sea and Sub-Himalayan areas, although today, Rosemary is grown in most regions of the world (3,8). The term comes from the Latin ros marinum meaning sea dew (10). This shrub reaches up to 2m in height and possesses needle like leaves one inch in length that produce small pale blue flowers, and an aromatic odour produced by small glandular trichomes on the underside of the leaves that possess the volatile oils responsible for its camphoraceous fragrance (5,9). The genus Rosmarinus became Salvia in 2019 when members of the Royal Horticulture Society (RHS) Nomenclature and Taxonomy Advisory Group accepted the move to absorb Rosmarinus into the genus Salvia based on the herbs recent DNA findings, and is now known as Salvia Rosmarinus (11). Rosemary is best suited to a sunny position and prefers drier, chalky soils, thriving in long hot summers and withstanding periods of drought (9).
🌿History and traditional use
Rosemary has been known in ancient folklore as Dew of the Sea, Rose of Mary, Rosa Marina, and Compass Weed (4). It has long been considered the herb of friendship, remembrance, eternal bonds and enduring love, featuring prominently in weddings and funerals throughout history, dating back to 5000BCE (4,6). In ancient Egypt, Rosemary branches were used to adorn pharaohs’ tombs to perfume their journey through to the afterlife, and there are records of King Ramesses III offering Rosemary to the god Amon at Thebes (7). Ancient Greek students consumed rosemary to improve memory and focus and wore rosemary garlands on their heads and around their necks when studying for examinations (4,6). The ancient Romans believed that rosemary’s perfume aided in the preservation of dead bodies, and the green colour of the leaves symbolized eternity (8). Both the ancient Romans and Greeks believed Rosemary harboured protective healing and mystical powers against evil spirits. The Greeks would burn Rosemary branches during rituals dedicated to goddess Aphrodite, and the ancient Arabians made Rosemary a symbol of remembrance due to its effects on boosting one’s memory (7). The French used rosemary to embalm the dead during Medieval times, and the herb was traditionally eaten on the eve of St. Agnes “to ease the mind of a the lovesick” (4). Rosemary eventually made its way to Britain, introduced by the Romans, and from there spread into the New World where it was used to improve blood circulation, treat rheumatism, soothe a sore stomach, heal wounds, and aid respiratory illnesses (7). Throughout history, Rosemary has consistently been used to aid memory, boost brain function, and ward off evil spirits.
🌿Actions and contemporary usage
Rosemary – the “panacea” for many Naturopaths and Herbalists today, with far too many uses to mention. Rosemary is used for disorders associated with the nervous, integumentary, cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal, reproductive, hepatic, and immune systems due to the herbs anti-inflammatory, antifungal, anti-thrombotic, antiviral, antibacterial, antidepressant, antitumor, antiulcerogenic, and antioxidant actions (8,6,9). In the nervous system, Rosemary exhibits a wide range of neuropharmacological benefits for memory, mood, pain, sleep and anxiety (11). Topically, Rosemary is used in the treatment of fungal infections, sore muscles, alopecia, skin cancer, cellulite, sun-damage, and aging (5). In the cardiovascular system, Rosemary has vasodilatory, vasorelaxant, and hypotensive actions due to its ability to increased nitric oxide and remove ROS thereby improving endothelial function (10). This does suggest that Rosemary extract may be protective against atherosclerosis also. In cancerous tumours, Rosemary may reduce the proliferation of cancer cells due to its cytotoxic actions and by eliminating free radicals, reducing lipid peroxidation, and suppressing tumour growth (3).
🌿Science and clinical Trials
Numerous Ethnopharmacology studies have highlighted the medicinal potential of Rosemary, and have identified terpenoids, essential oils, alkaloids, and flavonoids including rosmarinic acid and carnosic acid, as the compounds responsible for the therapeutic actions in the brain and central nervous system (3,11). Secondary metabolites such as ursolic, oleanolic, and micromeric acids, and essential oil components β-pinene, 1, 8-cineole, camphor, limonene, and verbenone, have also been studied for their various therapeutic potential (10). Additionally, research has explored the diverse biological activities of Rosemary extracts on the endocrine, cardiovascular, hepatic, and renal systems, and has concluded that the potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions of Rosemary (due to the synergistic action of all compounds) are responsible for the broad medicinal potential in the body (10, 11). In a 4-week interventional trial, continuous daily consumption of Rosemary extract was found to enhance mood, reduce fatigue, and improve cognitive function in healthy adult Japanese men of working age with mild to moderate depression (1). The results revealed that the Rosemary group had significant reductions in confusion, bewilderment, daytime sleepiness, and fatigue upon awakening (1). Furthermore, this group had significant improvements in vigour, activity levels, tension, anxiety, and psychomotor speed (1). These findings suggest that Rosemary extracts may enhance mental energy and sleep quality in working aged men with poor mental health (1,8,3).
