Rosmarinus officinalis

Family: Lamiaceae
Genus: Rosmarinus
Species: officinalis

Synonyms and Common names: Polar plant, Compass weed, Compass plant.

Description and Habitat: Rosemary was originally from the Mediterranean region, where it grows in dry, sandy or rocky soils in a climate characterised by warm summers and mild, dry winters. More at home in the Mediterranean than colder climates, rosemary requires a sheltered spot in which to grow - south or west-facing wall is ideal - and light, limey but above all well-drained soil. Seeds are difficult to germinate as well as very slow to grow and the best way to propagate rosemary is either by cuttings or from layering. A new plant can easily be produced from an old by firmly pegging down a small branch into the soil with a piece of wire or twig until the roots are established and then removing it carefully from the parent plant.

Keep the young plant moist but not too wet as the roots easily rot. The new plants should be transplanted in the early autumn to allow them to harden off before the winter, and they may need to be protected with straw where winter conditions are severe. Once established, rosemary bushes do not like to be moved. If this is attempted, the leaves will often turn brown and die, so if it is necessary to transplant try to avoid cutting any roots when doing so and retain as much of the original ball of the earth as possible. If happy in its position, rosemary can last for about 30 years. Trim it lightly to maintain its thickness.
Plant rosemary in a sunny location with well-drained, slightly acidic soil

Rosemary is an evergreen woody shrub with aromatic, needle-like leaves and grey, scaly bark. Rosemary bushes can grow up to 6 ft tall with a spread of 4-5 ft. The plants stay smaller in pots. The leaves resemble needles and are about 1 in long with a pungent fragrance. The flowers appear in winter and spring, are pale blue, about 1 in (2.5 cm) long, and arranged in clusters of two or three.

Harvesting: Harvesting can be done throughout the year. Cut 4-inch pieces from the tips of the branches, being careful not to remove more than 20% of the growth at one time.

Parts used: Leaves and tips.  Oil of Rosemary, distilled from the flowering tops, as directed in the British Pharmacopeia, is a superior oil to that obtained from the stem and leaves, but nearly all the commercial oil is distilled from the stem and leaves of the wild plant before it is in flower.

Constituents: 1% volatile oil, including borneol, linatol, camphene, cineole and camphor; tannins, bitter principle, resins.

Actions: Carminative, aromatic, anti=-spasmodic, anti-depressive, rubefacient, parasiticide, anti-microbial, astringent, emmenagogue, nervine, a stimulant.

Indications: Flatulent dyspepsia associated with psychogenic tension, migrainous, vasoconstrictive or hypertensive headaches. Topically for myalgia, sciatica and intercostal neuralgia.

Therapeutics and Pharmacology: Rosemary is specifically indicated in depressive states accompanied by general debility and indications of cardiovascular weakness and is of value as a tonic for elderly people with weak circulation, particularly after a debilitating illness such as influenza and pneumonia. The flavonoid diosmin improves the circulation and strengthens fragile blood vessels.  The herb is of benefit in palpitations and other signs of nervous tension which affect the circulation. The camphor has a general tonic effect on the circulation and nervous system, especially the vascular nerves, making it an excellent drug for all states of chronic circulatory weakness including hypotension.

The herb reduces flatulence and is stimulating to the digestion, liver and gallbladder, increasing the flow of bile; as rosmaricine breaks down in the body it stimulates the smooth muscle of the digestive tract and gallbladder. An infusion makes a good mouthwash for halitosis.

Externally, rosemary is used to ease muscular pain, sciatica and neuralgia, and the oil is a component of liniments used for rheumatism. A salve made from the oil can be applied to sores, eczema, bruises and wounds. The anti-inflammatory action of the herb is thought to be due to rosmarinic acid, ursolic acid and apigenin.

It is an excellent remedy for headache, taken either as an infusion or by applying the oil to the temples, and can also be applied locally as a wash for dandruff and scurf, or added to a bath for a stimulating effect. It has been used since ancient times to improve and strengthen the memory.

The oil also possesses antibacterial and antifungal properties.

