As Thanksgiving 2021 approaches, it’s a great time to explore the abundance and value provided by herbs. Throughout history herbal medicine has been the go-to source for health and wellness until very recently. Aside from their therapeutic and aromatic uses, herbs have culinary, decorative, cosmetic and practical household uses as well.
Our first Herb of the Month, Rosemary, is one of the most widely used aromatic herbs and is associated with Thanksgiving. It is often used in stuffing or to perk up a turkey, and rosemary potatoes are a favorite. Soaked in bottles of olive oil or used to season rack of lamb, the flavor is associated with Mediterranean cuisine. Its botanical name ‘rosemary’ is Latin for ‘sea’-’dew’. It grows best by the water, where it was originally found in the Mediterranean region of France, Spain and Portugal.
Today California is one of the leading producers of rosemary. Locally it’s popular as a ground cover or hedge and is often found trailing over retaining walls. Placing fresh boughs of rosemary in a room is said to cool the air. In summer, the woody stems can be used as aromatic barbecue skewers. A simple insect repellent for the garden can be made by boiling and straining the dried leaves.
An essential property of Rosemary is its ability to boost circulation. This accounts for several of its traditional uses. In ancient Greece, students would tie sprigs around their heads to improve memory. “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance” is a famous line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, written centuries later. Besides increasing circulation to the brain, it also can increase blood flow to the scalp, so it is frequently added to shampoos and hair oils. It has also been used as a botanical spray to soften the coats of horses.
Rosemary is part of the famous ‘Thieves’ blend. Folklore tells us that when the Plague was ravaging France during the Middle Ages, some perfumers created a formula that enabled them to rob graves without becoming ill. Recent studies show that rosemary bolsters the immune and respiratory as well as circulatory systems, indicating that there may be a factual basis to the tales. A cosmetic use that comes down to us from around that time, Queen of Hungary water, is an anti-aging, beautifying blend containing rosemary that is still used today. Rosemary is also said to be an effective water purifier.
A natural pick-me-up, rosemary acts on the central nervous system and has often been used for headaches and migraines. The visionary composer, writer and herbalist St. Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) is thought to have suffered from migraines and she included rosemary in her compilation of early German medicines. Because it also enhances cerebral blood flow, rosemary may be useful in preventing Alzheimer’s. As of March 2021, an estimated 6 million Americans suffer from Dementia and Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s has been called ‘Type 4 Diabetes’, so its ability to lower blood sugar may also be part of its benefit to health.
Because rosemary is antibacterial and antimicrobial, a drop or two added to water, adjusted for sensitivity and swished in the mouth can help with bad breath. It will generally tonify the oral microbiome. It is analgesic for pain relief, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antiviral, astringent and antioxidant. Because it is diuretic, it benefits the kidneys. Because it aids in fat digestion, it benefits the liver. It is said to be high in vitamins A, C and calcium. It is also said to contain iron, phosphorus, sodium, potassium and zinc.
- Bad breath
- Blood purifier
- Heart tonic
- High Blood Pressure
- Menstrual problems
- Muscle and Joint pain
- Muscle Spasms
- Nerve Pain
- Stomach disorders
Rosemary can be used as a tincture, tea, rinse, salve, oil or in capsule or pill form. In a diffuser or in other uses involving fragrance, its scent is invigorating, uplifting and may help to alleviate depression and stress.
6 Ways to Use Rosemary Essential Oil
- Put a few drops in a diffuser for a stimulating fragrance.
- Use with a carrier oil for self massage. Many essential oils are too concentrated to use directly on the skin without dilution. Coconut oil is a popular carrier oil and there are other well known ones like jojoba oil, almond oil and rose-hip oil. Rub it on your feet to boost circulation and protect from radiation.
- For a DIY mouthwash, add 1-3 drops to water to kill microbes. This can help with bad breath and with plaque buildup. Dilute enough to avoid sensitivity.
- Use with a carrier oil for scalp massage to promote healthy hair
- A blend of 8 drops of rosemary, 8 drops of fennel and 8 drops of oregano oil using hazelnut oil as a carrier oil is good for massaging cellulite.
- Create a DIY insect repellent by mixing rosemary with a carrier oil at a dilution of 2:1 to discourage mosquitoes.