Herb Guide: Growing and Using Rosemary
Also, Known As:
- Compass Weed
- Dew of the Sea
- Garden Rosemary
- Mary’s Mantle
- Old Man
- Polar Plant
- Rosemary Plant
Rosmarinus officinalis L. (family Lamiaceae), is also known as rosemary. This herb is an evergreen shrub, with lovely aromatic linear leaves. Colored a dark shade of green above and white below, the leaves of the rosemary give off a beautiful fragrance, and with its small pale blue flowers, the plant is cultivated extensively in many kitchen gardens across America and elsewhere.
The evergreen shrub originated in the Mediterranean area, but it is today cultivated almost everywhere in the world, primarily for its aromatic leaves. The shrub has several ash colored branches, and the bark is rather scaly. The leaves, as described earlier, are opposite and leathery thick. They are lustrous and dark green above and downy white underneath, with a prominent vein in the middle and margins which are rolled down on the sides.
The tonic, astringent, and diaphoretic or the property of increasing perspiration effects of the rosemary are widely recognized and acknowledged across the world. The essence of rosemary can be taken in the form of an infusion, a wine, a tea or as a spirit, or in other words an alcoholic solution. The aromatic herb can also be used for a bath. However, one must remember that the rosemary is extremely stimulating, and a bath with the essence of rosemary late in the evening may well prevent one from sleeping in the night. The leaves of the rosemary contain stomach (aids digestion) properties, and this property is often used by hair tonic makers, with the belief that its regular use would help prevent baldness when it is applied externally. Rosemary is often recommended especially for cases of low blood pressure. Both the volatile oil and the medication in the rosemary have been used as emmenagogues, which would be effective in stimulating menstrual flow and as abortifacients.
Almost all the physiological activity of the rosemary can be attributed to the volatile oil, which is present in the rosemary leaves in concentrations ranging from 1% – 2.5 %. Camphor, cineole, and borneol are all active compounds of the rosemary, and all these compounds possess an adequate amount of antibacterial properties. Furthermore, the rosemary has stimulating properties, and this becomes more evident when the oil is applied locally. In addition, the leaves of rosemary contain a number of flavonoid pigments of which diosmin, to quote one example, is reported to decrease capillary fragility and permeability. According to German health authorities, rosemary can prove to be effective for bringing in relief from indigestion. Rosemary can also be used as a supportive therapy for rheumatic disorders, and externally, rosemary is acknowledged for its efficacy and success in the treatment of circulatory problems. Though the actual therapeutic effectiveness of rosemary is not yet known, and until today, no real systemic studies on the leaves of the aromatic herb have been conducted.
Rosemary is often used widely as a common household spice, and also as a fragrant aromatic flavoring agent in several commercially available products, such as vegetables, prepared meats, baked goods, etc. In fact, several people opine that rosemary can be far more useful as a flavoring agent than as a medicine, and this may be quite true because of the truth that rosemary is used in soaps, lotions, facial and body creams, toilet waters, and perfumes as the primary and most important fragrance component. Small amounts of the fragrance are added to the products such as frozen desserts, candy, alcoholic beverages, puddings and various other similar goods. Extracts containing labiates and carnosic acids have antioxidant or food preservative properties similar to those of butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), but it must always be remembered that large quantities of rosemary oil cannot be taken internally. The reason is that this may cause stomach irritation and disorders and can also irritate the kidneys and intestines.
One of the best-known uses of rosemary oil is that it serves as an extremely effective mouthwash. It can get rid of halitosis almost immediately after it is taken. This is how the mouthwash is prepared: take about 1 pint of water. Heat it well. Remove it from the heat, then steep 3 tsp. of the dried flowering tops or leaves of rosemary for 30 minutes. Keep the solution properly covered. Strain and keep it in the fridge. Gargle and rinse the mouth every morning or several times daily.
It is believed that some aromatic spices like sage, peppermint, savory, rosemary, and thyme, hold incredible value in sterilizing water that has been contaminated with unfriendly bacteria.
Plant Parts Used:
Aerial parts, essential oil.
