Rosemary is the jewel of the herb garden. Versatile and aromatic, it’s a favourite ingredient for jazzing up dishes like lamb, chicken and roasted potatoes. It’s native to the Mediterranean and belongs to the mint (Lamiacea) family alongside other culinary herbs such as oregano, thyme and basil.

It’s official name ‘Rosmarinus officinalis’ means ‘dew of the sea.’ Its delicate blue flowers were thought to look like morning dew against the cliffs. Rosemary is a symbol of remembrance. In Hamlet, Shakespeare wrote, ‘There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance.’[1] Sprigs of rosemary are sometimes still worn at funerals to honour the deceased.

Aside from its culinary and symbolic value, rosemary is packed full of health benefits too. It’s a good source of iron and calcium and is rich in Vitamins A, C and B-6.

Like many medicinal herbs, there is not enough scientific evidence to prove whether they’re effective in treating various ailments. However, here’s a few ways rosemary may support our health.

Improves mood and boosts memory

Rosemary has a pungent scent. You only have to rub it between your fingers to release its intoxicating oils.

It’s bitter-sweet, earthy smell may have a positive impact on your brain. One study found that inhaling rosemary 4-10 minutes before a mental test, improved participants concentration and performance.[2] Another study discovered that rosemary oil stimulated the brain and improved participant’s mood.

Rosemary is packed full of antioxidants so it’s no wonder that inhaling a few drops can help soothe the nervous system and alleviate feelings of anxiety.

Supports brain health

Rosemary is believed to keep the brain functioning healthily, fighting against neurodegenerative disease like Alzheimer’s. A clinical study concluded that rosemary oil improves both long- and short-term memory and boots cognitive function.

Aids digestion

Hippocrates, the father of medicine, recommended rosemary for stomach upsets. Its anti-inflammatory properties soothe the liver and kidneys and it can ease heartburn and acid reflux.

May stimulate hair growth

Rosemary is a common ingredient in shampoo. It gently activates the stem cells which stimulates hair growth. It’s also a treatment for hair loss. And unlike many chemical remedies, it won’t leave you with an itchy scalp.

Other potential uses

  • colds
  • toothache
  • watery eyes and vision
  • weight loss
  • heart health
Side effects: Like all herbs, rosemary should be consumed in moderation. When ingested in large quantities, it can produce unpleasant side effects such as vomiting and spasms. It can lead to more serious conditions such as coma or pulmonary edema. Excessive amounts can also induce miscarriage so pregnant women should consume rosemary mindfully. Seek medical advice if you experience any side effects.

Where to find Rosemary

Rosemary is readily available. As it takes a long time to grow from seed, it’s recommended to buy young plants or to take cuttings after established plants have flowered.

You can buy rosemary plants very cheaply in the fresh herb section of supermarkets. Supermarket herbs tend to die quickly due to being crammed into a small pot, causing weak root structure. It’s a good idea to divide the plant to create lots more healthy rosemary plants!

  1. Water the Rosemary well and gently squeeze it out of its pot.
  2. Carefully work the roots apart, dividing the plants into smaller root clumps.
  3. Place them in individual pots and pack in well with peat-free compost.
  4. Keep in a sheltered, sunny spot. Make sure there’s plenty of drainage as rosemary hates wet roots! Water regularly during dry spells.

Taking Rosemary cuttings

hand cutting a green fresh rosemary branch in seasoning garden

Taking Rosemary cuttings is a great way to make more plants for free!

  • Step 1: With a pair of sharp scissors, snip off new shoots just below the leaf node. Aim for 10-15cm long. Strip the lower leaves to reveal a long length of stem.
  • Step 2: Fill pots with gritty compost.
  • Step 3: Insert Rosemary cuttings around the edges. Don’t be afraid to pack them in.  Water well.
  • Step 4: Keep the soil moist. Allow the cuttings to develop roots over the next few weeks.
  • Step 5: When the cuttings have rooted, transfer them to bigger pots.

How to harvest and store Rosemary

It’s best harvested at the beginning of the day. Snip off a few stems as required. They’re best used fresh but can be stored in a sealed bag. Or if you’re not going to use them for a couple of days, keep them submerged in a jug of water in the fridge. The leaves can be used fresh or dry.

How to use Rosemary

  • Rosemary tea: Plunge a few rosemary stems into a cup of boiling water and allow it to infuse. Place a coaster over the top of the cup to trap the aromatic oils. A cup of rosemary tea aids digestions so it’s a great choice if you’re feeling bloated or uncomfortable.
  • Rosemary water: Keep a jug of water in the fridge, infused with sprigs of rosemary. Add slices of lemon and cucumber for an added anti-oxidant kick! It’ll help you keep hydrated when you’re studying or working whilst giving you all the health benefits.
  • Diffusing essential oil: If you’re feeling a little anxious or depressed, try diffusing some rosemary essential oil to lift your mood.
  • Applying oil: Applying rosemary oil to your pressure points while you study can help improve your concentration. You can buy rosemary aromatherapy roller balls which are pocket sized – very handy for when you’re on the go!
  • Rosemary sachets: Many people put lavender sachets into their drawers to make their clothes smell nice. Alternatively, you can fill an empty cotton bag with Rosemary leaves or simply pop a few sprigs into your drawers.
  • Hair rinse: Add 3 tbsps of rosemary leaves and 3 cups of water to a pan. Bring to the boil and then reduce heat and allow it to simmer. When it’s cool, slowly pour over the liquid over freshly washed hair as a final rinse.

Conclusion

Rosemary is a wonderfully versatile and healing herb. Not only is it delicious for cooking, its aroma can help boost your mood, improve concentration, aid digestion and support cognitive function, alongside a myriad of other uses. Rosemary is easy to look after and you can produce a lot of new plants. There multiple ways to reap the health benefits of this aromatic herb.

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