1. Araki R, Sasaki K, Onda H, Nakamura S, Kassai M, Kaneko T, Isoda H, Hashimoto K. Effects of Continuous Intake of Rosemary Extracts on Mental Health in Working Generation Healthy Japanese Men: Post-Hoc Testing of a Randomized Controlled Trial. Nutrients. 2020 Nov 20;12(11):3551. doi: 10.3390/nu12113551. PMID: 33233510; PMCID: PMC7699484.
2. Baker, Margaret (2011 ), Discovering the Folklore of Plants, 3rd edition, Oxford: Shire Classics.
3. Borges RS, Ortiz BLS, Pereira ACM, Keita H, Carvalho JCT. Rosmarinus officinalis essential oil: A review of its phytochemistry, anti-inflammatory activity, and mechanisms of action involved. J Ethnopharmacology. 2019 Jan 30; 229:29-45. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2018.09.038. Epub 2018 Oct 2. PMID: 30287195.
4. Daniels, Cora Linn and Charles McClellan Stevens (2003 ), Encyclopedia of Superstitions, Folklore, and the Occult Sciences of the World, Vol. 2, Honolulu, University Press of the Pacific.
5. De Macedo LM, Santos ÉMD, Militão L, Tundisi LL, Ataide JA, Souto EB, Mazzola PG. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L., syn Salvia Rosmarinus Spenn.) and Its Topical Applications: A Review. Plants (Basel). 2020 May 21;9(5):651. doi: 10.3390/plants9050651. PMID: 32455585; PMCID: PMC7284349.
6. De Oliveira JR, Camargo SEA, de Oliveira LD. Rosmarinus officinalis L. (rosemary) as therapeutic and prophylactic agent. J Biomed Sci. 2019 Jan 9;26(1):5. doi: 10.1186/s12929-019-0499-8. PMID: 30621719; PMCID: PMC6325740.
7. Grieve, M. (Maud). A Modern Herbal; the Medicinal, Culinary, Cosmetic and Economic Properties, Cultivation and Folk-Lore of Herbs, Grasses, Fungi, Shrubs, & Trees with All Their Modern Scientific Uses. New York: Harcourt, Brace & company, 1931.
8. Ghasemzadeh Rahbardar M, Hosseinzadeh H. Therapeutic effects of rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L.) and its active constituents on nervous system disorders. Iran J Basic Med Sci. 2020 Sep;23(9):1100-1112. doi: 10.22038/ijbms.2020.45269.10541. PMID: 32963731; PMCID: PMC7491497.
9. Hussain SM, Syeda AF, Alshammari M, Alnasser S, Alenzi ND, Alanazi ST, Nandakumar K. Cognition enhancing effect of rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L.) in lab animal studies: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Braz J Med Biol Res. 2022 Feb 9;55: e11593. doi: 10.1590/1414-431X2021e11593. PMID: 35170682; PMCID: PMC8851910.
10. Manville RW, Baldwin SN, Eriksen EØ, Jepps TA, Abbott GW. Medicinal plant rosemary relaxes blood vessels by activating vascular smooth muscle KCNQ channels. FASEB J. 2023 Sep;37(9): e23125. doi: 10.1096/fj.202301132R. PMID: 37535015; PMCID: PMC10437472.
11. Satoh T, Trudler D, Oh CK, Lipton SA. Potential Therapeutic Use of the Rosemary Diterpene Carnosic Acid for Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, and Long- COVID through NRF2 Activation to Counteract the NLRP3 Inflammasome. Antioxidants (Basel). 2022 Jan 6;11(1):124. doi: 10.3390/antiox11010124. PMID: 35052628; PMCID: PMC8772720.