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Herbal Monograph

Herb:     Rosemary   (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Other Names:    polar plant, compass-weed, compass plant  (2; Romero  (57)

Character/Energetics:    warming, dry, pungent, bitter   (15)    

Meridians/Organs/Bosy Parts affected:   stomach, intestines, liver, nerves and lungs  (14)           

Part(s) used: leaves and twigs.    (8)     leaves, flowers  (14);   aerial parts  (15)

Identification & Harvesting:    An aromatic, evergreen, branched shrub, .5-1.5 m high with erect or slightly decumbent brown branches, somewhat pubescent when young, becoming woody.  Leaves are simple, linear, opposite, hairy beneath, up to 1.5″ x .2″.  Has a very pungent aroma.  Flowers are bluish, labiate, springing from axils in the upper green part of branches.  Conspicuous venation.  Flower corolla is 1/2″ long.  Brown nutlet.  Cultivated in the Mediterranean, central Asia, India, SE Asia, South Africa, Australia, US.  Most of the supply comes from Morocco, Spain, Tunisia, France.    (2)

Leaves may be gathered throughout summer but are at their best during flowering time.    (8)

harvest fresh year-round.    (15)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Stem somewhat woody, square.  Leaves linear obtuse, dark green above, white below, with branched stellate hairs, the margins strongly revolute.  Flowers, when present, bluish lilac, two-lipped.  Tastes aromatic.  Characteristic odor.    (57)

A tender shrub in the mint family, native to the Med from Spain and Portugal south to Morocco and Tunisia.  Some is produced commercially in US, but most is imported.    (61)

Active Constituents:    Volatile oils 1-2.5%, chiefly 1,8-cineole 20-50%, alpha-pinene 15-25%, camphor 10-25%, camphene, borneol, isobutyl acetate, beta-caryophyllene, p-cymene, limonene, linalool, myrcene, alpha-terpineol, verbenol;  bitter diterpenes incl. carnosolic acid (picrosalvin), isorosmanol, rosmadial, rosmaridiphenol, rosmariquinone;  caffeic acid derivatives, chiefly rosmarinic acid;  flavonoids incl. cirsimarin, diosmin, hesperidin, homoplantiginin, phegopolin;  triterpenes, chiefly oleanolic acid 10%, ursolic acid 5%.    (2)

1% volatile oils incl. borneol, linalol, camphene, cineole and camphor;  tannins;  bitter principle;  resins.    (8)

volatile oil, bitter, tannin    (15)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Actions:    Spasmolytic effects on the gall bladder ducts, upper intestine;  positive inotropic with resultant increase in coronary circulation.  The oil improves circulation when applied externally.    (2)

carminative, aromatic, anti-spasmodic, anti-depressant, antiseptic, rubefacient, parasiticide.  Acts as a circulatory and nervine stimulant;  also stimulates hair follicles  (8}; aromatic, carminative, diaphoretic, stimulant, astringent  (14)

Aerial parts:   astringent, digestive remedy, nervine, carminative, antiseptic, diuretic,              promote swaeting, promote bile flow, antidepressant, circulatory stimulant, antispasmodic, restorative tonic for nervous system, cardiac tonic  

Essential Oil: 

Topical: increases blood flow to an area, analgesic, antirheumatic, stimulant  (15)                                                                                                                                                                

Tonic, astringent, diaphoretic.  Also an excellent stomachic and nervine.    (57)

Antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory;  also stimulates increased coronary blood flow.  Contains several potent antioxidants, which has led to commercial use of extracts as preservatives.  Antioxidant and antihepatic activity comparable to milk thistle have also been demonstrated.  Significant hyperglycemic and insulin release inhibitory actions in animals have been identified in the essential oil.  Studies suggest it may protect against development of tumors.   (61)

Conditions & Uses:    Treats hypertension, liver and gallbladder complaints, rheumatism.  Folk uses include a poultice for poorly healing wounds or eczema.    (2)

Effective against tension-induced flatulent dyspepsia, headache or depression.  May be externally applied to ease muscular pain, sciatica and neuralgia.  The essential oil may delay premature baldness.  (8)

Aerial parts:   ideal in exhaustion, weakness and depression, the aerial parts invigorate the circulation, stimulate the digestion, and are good for “cold” conditions, including chills and rheumatism. They are useful for headaches that are eased by warm towels rather than ice packs….also useful for psoriasis affecting the scalp.                       

General tonic for nervous and circulatory systems; good for people who tire quickly and for the elderly and debilitated.