As far as European medicine is concerned, it is the shrub rosemary that has an essential and very important place. The reason may be that rosemary is considered to be a warming shrub, and it is also a herb that can circulate blood to the head, thereby aiding in better concentration and improving one’s memory. It is also believed that rosemary will help in better hair growth, because of the fact that it is able to improve blood circulation to the scalp. The versatile herb has even been used to treat varied disorders like vertigo and epilepsy. It can be useful in helping patients who have fainted and who may be feeling weak because of weakened blood circulation. Long-term stress and chronic illnesses can also be treated with the rosemary herb. Rosemary is thought to stimulate the adrenal glands, and it can be used specifically to treat debility and other similar ailments, and most especially if they are accompanied by poor digestion and circulation.
Rosemary contains antiseptic properties, with antibacterial and anti-fungal properties as well, in the form of the volatile oils that it contains. These properties serve to enhance the quality of the immune system, and by the simple fact that rosemary causes sweating in an individual, it is often used to bring down fevers. Rosemary has both warming and healing properties, and these are used to clear phlegm from the chest and head, and also for bringing great relief to patients suffering from coughs, catarrh, simple colds, flu, wheezing, whooping cough and bronchitis. Certain kinds of spasm in the bronchial tubes as in asthma can also be relieved by using rosemary because the herb has special relaxing effects.
Rosemary is considered to be an excellent and a wonderful stimulant, especially with regard to the heart, nervous system, and brain. As mentioned earlier, by the very fact that rosemary is capable of increasing the flow of blood to the head, it can improve both concentration and memory, and also for treating migraines and other forms of headaches. The herb can also be used for a myriad of ailments such as anxiety, nervous tension, depression, exhaustion, insomnia, lethargy, and as a rejuvenating tonic during convalescence and for the elderly people. Rosemary can improve vitality in the individual, and it can effectively stimulate digestion, as well as relieve flatulence and distension, thereby enhancing the appetite and increasing the flow of digestive juices. It can help in the flow and movement of food and wastes through the body, thus removing stagnant food within the digestive system, and also improving sluggish digestion. This helps to a large extent in the assimilation of nutrients from the food into the body. The bitters present in rosemary stimulate liver and gallbladder function, increasing the flow of bile and aiding digestion of fats. The herb has also been commended for arresting to a certain extent the aging process in the individual, and it serves as a rejuvenating tonic as well. Rosemary has also been credited with being a powerful antioxidant.
OTHER MEDICAL USES:
Rosemary can be applied as a lotion or diluted essential oil, and its oils successfully ease aching and rheumatic muscles. One can add the infusion or essential oil to bathwater for a stimulating and refreshing soak.
Rosemary is a fragrant herb can efficiently enhance the flavor of any food, be it savory or sweet to which it is added. In general, rosemary can be used in a wide variety of culinary preparations, like for example, to season lamb, rabbit, veal, pork, sausages, as well as poultry, egg dishes, fish, pickles and shellfish, rosemary is also added to jellies, fruit jams, and cookies.
Salads and vegetable dishes that need asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, eggplants, green beans and peas, zucchini, and potatoes, can use rosemary for that extra special flavor. Herb bread and biscuits can derive the benefit of the flavor that rosemary will bring to the dish being prepared. However, one must remember that the flavor can be quite strong, and therefore, the herb must be used only sparingly. Always remember to soak dried rosemary in hot water before adding it to uncooked foods.
With the flowers of rosemary, the uses can be different. Since these have a milder flavor, they can be candied, preserved, or added to jellies, honey, wine or vinegar. Even olive oil can be flavored by adding a few sprigs of rosemary.
Fragrant rosemary can be included in potpourris or scented sachets. Rosemary plants can often be used in topiary, the venerable craft in which shrubs are trained into ornamental forms.
