Also Known As: Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis

Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis, is a woody, perennial herb with fragrant, evergreen, needle-like leaves and white, pink, purple or blue flowers, native to the Mediterranean region. It is a member of the mint family Lamiaceae, which includes many other herbs, and is one of two species in the genus Rosmarinus. The name "rosemary" derives from the Latin name rosmarinus, derived from "dew" (ros) and "sea" (marinus), or "dew of the sea" because in many locations it needs no water other than the humidity carried by the sea breeze to live. The plant is also sometimes called Anthos, from the ancient Greek word ἄνθος, meaning "flower".

Rosemary is used as a decorative plant in gardens and has many culinary and medical uses. The plant is said to improve the memory and is used as a symbol of remembrance, especially in Australia and New Zealand to commemorate ANZAC Day. The leaves are used to flavor various foods, like stuffings and roast meats. Rosemary contains the antioxidants carnosic acid and rosmarinic acid, and other bioactive compounds including camphor, caffeic acid, ursolic acid, betulinic acid, rosmaridiphenol, and rosmanol. Some of these may be useful in preventing or treating cancers, strokes and Alzheimer's Disease.


Hungary water was first prepared for the Queen of Hungary Elisabeth of Poland to " ... renovate vitality of paralyzed limbs ... " and to treat gout. It was used externally and prepared by mixing fresh rosemary tops into spirits of wine.[10] Don Quixote (Part One, Chapter XVII) mixes it in his recipe of the miraculous balm of Fierabras.[11]

Rosemary has a very old reputation for improving memory and has been used as a symbol for remembrance during weddings, war commemorations and funerals in Europe and Australia.[12] Mourners would throw it into graves as a symbol of remembrance for the dead. In Shakespeare's Hamlet, Ophelia says, "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance." (Hamlet, iv. 5.) A modern study lends some credence to this reputation. When the smell of rosemary was pumped into cubicles where people were working, they showed improved memory, though with slower recall.[13] 1,8-cineole (1,3,3-trimethyl-2-oxabicyclo[2,2,2]octane), one of rosemary's main chemical components was found to improve speed and accuracy in cognitive performance in a study in 2012.[14]

Potential medicinal use

The results of a study suggest carnosic acid, found in rosemary, may shield the brain from free radicals, lowering the risk of strokes and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's disease and Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis,[15] and is anti-inflammatory.[16] Carnosol is also a promising cancer chemoprevention and anti-cancer agent.[17] A study found that rosemary "produced a significant enhancement of performance for overall quality of memory and secondary memory factors, but also produced an impairment of speed of memory compared to controls."[18]

Rosemary contains a number of potentially biologically active compounds, including antioxidants carnosic acid and rosmarinic acid. Other bioactive compounds include camphor (up to 20% in dry rosemary leaves), caffeic acid, ursolic acid, betulinic acid, rosmaridiphenol and rosmanol. Rosemary antioxidants levels are closely related to soil moisture content.[19] Rosemary may have some anticarcinogenic properties. A study where a powdered form of rosemary was given to rats in a measured amount for two weeks showed a reduction in the binding of a certain carcinogen by 76%, and greatly reduced the formation of mammary tumors.[20]

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