Rosemary is fragrant and energizing
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) grows naturally and abundantly near the Mediterranean seashore in Spain, Portugal, Morocco and Tunisia. The name, ‘rosemary’ means “dew of the sea.”
Rosemary is a favorite herb for gardeners. As a fragrant culinary spice, rosemary is used in many Mediterranean style dishes.
This page focuses on the medicinal, traditional, and historical use of rosemary, including cultivation and non-medicinal usage.
“Make thee a box of the wood of rosemary and smell to it and it shall preserve thy youth.”
— Banckes, Herball, 1525
Medicinal properties of rosemary
Rosemary is a stimulant, stomachic, emmenagogue, cholagogue, decongestant, antibiotic, nervine, carminative, and antispasmodic.
A stimulant quickens the metabolism.
A stomachic strengthens the stomach.
An emmenagogue promotes menstrual flow.
A cholagogue increases the flow of bile into the intestines.
A decongestant relieves mucous congestion from the upper respiratory tract.
An antibiotic inhibits the growth of (or destroys) bacteria and other microorganisms.
A nervine soothes the nerves and reduces stress levels.
An carminative expels gas.
An antispasmodic can stop spasms and cramps.
Warnings about rosemary
Excessive use of rosemary internally can cause FATAL poisoning. Use rosemary tea sparingly and discontinue use if you feel sick. The amount safe to use would depend on how strong you made the tea, so I can give no generalized recommendations.
Rosemary raises blood pressure so this should not be used internally by people with hypertension.
Rosemary should not be used by pregnant or breastfeeding women.
Rosemary should not be used by anyone with epilepsy.
Rosemary oil should not be rubbed on varicose veins.
Do not use rosemary along with homeopathic remedies as it may reduce their effectiveness.
It makes sense that if you’re going to be using a new type of medicine, and rosemary IS a herbal medicine, you should research it thoroughly and if it is within your ability, consult a herbal practitioner or naturalist.
If you’re going ahead with this on your own please start slowly. You never know if you might be allergic to something. Take only a small amount at first and work up to a full dose. If you feel this herb is making you sick, discontinue the treatment immediately. Consult a medical doctor if you have any concerns at all about what you’re doing.
The following list of the uses of rosemary has been derived from a variety of herb information resources. I cannot take responsibility to assure that rosemary will help your condition, or that you cannot be harmed by it. I do not diagnose, nor do I recommend specific treatments for you.
I will say that rosemary grows in my garden and I have used it successfully externally without ill effect for several conditions over the course of many years. I do not use it internally because my blood pressure is high.
If you want professional advice on your medical conditions and the use of herbs, consult a naturopathic physician and/or your family doctor. I am not a doctor; I’m just a herb using woman who grows herbs in her garden for personal use, who has studied herbs over the course of about thirty-five years. I share with you what I’ve learned from other herbalists (or discovered from my own use of herbs) but don’t do any scientific testing. This is folk medicine!
What has rosemary been used for?
Rosemary has been used medicinally for many years by people in many cultures. Here are some things it has been used for.
Apply a salve made with rosemary. (Recipe below.)
This tea is very stimulating for blood circulation, but go easy on it – drinking too much is not safe.
- Low blood pressure
If you have low blood pressure, rosemary tea is one thing that could help raise your blood pressure. Another is licorice tea.
Rosemary tea improves digestion, liver function, and production of bile.
- Skin problems
Rosemary salve can be applied topically to eczema, scrofula sores, wounds, and bruises.
Wash your head with an infusion of rosemary. The rosemary infusion can be combined with borax, but that’s optional.
Capsules may end heartburn, but be careful not to take too many of them.
Use rosemary essential oil.
- Memory and concentration
In ancient Greece scholars hung rosemary wreaths around their necks during testing. Now it seems simpler to use rosemary essential oil.
- Canker sores
Gargle with rosemary for canker sores and mouth ulcers.
Medicinal rosemary – have you used it?
“For the sickly take this wort rosemary, pound it with oil, smear the sickly one, wonderfully thou healest him.”
— Saxon MS. Herbal
Making medicines with rosemary
Here are some simple directions for using rosemary internally or externally.
Steep up to 1 tablespoon dried flowering tops or leaves in 1/2 cup water. As stated before, rosemary used internally can be dangerous so this isn’t something you’d want to use much of. The normal dose for an infusion is five to twenty drops.
Dry rosemary leaves and then crush them using a mortar and pestle such as the one pictured below.
- Salve #1
Combine rosemary powder with warmed petroleum jelly.
- Salve #2
Make an infusion of rosemary (see instructions above.) Strain the leaves/flowers out of the infusion. Combine the infusion with 1/2 cup of olive or almond oil and simmer slowly until the water evaporates. Add beeswax if needed for better consistency.
How to make homemade rosemary oil
Note: this is not the same as rosemary essential oil, which is distilled (see below).
Rosemary essential oilThis essential oil is distilled. A pure oil of rosemary can be used for aromatherapy and for addition to shampoo, massage oil, or soap. Remember that rosemary is an energizing fragrance, so is not for use in situations where you want to relax. It is better to use it in the morning, rather than late at night.