Rosemary grows freely in much of southern Europe and is cultivated throughout the world, although the shrub is native to the Mediterranean regions. This perennial plant needs full sun, and a sandy, well-limed soil, but it can also be wintered indoors. Rosemary generally grows best in light, well-drained, rather dry soil, with its recommended pH range about 6.0 to 7.5. If the soil’s pH is below 6.0, one can safely add lime or ground-up eggshells to the soil. After the plant has flowered, it is a good idea to cut it back, so that it does not become too leggy. Propagation can be carried out by using layering and cuttings. One must remember that one must never over water the soil, because of the simple fact that over the wet soil will inhibit the growth of the herb to a large extent. The shrub thrives in full sunlight, but it will also grow well in semi-shade.
The seeds of the rosemary are very slow to germinate and thereafter, it is for this reason that experts recommend buying the plant. However, if one has the rosemary plant already, then stem cuttings of the original plant can be used for the purposes of propagation. This is the method to be used: first, cut a sprig of new growth, about 15 cm or 6 inches long, from the top of the herb. Then, strip the leaves from bottom 4 cm that is about 1 1/2 inches, and then put the bottom of the twig in wet sand to root. This process will usually take about six weeks. Adding a rooting hormone is a good idea because this will help to speed up root development.
Layering is a good technique to be used when one has a rosemary plant already. Stem cuttings can be used for this purpose. One can simply pin down the lower rambling branches of an existing herb to the soil until they root, and this will ultimately form a new plant.
One must take care to space garden plants 0.3 to 0.6 m (1 to 2 feet) apart. The rosemary is extremely susceptible to infestations of scale, mealy bugs, and spider mites, and to root rot in wet soil, and these are the conditions one must be constantly aware of when one is cultivating the shrub. The leaves must be misted every alternate week. Apply a balanced fertilizer, such as 20-20-20, but be wary of over fertilizing as this reduces flowering, flavor, and fragrance.
Growing in containers:
When one is trying to grow rosemary in a container, one must make sure that the plant is slightly pot bound. This means that the container that one must use to grow the plant in must be just big enough for the roots to be housed properly. The pot itself must be kept in a bright and sunny place because this plant thrives best in the open and bright sunshine. It would be a good idea to use a standard soil-based potting mix or an amended soil-less mix, and to add coarse sand whenever necessary in order to increase essential drainage. One must also be careful that one waters just about enough so that the soil is moistened, and at the same time, to make sure that one never over waters. The soil must never dry out completely. An established rosemary plant can be kept for three to four years in a container before it may need to be replaced. The shrub must be trimmed before the onset of spring. This means that long and straggly branches of the plant must be shortened and trimmed adequately, as this would stimulate the new and robust growth of the plant. Furthermore, if a favorite plant finally needs to be replaced, then cuttings from the top branches can be taken so that they can be rooted. This would ensure the correct duplication of the cultivar.
According to the latest research, rosmarinine can be referred to as a stimulant and mild analgesic, because it contains these qualities. It must be noted that the oil content of rosemary can vary, and it acts as a stimulant as well as an analgesic when it is applied to the skin. The anti-inflammatory effect of the rosemary is due mainly to flavonoids and rosmarinic acid, and the flavonoids have the capacity to strengthen the capillaries too. In sum, rosemary has bitter and astringent properties.
Components of Rosemary:
- Volatile oil (1-2%) containing borneol, camphene, camphor, cineole.
- Flavonoids (apigenin, diosmin).
- Rosmarinic acid.
- Diterpenes (picrosalvin).
Infusion of Rosemary:
The infusion of rosemary can be taken every day, in the quantity of 200 ml (8 fl oz) a day, internally. The infusion can be used externally as a medicine for the scalp; use it to wash the scalp with. This will improve blood circulation to the scalp, which in turn will promote hair growth. The tincture of rosemary can be taken, 2 ml or about 40 drops, two times daily. Rosemary can also be added to bath water to provide a stimulating and refreshing experience, and the essential oil of the herb can be added to one’s bath water or used in a diffuser, and this can be extremely helpful for improving one’s concentration and to aid learning.
