Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Main Facts about Rosemary
The plant takes its name from rosmarinus, a Latin term meaning "sea dew." It is an upright evergreen shrub that can grow to a height of 6 and a half feet. The woody rootstock bears rigid branches with fissured bark. The long, needle-like leaves are dark green on top and pale beneath. Both the fresh and dried leaves are aromatic. The small flowers are pale blue. The leaves and parts of the flowers contain volatile oil. From ancient times Rosemary was famous for strengthening the memory. In ancient Greece, students would place rosemary sprigs in their hair when studying for exams, and mourners would also throw the fragrant herb into the grave of the deceased as a symbol of remembrance. Later, in Middle Ages, it became the emblem of fidelity for lovers. Not only was it used at weddings, but also at funerals, for decking churches and banqueting halls at festivals, as incense in religious ceremonies, and in magical spells as incense to ward off bad influences.
Using RosemaryRosemary contains substances that are useful for stimulating the immune system, increasing circulation, and improving digestion. This herb is an excellent source of iron, that determines the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood. It has been shown to increase the blood flow to the head and brain, improving concentration. Rosemary also contains anti-inflammatory compounds that may make it useful for reducing the severity of asthma attacks. Rosemary is famous for its anti-allergic, anti-fungal and anti-septic properties. Traditionally, Rosemary has been used medicinally to improve memory, relieve muscle pain and spasm, stimulate hair growth, and support the circulatory and nervous systems. It is also believed to increase menstrual flow, act as an abortifacient (causing miscarriage), increase urine flow, and treat indigestion. Rosemary tea is a good remedy for removing headache, colic, colds and mild depression.
Caution!Avoid high doses if pregnant, breastfeeding, or prone to epileptic seizures. It is safe to eat as a spice in food, however. There have been occasional reports of allergic reactions. Large quantities of rosemary leaves, because of their volatile oil content, can cause serious side effects, including vomiting, spasms, coma and, in some cases, pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs). People with high blood pressure, ulcers, Crohn's disease, or ulcerative colitis should not take rosemary. Rosemary oil can be toxic if ingested and should never be taken orally.
Cooking with RosemaryRosemary is used as a spice to flavour various types of food.
How to grow RosemaryIt thrives in a warm and sunny climate. Rosemary succeeds best in a light, rather dry soil, and in a sheltered situation. On a chalk soil it grows smaller, but is more fragrant. The silver- and gold-striped kinds are not quite so hardy.