Contraindications: Rosemary should be avoided during pregnancy because it is a uterine stimulant. Excessive amounts can cause symptoms of poisoning.

Preparation and Dosage:
pour a cup of boiling water onto 1 to 2 teaspoonful of the dried herb and leave to infuse for 10 to 15 minutes. Can be taken freely. Use an infusion as a last rinse on your hair, especially if you have dark or red coloured hair, it will enhance the shine and condition, and strangely will lighten blond hair.

A recipe for hair tonic: This recipe has an excellent conditioning effect on the hair, helping to control dandruff and even, it is alleged, curing baldness. Take a bunch of fresh rosemary and crush or chop the leaves; add 300 ml (1/2 pint ) boiling water and allow to stand for an hour, then drain. Use it as a final rinse after washing and towel - drying the hair.

Tincture: Take 1 to 2 ml three times a day.
Oil: a drop of the oil rubbed between the fingers and rubbed on the ends of your hair will enhance the shine and manageability.

Aromatherapy:  Rosemary oil blends well with Cedarwood, Geranium, Lavender, Lemongrass, Peppermint.

Properties: A powerful mental stimulant which aids memory and concentration, restores vitality and invigorates. Rosemary oil may help overcome mental and physical fatigue, by stimulating circulation and supporting the central nervous system. It provides support in stressful situations. Its fragrance is often used in the meditation process. It helps with headaches, migraines, neuralgia, mental fatigue and nervous exhaustion.

The antiseptic action of Rosemary oil is especially suitable for intestinal infections and diarrhoea; it also eases colitis, dyspepsia, flatulence, hepatic disorders and jaundice. Rubbing a rosemary vapour balm on the chest relieves lung and sinus congestion. Cosmetically, it encourages dry, mature skin to produce its own oil and also treats acne for those with dry skin

Rosemary oil can relieve pain such as rheumatism, arthritis, muscular pain and gout. It can help for arteriosclerosis, palpitations, poor circulation and varicose veins.

Additional Comments & Folklore: The botanical name Rosmarinus is derived from the old Latin for 'dew of the sea', a reference to its pale blue dew-like flowers and the fact that it is often grown near the sea. It is a symbol or remembrance and friendship and is often carried by wedding couples as a sign of love and fidelity.  Anne of Cleves wore a wreath of rosemary at her wedding.

Tradition says that rosemary will grow for thirty-three years until it reaches the height of Christ when he was crucified, then it will die. Sprigs of rosemary were placed under pillows at night to ward off evil spirits and bad dreams, its wood was used to make lutes and other musical instruments.

Rosemary was reputedly first grown in England by Philippa of Hainault, wife of Edward III, in the 14th century. Gerard said of the herb, 'it comforteth the harte and maketh it merie'. Grown in gardens since ancient times, it was considered to have powers of protection against evil spirits and was the emblem of fidelity for lovers. It is said that rosemary grows well in the kitchen gardens of households where the woman reigns supreme, and its leaves are one of the ingredients of eau de cologne

In place of more costly incense, the ancients used Rosemary in their religious ceremonies. An old French name for it was Incensier.

The Spaniards revered it as one of the bushes that gave shelter to the Virgin Mary in the flight into Egypt and call it Romero, the Pilgrim's Flower. Both in Spain and Italy, it has been considered a safeguard from witches and evil influences generally. The Sicilians believe that young fairies, taking the form of snakes, lie amongst the branches.

It was an old custom to burn Rosemary in sick chambers, and in French hospitals, it is customary to burn Rosemary with Juniper berries to purify the air and prevent infection. Like Rue, it was placed in the dock of courts of justice, as a preventative from the contagion of gaol-fever. A sprig of Rosemary was carried in the hand at funerals, being distributed to the mourners before they left the house, to be cast on to the coffin when it had been lowered into the grave. In many parts of Wales, it is still a custom.

In ancient Greece, students wore it in their hair to improve memory, although whether this was the result of the stimulation of the senses by the pungent smell of rosemary or the result of infusion into the skin and bloodstream, is anyone’s guess.