Possible Side Effects and Precautions:
Although this happens only in rare cases, there have been incidents wherein some people have reported developing dermatitis after using products in which rosemary oil has been added. At one time, rosemary was utilized to induce abortions and to induce uterine contractions in a woman, and even today, herbalists prefer using the herb to promote menstruation and to regulate the menstrual cycle. This is the reason why experts often say that if one is pregnant or experiencing certain difficulties with the menstrual cycle, it would be a good idea to avoid taking rosemary, keeping in mind the fact that the herb is often used in cooking, as it adds excellent flavor to the product. The physician would be able to guide the individual about how much of rosemary can be deemed to be safe for consumption. Sometimes, rosemary oil can be purchased and used for aromatherapy, but one must remember that this oil is not fit for consumption; the oil, when taken internally, may give rise to various symptoms like for example epileptic convulsions, kidney damage, digestive difficulties, and even death if taken in large doses. The reason is that rosemary contains camphor and various other toxic chemicals which can prove to be extremely dangerous to one’s health, especially when taken in large doses.
How Rosemary Works in the Body:
Rosemary can act as an anti-inflammatory and also as a tonic, and these are two functions that are generally considered to be its primary actions. Rosemary has several constituents combined together, which lend the herb its properties of healing, and some of these are the rosmarinic, apigenin, and ursolic acids. The ingredient diosmetin is known to help in strengthening and fortifying the capillaries, and this property can be extremely valuable for the cardiovascular system, where rosemary is often used to improve circulation and raise low blood pressure in an individual. The circulatory effect of rosemary is often directed towards the head, because of the fact that improved blood circulation automatically improves the concentration and memory. This property of rosemary of improving circulation becomes greatly useful in certain disorders like Reynaud’s Syndrome, which can be described as a condition of poor circulation in the hands and feet. When an individual is feeling lethargic and debilitated and generally weak, listless and depressed, then rosemary would come in handy; rosemary helps in alleviating these symptoms.
- Aerial parts:
- INFUSION –The hot infusion of rosemary can be taken for colds and flu, indigestion and rheumatic pains. It can also be taken for fatigue or headaches in the form of a stimulating drink.
TINCTURE – Tincture can be taken as a stimulant tonic. When the individual is depressed, rosemary can be combined with skullcap, oats or vervain for depression.
COMPRESS – Rosemary can be used as a compress for relief from sprains and other types of aches and pains. Soak a pad in the infusion, and apply it to the affected part. Alternate this with a cold compress with ice, and continue doing this for two to three minutes. This will bring relief to the injury.
HAIR RINSE – The infusion can be used as the final rinse for treating dandruff.
- Essential oil:
- OIL – Add 10 drops of the essential oil of rosemary to the bath water. This will stimulate the individual, especially when he/she is in a state of nervous exhaustion, or when he/she has aching limbs or other similar ailments.
MASSAGE OIL – 1 ml rosemary oil must be diluted in 25 ml almond or sunflower oil and then massaged into aching muscles and joints. When this is massaged into the scalp, it will help promote hair growth, and when it is applied on the temples, it will bring relief from headaches.
Leaves and stems and flowers of rosemary can be picked whenever needed, for fresh use at any time. The leaves and stems can be harvested for drying just before the plant blooms, because of the fact that the flavor is at its peak at this time. The leaves and the stem must be placed in a dark and well-ventilated place, on a screen, and allowed to dry gradually. After they have dried, the leaves and stem can be placed in an airtight container for storage. On the other hand, sprigs of rosemary leaves can be placed and frozen on a cookie sheet and then stored in freezer bags for future use.
Moth Repellent with Rosemary:
- 2 cups dried lavender
- 2 cups dried rosemary
- 1 Tbs. crushed cloves
- Dried peel of a lemon
Bruise all the ingredients together in a small bowl, and divide among muslin bags. Tie, and set among the woolens.
Rubbing Lotion with Rosemary:
- 1 cup of rosemary leaves
- 1-quart rubbing alcohol
Crush the leaves in the bottom of a 1-quart glass jar, and pour the alcohol over the leaves. Cap tightly, and let stand 2 weeks. Strain through cheesecloth, rebottles, cap tightly. Use after the bath.
Herb Pillow with Rosemary:
- 4 cups dried rosemary
- 4 cups dried lemon verbena
- 8 cups dry pine needles
Crush the ingredients together, and fill a small bag to place under the pillow, or in the drawer with nightclothes.