What Is Rosemary Good For?
Since its primordial Mediterranean origins, the woodsy-citrus-like fragrance of rosemary has graced gardens, kitchens, and apothecaries throughout the world. A lovely herb with tags like "Dew of the Sea" and "Old Man," rosemary is related to mint and resembles lavender, with leaves like flat pine needles touched with silver.
Rosemary is one of those herbs with a thousand uses. It's extremely hardy and therefore easy to grow and maintain inside or out. Indoors, it requires lots of light but not too much heat and humid air. Spritz the plant with water a few times a week. Add an entire sprig to vegetable soups for a bright, unique flavor.
When purchasing rosemary, fresh is superior because it's more subtle than the pungent dried form. Fresh rosemary can be refrigerated in a Ziploc bag for several weeks; dried rosemary should be kept in an airtight container in a cool, dark, and dry place to keep for several months.
To make your own rosemary-infused oil, place a sprig or two of completely dry rosemary leaves into a glass jar, top with olive oil, replace the lid, and shake lightly. Store in a warm, dark place for two weeks, strain, and then simply pour back into the glass jar. Use ¼ cup for a fragrant bath or blend with balsamic vinegar to drizzle all over a salad for a delicious dressing.
Health Benefits of Rosemary
For centuries, one of the most common medicinal uses for rosemary has involved improving memory, not just for the flavor it adds to food. This herb, especially the flower tops, contains antibacterial and antioxidant rosmarinic acid, plus several essential oils such as cineol, camphene, borneol, bornyl acetate, and α-pinene that are known to have anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and antiseptic properties.
Most recipes call for a few teaspoons of rosemary rather than 100 grams, but the above chart indicates the balance of nutrients, which are many. The same amount provides 16% of the daily value of vitamin A for free radical-zapping antioxidant properties, vision protection, healthy skin and mucus membranes, and increased protection from lung and mouth cancers. Mostly renowned for fighting infection, the vitamin C content synthesizes collagen, the protein required for optimal blood vessels, organs, skin, and bones.
Manganese, another of the more prominent minerals in rosemary, plays such a critical antioxidant role in the body - specifically aided by its cofactor superoxide dismutase - that it's associated with lowering the risk of cancer, specifically breast cancer.
Rosemary also contains iron (part of the hemoglobin inside red blood cells, determining how much oxygen the blood will carry) and potassium (a component in cell and body fluids which helps control heart rate and blood pressure). There's also fiber, copper, calcium, and magnesium, and an abundance of B vitamins, such as pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, riboflavin, folates, useful for DNA synthesis and for women just prior to conception, which helps prevent neural tube defects in newborns.
Being concentrated, the dried version of rosemary provides a bit more of everything: 93 calories, 12 grams of fiber and 45% of the daily value in iron, 35% of the calcium, 29% of the vitamin C and 18% of the vitamin A needed each day.
|Calories from Fat||1|
|Total Fat||0 g||0%|
|Saturated Fat||0 g||0%|
|Total Carbohydrates||0 g||0%|
|Dietary Fiber||0.2 g||1%|
|Vitamin A 1%||Vitamin C||1%|
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie
Studies Done on Rosemary
Scientists tested 144 healthy volunteers (who were deceived regarding the purpose of the study) to assess the olfactory impact of the essential oils of lavender, rosemary, and no odor (control) on cognitive performance and mood.
The randomly assigned subjects were given visual analogue mood questionnaires both prior to and following exposure to the odor. 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 control.
The control and lavender groups were significantly less alert than the rosemary group, but the control group was significantly less content than the rosemary and lavender conditions. The findings indicated that the fragrance of these essential oils can produce objective effects on cognitive performance and mood.1
A placebo-controlled, dose-increased clinical study was conducted on dried rosemary leaf powder due to its traditional reputation of reducing cognitive decline in the elderly. The lowest dose of rosemary (750 ml) had a statistically significant beneficial effect compared with placebo, whereas the highest dose (6,000 mg) had a significant impairing effect, as well as significant deleterious (less consistent) effects on other measures of cognitive performance.
Speed of memory is a potentially useful predictor of cognitive function during aging. The positive effect of the dose nearest normal culinary consumption was determined to indicate the value of further study of low dose/longer term testing of rosemary.2
As recent studies have shown rosemary to have chemopreventive and therapeutic properties, one study evaluated the anti-proliferation activity of rosemary extract against human ovarian cancer cells, and whether its three main active ingredients carnosol, carnosic acid, and rosmarinic acid can enhance the antiproliferation activity of cisplatin (which can cause serious side effects, such as hearing loss, kidney problems, and severe allergic reactions).3 The study showed that rosemary extract inhibited the proliferation of ovarian cancer cell lines.4
Rosemary Healthy Recipes:
Lemon Rosemary Salmon
✓ 1 lemon, thinly sliced
✓ 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
✓ 2 salmon filets, bones and skin removed
✓ Salt to taste
✓ 1 tablespoon olive oil, or as needed
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange half the lemon slices in a single layer in a baking dish. Layer with 2 rosemary sprigs, and top with salmon fillets.
- Sprinkle salmon with salt, layer with remaining rosemary sprigs, and top with remaining lemon slices. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes in preheated oven, or until fish is easily flaked with a fork.
Rosemary Fun Facts
During Medieval times, rosemary was believed to grow only in the gardens of the righteous. Sixteenth century Europeans also carried it in the heads of walking sticks to ward off the plague.
Ironic, isn't it, that the taste and aroma of rosemary, often used for improving memory, is unforgettable? This ancient herb from the Mediterranean, whether fresh or dried, is one of the most popular for kitchen use, and can be added to soups, sandwiches, cheese, dips, and even for making infused oil. But with the wide array of nutritional benefits rosemary provides, what this herb does for human health is truly remarkable.
The litany of vitamins and minerals in rosemary is a long one, with corresponding uses in the body for each. Unique compounds and oils include rosmarinic acid and essential oils such as cineol, camphene, borneol, bornyl acetate, and α-pinene, providing anti-inflammation, anti-fungal, antibacterial, and antiseptic properties. And research provides ample evidence that rosemary not only improves memory, but helps fight cancer.
Isn't it great that all we have to do to improve our health is to eat "close to the earth" – or in this case, the herb garden?
- 1 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12690999, Aromas of rosemary and lavender essential oils differentially affect cognition and mood in healthy adults, Oct. 2012
- 2 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21877951, Short-term study on the effects of rosemary on cognitive function in an elderly population, Oct. 2012
- 3 http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a684036.html, Cisplatin Injection, Oct. 2012
- 4 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22325591, Antiproliferation effect of Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) on human ovarian cancer cells in vitro, Oct. 2012