- Rosmarinus officinalis L.
- Mint family
Parts Usually Used
Leaves and flowers
Description of Plant(s) and Culture
Rosemary is an evergreen shrub with numerous branches; ash-colored.
scaly bark and bears opposite, leathery, thick leaves which are lustrous
and dark green above and downy white underneath. They have a prominent
vein in the middle and margins which are rolled down. The pale blue,
sometimes white, relatively small, flowers grow in short axillary
racemes, arranged in false whorls on the upper parts of the branches,
blooming during April and May, or later in cooler climates. Zone 5.
Because it is not winter-hardy, it seldom succeeds in finding a home
in the gardens north of Florida and southern California, but it is
frequently grown in flower pots. Rosemary needs an alkaline soil in
a sunny, well-drained spot. To harvest, cut 4-inch sections from the
tip of the plant.
Varieties of rosemary: Prostratus, Collingwood Ingram, Tuscan blue,
Arp, Hardy Hill.
Originated in the Mediterranean are and is now widely cultivated
for its aromatic leaves and as a kitchen seasoning.
Stimulant, diaphoretic, carminative, nervine, aromatic, cephalic
Legends, Myths and Stories
In the sixth century Charlemagne decreed that rosemary should be
grown in all the imperial gardens, and it was beloved by the Romans
long before that. Romans made crowns and garlands of Rosemary. Centuries
later, Anne of Cleves, bride of King Henry VIII, "wore on her head
a circlet of gold and precious stones set full with dainty twigs of
In Queen Elizabeth's time, this herb was considered an emblem of
fidelity to lovers and was worn at weddings, funerals, and to give
They were used in sick rooms to "correct the air" when infections
were present. The dried leaves were shredded and used in a pipe like
tobacco to help a cough. Used in herbal or tobacco mixtures in England,
where smoking was first introduced by Sir Walter Raleigh. The ashes
of burnt Rosemary was rubbed on loose teeth to fasten and beautify.
Rosemary's name is derived from its Latin name Rosmarinus, meaning
"dew of the sea" and referring to its blue flowers or to the fact
that this herb thrives by the seashore, especially in Spain where
its thick growth covers the cliffs.
To explain the range in the color of rosemary's flowers from a pale
bluish-white to a deep blue, Christian legend claims that flowers
were originally white but were turned varying shade of blue when Mary
hung her blue cloak over a rosemary bush. Since the rosemary plant
seldom grows higher than a man's height, it was believed that rosemary
grew to the height of Christ in 33 years, and after that it grew thicker
but not higher.
13th century manuscript: If the leaves be put beneath your pillow,
you will be well protected from troublesome dreams and all mental
anxiety. Used as a lotion, this herb or its oil will cure all pains
in the head, and a spoonful of the herb mixed with honey and melted
butter cannot but help your coughing.
Rosemary was taken by the Roman Empire to China during the reign
of Wenti of the Wei dynasty (452 AD). Valued for its fragrance, it
was used in perfume, and when burned it was supposed to drive away
demons and mosquitoes.
Through the ages, many legends have been woven about many plants,
but probably none as fanciful as those of rosemary. Most of the following
legends were from sources more than 300 years old:
"Old English belief: where Rosemary flourishes, woman rules."
"See the Rosemary in vinegar or wine, and let a thief wash his feet
therein, and he shall neither rob, steale, nor fright any man."
"Lay Rosemary on thy pillow, to keepe thee from all evill dreams."
"To be delivered from all evills, boyle the leaves of Rosemary in
strong vinegar and apply them to thy stomach."
A fine tonic for the scalp and skin, adds luster to the hair and
is a common ingredient of many commercial shampoos.
A valuable heart and liver tonic and also helps reduce high
blood pressure. Used to treat 'nerves', digestive
disorders, palsy, weak memory, dizziness, migraine,
dandruff, stimulates hair
growth, restore appetite,
gas, clears sight, jaundice,
consumption, and menstrual
An old fashioned remedy for colds,
colic, and nervous conditions.
Very good for headaches. Should
be taken warm for these complaints.
It acts to raise blood pressure and improve circulation.
Good as a mouthwash for bad
breath, gums, and
sore throat. Aids digestion,
cough, consumption, and strengthens the eyes.
Because of the real danger of poisoning, rosemary is more often used
externally. Leaves cooked in wine or a salve made from rosemary oil
is useful for rheumatism,
bruises, age spots, marks
and scars, and wounds.
An infusion of the leaves has also been used, alone or with borax,
as a scalp wash to prevent baldness.
The leaves are used for flavoring. The oil is used as a perfume for
ointments and liniments. Is reported to prevent premature baldness.
Today, rosemary is still regarded as an antidote to mental fatigue
and forgetfulness. A tisane (tea) of this herb is becoming popular
with tired businessmen and students who find it refreshing and a good
natural remedy for bringing added agility to the intellect.
Formulas or Dosages
Infusion: steep 1 tsp. dried flowering tops or leaves in 1/2
cup water. Take up to 1 cup per day.
Tea: prepare ordinary tea, put a pinch of ground ginger in
the drink for variety. Drink 3 or 4 cups per day.
Tincture: a dose is from 5 to 20 drops.
Sold commercially as a spice.
Excessive amounts of rosemary taken internally can cause fatal poisoning.
Rosemary oil may not be taken internally, because it irritates the
stomach, intestinal tract, and kidneys.
Pregnant women should not drink rosemary tea.