encyclopedia

Rosemary

Scientific Names:
Rosmarinus officinalis L. [Fam. Lamiaceae]

Forms:
Aqueous extract of cut and dried rosemary leaves; rosemary oil extract

Traditional Usage:

– Alzheimer’s Disease

– Anti-aging Tea

– Antioxidant

– Appetite Stimulant

– Antioxidant

– Baldness

– Bile Stimulant

– Bone and Joint Disorders (externally)

– Cataracts

– Digestive Disorders

– Flatulence

– Food Preservative

– Gastric-juice Deficiency

– Gastrointestinal Disorders

– Hair Loss (prevention – externally)

– Hair Tonic (externally)

– Memory Disorders

– Muscle Soreness (externally)

– Oil Preservative

– Prevention of abnormal growths (skin, breast, colon, etc.)

– Vascular Disorders (externally and internally)

Overview:
The leaves of rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis L. [Fam. Labiatae], are leathery and contain numerous oil glands. Rosemary leaf tea was traditionally used as a medicine for stimulating the appetite, as well as for treating gastric-juice deficiency and to aid digestion. The German Commission E also lists rosemary leaf tea for treating poor digestion due to insufficient bile flow through the action of its bitter substances and essential oil. Rosemary is often used as a flavour enhancer. Rosemary extracts prepared into a salve can be applied externally as an analgesic liniment for rheumatism of the muscles and joints, and as a bath additive to stimulate blood flow under the skin. According to Dr. James Duke in The Green Pharmacy, rosemary has a long history of use as a memory-enhancing herb and ‘herb of remembrance’. In fact, rosemary leaf contains dozens of powerful antioxidant compounds and a half-dozen compounds that are reported to prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine in the brain. As such, rosemary tea and extracts may be beneficial for those with Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Duke also recommends rosemary for preventing and fighting cataracts and reports that the herb contains at least four known anti-cataract compounds. The antioxidant benefits of rosemary are also applicable to vascular disorders, and Dr. Duke recommends regularly drinking the tea or using generous amounts in cooking. The oil extract of rosemary leaf is among the most popular antioxidants on the market for stabilizing culinary oils. In fact, rosemary has preservative powers akin to the commercial preservatives BHA and BHT. As such, modern herbalists recommend rosemary as an anti-aging herb, particularly for those with bone and joint conditions. Externally, rosemary oil mixed with almond or olive oil has been used for centuries, if not millennia, to massage the scalp, keep hair lush and healthy and prevent baldness.

Active Ingredients:
Rosemary leaf contains: 2-3% rosmarinic acid and other phenolic acids including caffeic, and chlorogenic acids; flavonoids including apigenin, luteolin, nepetin and nepetrin; 1.2-2.5% essential oil containing several monoterpenes including 15-50% 1,8-cineole, 15-25% alpha-pinene, 12-24% alpha-terpineol, 10-25% camphor, 5-10% camphene, 0.4-2% limonene, linalool and 1-5% bornyl acetate; diterpenoid bitter compounds including up to 4.6% carnosol, rosmaridiphenol and rosmanol; triterpenoids including oleanolic and ursolic acids; and resin.

Suggested Amount:
Rosemary leaf can be taken as a tea with the recommended dosage of a moderately hot cup of tea taken three times a day half an hour before meals. An infusion is made using 2g (one teaspoonful) of the coarsely cut leaf. Boiling water (ca. 150ml) is poured over this and extracted for 10-15 minutes. The daily dose corresponds to 4-6 grams of sage leaf. A 1:5 (g/ml) tincture can also be taken, with the usual dosage of 10ml, three times daily. A 4.5-5.5:1 (w/w) dry normalized extract is recommended with the dosage of 0.36-0.44g taken three times daily. Externally, baths can be prepared with rosemary using 50g of leaf decocted in 1 liter of water (let to stand for 15-30 minutes and then add this to the warm bath). Rosemary ointments are prepared using 6-10% essential oil in a base of petroleum jelly or lanolin. This ointment can be spread on linen for local application and applied as a liniment.

Drug Interactions:
None known

Contraindications:
None known

Side Effects:

The Commission E reports that rosemary infusions applied externally, although stimulating blood supply, can irritate the skin.

References:

Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J 2000. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Copyright American Botanical Council. Publ. by Integrative Medicine Communications, 1029 Chestnut Street, Newton, MA 02464. Pp. 326-329.

Crowell PL. 1999. Prevention and therapy of cancer by dietary monoterpenes. J Nutr. 1999 Mar; 129(3): 775S-778S. Review.

Debersac P, Heydel J, Amiot M, Goudonnet H, Artur Y, Suschetet M, Siess M. 2001. Induction of cytochrome P450 and/or detoxication enzymes by various extracts of rosemary: description of specific patterns. Food Chem Toxicol 2001 Sep; 39(9): 907-18.

Triantaphyllou K, Blekas G, Boskou D. 2001. Antioxidative properties of water extracts obtained from herbs of the species Lamiaceae. Int J Food Sci Nutr 2001 Jul; 52(4): 313-7.

Wichtl M (ed). 1994. Rosmarini folium – Rosemary (English translation by Norman Grainger Bisset). In Herbal Drugs and Phyto-pharmaceuticals. CRC Press, Stuttgart, pp. 428-430.