Rosemary has an old reputation for strengthening the memory and sharpening the senses (including vision). Long used to stimulate circulation to virtually all parts of the body, it enhances good digestion, eases pain and nervous anxiety, and may even help restore the look and glow of youth.
From the Latin word rosmarinus (dew of the sea); rosemary grew on the Italian coast in the spray of the sea in ancient times. It is said that scholars of the past wore fresh rosemary sprigs in their hair believing it would help them remember their studies.
Its botanical name, Rosmarinus, is derived from the Latin, ros, meaning “dew” and marinus, meaning “of the sea,” since it was found in abundance near seashores.
Rosemary has been used since ancient times as a symbol of friendship, loyalty, and remembrance, and was traditionally carried by mourners at funerals and brides during their weddings.
Greek scholars wore garlands of Rosemary when taking examinations to improve their memory and concentration, a use echoed to this day. In the thirteenth century, Queen Elisabeth of Hungary claimed that at seventy-two years of age and crippled with gout and rheumatism, she had regained her beauty and strength by using Hungary Water (Rosemary), and the King of Poland even proposed marriage to her!
The Spanish revered Rosemary as the bush that sheltered the Virgin Mary on her flight to Egypt, and as she spread her cloak over the herb, the white flowers turned blue. In times past, the resinous herb was burned in sick chambers to purify the air and was placed in law courts as a protection from “jail fever” (typhus), and during the Plague of 1665, Rosemary was carried and sniffed in suspicious areas to protect against plague. Reinforcing those antiseptic uses, a mixture of Rosemary and Juniper was burned during World War II in French hospitals to kill germs.
The herb has long been used as a digestive and condiment and is a popular flavoring in soups, stews, and in meat preparation and preservation. It also flavors such liqueurs as Benedictine and Danziger Goldwasser. Some of the constituents included in Rosemary are high levels of volatile oils, flavonoids, and phenolic acids, plus alpha-pinene, beta-carotene, a camphor compound, resin, betulinic acid, geraniol, hesperidin, rosmanol, salicylates, tannin, thymol, calcium, magnesium, iron, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, B-vitamins and vitamin C.
Rosemary is an excellent memory and brain stimulant that is said to improve brain function by feeding it with oxygen-rich blood. It also contains compounds that are said to prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine, a brain chemical that allows the nerve cells responsible for memory and reasoning to communicate with one another.
Rosemary is believed to fight free radicals and show anti-cancer and anti-tumor activity. The herb is said to possess strong antioxidant qualities that prevent cancer-causing chemicals from binding and causing mutations in cellular DNA (particularly in the liver and bronchial cells).
Rosemary is an excellent stimulant for the circulatory system that not only improves brain function but has also been used to treat disorders characterized by chronic circulatory weakness, such as high and low blood pressure, varicose veins, bruises, and sprains. The flavonoid, diosmin, in Rosemary is reputedly more effective than rutin in reducing capillary fragility, enhancing a stronger flow of blood.
As an effective aid to good digestion and relaxant, Rosemary gives strength and tone to the stomach, stimulates digestion, and relaxes the smooth muscle of the digestive tract, which helps to calm, upset, stomach, ease cramps and spasms in the intestines, alleviate flatulence, dyspepsia, and relieve bloated feelings. It is also said to stimulate the release of bile, aiding the digestion of dietary fat. Rosemary is thought to be particularly helpful in treating indigestion caused by anxiety.
Rosemary calms and soothes the nerves, relaxes muscles, eases pain and reduces tension and anxiety throughout the body. It has thus has been very helpful in treating headache, migraines (particularly when related to stress), depression, nervous exhaustion, and apathy. The herb is said to also be effective in alleviating the pain of neuritis, neuralgia, tendonitis, rheumatism, aching joints, and overall muscle pain and spasms.
As an antiseptic, Rosemary cleanses the blood and helps to control many pathogenic organisms. It is potent enough to help kill bacterial infection but not so potent, however, to completely wipe out the natural bacterial population of the digestive tract that keeps the intestines in a healthy balance.
Its diuretic action increases the flow of urine that flushes bacteria from the body before they have a chance to cause infection. Rosemary has shown some promise in treating toxic shock syndrome and used externally, Rosemary’s antiseptic qualities make it a fine gargle and mouthwash and cleanser for wounds.
Rosemary’s fungicidal properties have been effective in killing yeast infections, such as Candida albicans.
Rosemary is said to be an emmenagogue, which promotes menstruation and regulates its flow, treating low or excessive bleeding. It also thought to ease menstrual cramps and pain in the uterus.
Because Rosemary stimulates and improves circulation throughout the body, it increases the blood supply to the skin, which is thought to help restore a youthful glow; and used externally, it is believed to stimulate hair bulbs and prevent baldness.