Essential Oil: The oil makes a stimulating rub for arthritic conditions and is also used as a hair tonic, encouraging growth and restoring color. Extracts are commonly found in commercial shampoos.   (15)


Colds: Infusion

Digestive tonic: Infusion, fluid extract

Gas: Fluid extract, infusion

Migraine headaches: Infusion, oil

Nervousness: Infusion

Prostate congestion: Fluid extract *, Infusion*, Powder*


Baldness: Hair rinse with the infusion

Joint pains and sore muscles: liniment

Migraine headaches: rub diluted oil (one part rosemary with 10 parts vegetable oil) on                                        forehead and temples. Also use as a nasal vapor bath.     (14)

* When the method of application is followed by an asterisk, it indicates that the herb is usually used in combination with other herbs when treating the indicated problem.

Cures many cases of headache.  Used externally, an infusion combined with borax makes a good hair wash and will prevent premature baldness.    (57)

Traditionally thought to strengthen memory and comfort the brain.  Was valued as a diuretic, antispasmodic, aromatic, digestive stimulant;  as a treatment for dysmenorrhea.  Leaves have been applied externally for eczema and slow-healing wounds.  Currently used to treat upset stomach, gas, fullness;  as an appetite stimulant, to promote gastric secretion;  for dyspeptic complaints and rheumatism;  as a counterirritant to stimulate blood circulation.    (61)

Combinations:    For depression, combine with skullcap, kola and oats.    (8)

Combine with oats, skullcap, or  vervain for depression….

Can be combined with tonics such as wood betony and motherwort (for low blood pressure)   (15)                                                                                                                      

Precautions:  Occasional contact allergies.  Contraindicated during pregnancy.  Very large doses can cause abortion, and may lead to deep coma, spasms, vomiting, gastroenteritis, uterine bleeding, kidney irritation, or death.    (2)

It will raise the blood pressure….Do not drink rosemary tea in excessive amounts. Three cups daily seems to be the limit in most cases.   (14)                                                       

May have adverse effects on the uterus or fetus.  No side effects, contraindications or drug interactions are reported in the leaf, but the essential oil can cause gastroenteritis or kidney damage.  Generally safe for food flavoring.    (61)                                                                                                                                

Tincturing Process:

Applications:    The tea is good for gas, colic, indigestion, nausea and fevers. It will promote liver function, the production of bile and improve circulation. It will raise the blood pressure. The oil added to linaments and salves is good for rheumatism, eczema, arthritis and wounds. The tea is a good hair rinse and makes a useful mouthwash for halitosis.  (14)      

Aerial parts: Infusion–take the hot infusion for colds, influenza, rheumatic pains, and  indigestion; also as a stimulating drink for fatigue or headaches.    

Take an infusion or up to 10 ml tincture a day (for low blood pressure); massage diluted oil into the chest over the heart.

Tincture–Take as a stimulant tonic. Combine with oats, skullcap, or vervain for depression.

Compress–Soak a pad in the hot infusion and use for sprains. Alternate two to three minutes of the hot compress with two to three minutes of    applying an ice pack to the injury.                     

Hair Rinse–Use an infusion as a hair rinse; macerate 15g herb in 250 ml ordinary shampoo for two weeks before using. Add stinging nettle root to                                the rinse as a circulatory stimulant and cleansing tonic.

Essential Oil–Add 10 drops to the bath to soothe aching limbs or to act as a stimulant in nervous exhaustion.

Massage Oil–Dilute 1 ml rosemary oil in 25 ml sunflower or almond oil and massage into aching joints and muscles, into the scalp to stimulate hair                                     growth, or use on the temples for headaches (15)


Dosage:        Infusion–steep 5-15 minutes. 2 oz. 3x daily

                     Tincture–5 to 20 drops 3x daily                                                                                                          Oil–1/2 to 3 drops 3x daily

                             Powder–5 to 15 #0 capsules (30 to 60 grains) 3x daily   (14)                      

Steep 1 tsp dried leaf in 1 cup hot water for 10-15 min, up to 3 x daily.    (61)

General Notes:    “If thou be feeble boyle the leaves in cleane water and washe thyself and thou shalt be shiny…smell it oft and it shall keep thee youngly.”    (Banckes’ Herbal, 1525)                                                                                                             

A favorite herb both medicinally and as a symbol for remembrance, rosemary is a Mediterranean shrub that gradually spread north and was reputedly first grown in England by Philippia of Hainault, wife of Edward lll, in the 14th century. The plant is an excellent tonic and all-round stimulant, and has always been regarded as uplifing and energizing: gerard says that it “comforteth the harte and make it merie.”    (15)

“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance.” — Ophelia in Hamlet.    (61)



(2)  PDR for Herbal Medicines (Medical Economics Co., 1998), pgs. 1101-02

(8)  The New Holistic Herbal by David Hoffman, p. 229

(14) Natural Healing With Herbs by Humbart Santillo BS, MH, pgs. 168-169

(15) The Complete Medicinal Herbal by Penelope Ody, pgs. 92, 146-147-148-149

(57) Potter’s Cyclopaedia by R.C. Wren, F.L.S., pgs. 298-99

(61) 101 Medicinal Herbs by Steven Foster, pgs. 174-75


PHOTO: Wikipedia