Rosemary essential oil is perfect for many types of skin care and can be added to creams used for eczema, dermatitis, and similar conditions. It can be added to shampoo to help combat lice, with a nice side-effect in that it promotes hair growth and may even eliminate dandruff and greasy hair.
For scabies, try a mixture of neem oil, rosemary oil, and powdered turmeric in a base of coconut oil. Spread over the affected area and leave it on. This will stain clothes because of the turmeric, but is very effective. Be sure to have a tube of cortisone cream on hand because the die-off can cause skin to become very itchy! In fact, the scabies die-off is so totally freaking itchy it will drive you nuts if you don’t have the cortisone cream handy. Trust me on this one!
Rosemary essential oil can be stirred into Vaseline then rubbed into the skin for relief from arthritis, rheumatism, muscle pains or gout.
Try adding a few drops to the water in your humidifier for help with whooping cough, bronchitis, or asthma.
Are you a herbalist?
Non-medicinal uses of rosemary
Rosemary is best known for its culinary uses and is available for sale in the spice section of most supermarkets. It can also sometimes be found fresh in the vegetable section, for those who don’t have it in their gardens. But there are many other uses for this wonderful herb. Here are some of them.
- Sleep pillows
Rosemary is a common ingredient in sleep pillows and can be combined with other herbs like lavender, hops, and chamomile. I would not personally use it for this purpose, because it is energizing, but many people do add it (though hopefully not as the main ingredient.)
- Hair rinse
Rosemary infusions make a perfect hair rinse for brunettes. (Chamomile infusions are used for blondes.) Rosemary can help protect your hair from lice, will stimulate hair growth, and is known to reduce greasy hair and dandruff. All a plus.
- Dye for wool
Rosemary can dye wool various shades of yellow-green.
You can add an infusion of rosemary to your bath water for a little extra stimulation at the end of a hard day. If you just got home from work and are preparing for a night out on the town, this could be just the thing to use.
- Facial refreshment
Boil rosemary in a cup of water. Pour the hot liquid into a bowl in your sink. Cover your head with a towel to make a little tent. Let the steam open your pores and stimulate your face. When you’re done, splash your face with cold water and the pores will close up again.
- Massage oil
Add a few drops of rosemary essential oil to almond oil for a stimulating massage.
Ways to Use Rosemary (and Bay)
You can grow rosemary from seedsHow to grow rosemary
Rosemary can be started from seed, or you can start rosemary from cuttings.
Cuttings: Rosemary can be propagated with cuttings. Cut a twig from two to six inches in height from the new growth of the plant. Remove leaves from the bottom inch and dip into a rooting hormone. Place in potting soil and keep in indirect sunlight. Mist and water daily. Test for roots after two weeks.
After you have roots, clip off the top so that your cutting will create branches. Eventually you’ll want to plant this outdoors as rosemary does better in the ground than it does in pots.
Seeds: Rosemary seeds are a bit difficult to get started but the ones I linked to above, from David’s Garden Seeds, have a good start rate and are recommended. Sow in late spring. When seedlings are three inches high, transplant 18 inches apart.
“As for rosemary I lette it runne all over my garden walls, not onlie because my bees love it, but because it is the herb sacred to remembrance and to friendship, whence a sprig of it hath a dumb language.”
— Sir Thomas Moore (1478-1535)
How to harvest rosemary
It is safe to eat the flowers though you might notice a different flavor. Normally only the leaves are used.
If you have a need for rosemary in a recipe, you can clip a bit of new growth from the end of a branch and use it fresh anytime.
If you’re ready for a large harvest after the plant flowers, clip the branches and bundle about ten of them together. You can tie a bit of twine or string around the ends and hang them upside down in a room in your house, in a tent or shed, or inside paper bags. The paper bags keep insects off the drying plants. The paper bags can be hung on your clothes line outside or in a well-ventilated closet or shed.
How to Pick Rosemary for Culinary Use
If you have any questions about this herb I will be happy to try to provide an answer. I created this page about rosemary because it is a herb I grow in my garden – one that I have direct knowledge of. So feel free to ask me anything about it and if I don’t know the answer I’ll try to find out.
This is a comprehensive guide to the use of herbs for medicinal purposes, and includes an explanation of how medicinal plants work. There’s a section on the active ingredients in plants, and the history of herb use.
As we would expect from any DK book, the illustrations are colorful and wonderful. One could not ask for more thought-provoking images in a herbal. This book is a treasure, and at the time of this writing, is one of the most popular herbals sold at Amazon.Com.
Dozens of herb plants are profiled and many helpful recipes are included. This book truly deserves the many five-star reviews Amazon customers have given it.
This is the “#1 Best Seller” herb book at Amazon for 2015. It is sub-titled “A Beginner’s Guide” and profiles thirty-three herbs known for their medicinal benefits to humankind, including rosemary, ginger, basil, dandelion, and goldenseal. (Plus many others.) These herbs were chosen for inclusion in the book because they are safe, effective, and easy to grow.
Rosemary (the author) was trained as a herbalist from early childhood by her grandmother, a plant-savvy farmer’s wife. This grandmother attributed her survival of the Armenian genocide to her herbal knowledge and her faith in God.
Rosemary’s book is an easy-read with colorful pages and beautiful illustrations, including some of her tending her own herb garden.