The benefits of Rosemary to the brain are many, with much research having been conducted on its ability to protect and enhance brain function. One of the active ingredients of this herb is “carnosic acid”, a powerful antioxidant compound that is particularly effective at fighting free radicals in the brain. Interestingly, this antioxidant doesn’t target the free radicals until they start to damage brain cells.1 As well as its potent and selective antioxidant capacity, carnosic acid also stimulates the brain to produce the “nerve growth factor” (NGF), crucial to a healthy brain and nervous system.
Carnosic acid may also protect against Alzheimer’s disease. A 2011 study published in “Cell Journal” found that it “may be useful in protecting against beta amyloid-induced neurodegeneration in the hippocampus.” Another Japanese study found that the carnosic acid in Rosemary prevents brain aging.3
One of the major constituents of Rosemary is the phytochemical 1,8-cineole. It is this compound that has been heavily researched for its ability to enhance memory, concentration, cognitive performance and mood.
One study published in “Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology” journal was undertaken to assess the potential pharmacological relationships between absorbed 1,8-cineole following exposure to Rosemary aroma, cognitive performance and mood. The results showed, “that performance on cognitive tasks is significantly related to concentration of absorbed 1,8-cineole following exposure to rosemary aroma, with improved performance at higher concentrations. Furthermore, these effects were found for speed and accuracy outcomes, indicating that the relationship is not describing a speed–accuracy trade off.”2
Another famous Rosemary benefit is that it can stimulate hair growth. Rubbing Rosemary essential oil that has been diluted in the appropriate carrier oil will stimulate blood circulation in the scalp, which in turn promotes hair growth.
The many nutrients and anti-inflammatory properties of Rosemary will nourish the hair follicles and soothe an inflamed, itchy scalp. It also unclogs the follicles, providing a natural dandruff remedy, and moisturises the scalp.
Furthermore, carnosic acid was found to heal tissue and nerve endings – including those of the scalp – which can help to restore hair growth.
Another potent active ingredient found in Rosemary is known as rosmarinic acid, and it is this compound that is responsible for the pain killing and anti-inflammatory effects of this herb.
A 2008 study at the Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, State University of Maringá in Brazil found that rosmarinic acid reduces inflammation and fluid build-up whilst also acting as a painkiller.
In 2003, the “Journal of Rheumatology” published a study that looked at rosmarinic acid and its ability to modulate the immune system’s response to threats. It found that it can reduce inflammation without shutting down the immune response completely. It demonstrated rosmarinic acid’s effectiveness in reducing the hyperactivity found in immune tissues that results in rheumatoid arthritis. It was also found to reduce fluid build-up in joints.4
During the Bubonic Plague in the 14th century, people rubbed Rosemary on themselves to keep the plague away. We now know that Rosemary’s leaves contain the chemical linalool which is an excellent flea repellent and as it is also now well known, fleas carried and transmitted plague to people.
A study published in the journal, "Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science", led by Dr Stuart A. Lipton, PhD and colleagues at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, revealed that the carnosic acid in rosemary can significantly promote eye health. They found it could have clinical applications for diseases affecting the outer retina, such as age-related macular degeneration - the most common eye disease affecting people as they age.7
Folklore and history
The history of Rosemary is a story covering thousands of years. Beginning with the written word as early as the fifth millennium BCE, references to Rosemary were found written in cuneiform on the Sumerian stone tablets.
Revered by the ancient Greeks and Romans, Rosemary captivated these peoples for its mystical and healing powers. Hellenistic and Roman gardens almost always contained rosemary bushes. Moreover, Rosemary was believed to grow only in the gardens of the righteous and protected one from evil spirits.
Brought to Britain with the Roman armies, over the centuries Rosemary has spread its influence through Europe and eventually to the New World. In addition to the widespread belief in its cosmetic benefit, Rosemary is mentioned many times throughout the annals of European history for its properties of purification and healing powers.
Medicinally, Rosemary has a wealth of traditional uses. In one of the earliest herbals known to be printed in England, Rycharde Banckes recommended that one gather leaves of Rosemary and “…boyle them in fayre water and drinke that water for it is much worthe against all manner of evils in the body."
Indeed, Rosemary was once thought to be a cure for poor digestion, migraine, joint disorders, and muscle aches. Queen Elizabeth of Hungary was reputedly cured of semi-paralysis when she sipped a concoction of this herb to ease her painful joints. Hence, this formula came to be known as the infamous "Hungary Water".
Rosemary is a Mediterranean evergreen herb that is a member of the mint family. Its botanical name, “Rosmarinus”, literally means “dew of the sea”, thought to be derived from the ancient legend that wherever one hears the sea, Rosemary grows.
Also known as the “herb of remembrance”, Rosemary is notorious for it benefits to the brain and its ability to promote clear thinking and sharp memory. With its unique, zingy refreshing scent, Rosemary has a long history of traditional use. Scholars of ancient Greece wore wreaths of Rosemary around the brow whilst sitting exams to improve recall. It also has a place among wedding herbs, with sprigs of Rosemary given out to guests to help them remember the happy occasion.
1-2ml of the tincture can be taken up to 3 times per day. It should not be taken for more than 6 weeks.
Use 1 teaspoon of cut leaf per 1 cup of hot water, steep for 10 minutes.
Rosemary Essential Oil
Can be used in the bath, or vapourised in an oil burner. It can be added to a massage oil or cream. Use 6-8 drops per bath and 10 -18 drops per 30ml of carrier oil. See Essential Oil Dosage Chart
About 1% volatile oil (containing 2-5% esters, mainly borneol acetate and 10-18% free alcohols including borneol and linalol), camphor, camphene and cineole; flavonoids (diosmin, apigenin, diosmetin, genkwanin, 6-methoxygenkwanin, hispidulin, sinensetin, luteolin and derivatives), phenolic acids (rosmarinic and others); diterpenes such as carnosilic acid , picrosalvin (carnosol), and rosmariquinone; triterpenic acids (ursolic and oleanic acids and derivatives); carnosic acid (rosmaricine).
Rosemary should be avoided during pregnancy because it is a uterine stimulant. Excessive amounts can cause symptoms of poisoning. It should also be avoided by epileptics.