Rosmarinus officinalis is an evergreen shrub native to the Mediterranean region and is commonly used as a spice in a number of ethnic cuisines. With its pungent aroma, rosemary has been used as a flavoring agent as well as for its medicinal qualities for hundreds – if not thousands – of years. Rosemary tea may help support digestion, promote cognitive function and act as an antioxidant, protecting the body from heart disease and cancer.
Rosemary has shown promise in supporting circulation to the brain and in potentially preventing diseases like Alzheimer's. Along with increasing peripheral circulation, rosemary contains a constituent called carnosic acid which is a potent antioxidant that may protect neurons from free-radical damage, according to a report in the August 2008 issue of the “Journal of Neurochemistry.” Another study published in the “Journal of Medicinal Food” in January of 2010 demonstrated that small doses of rosemary enhanced memory speed in elderly adults.
Traditionally, rosemary has been used to calm digestive distress and indigestion, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Rosemary is approved by the German Commission E as a safe and effective herbal treatment for dyspepsia. Master herbalist Susan Weed also suggests rosemary to treat spasmodic digestive complaints like gas and gall bladder disorders.
Rosemary oil has been widely used to support hair growth and prevent alopecia, according to research published in the "Journal of the American Medical Association Dermatology" in 1998. Weed states that rosemary tea can also be used as a wash to support scalp health and hair growth. She suggests brewing a full ounce of dried rosemary in a quart of water overnight to use as a post-shampoo hair rinse to stimulate hair growth. Rosemary tea can also be mixed with borax and used as a natural dandruff solution.
Precautions and Warnings
While the use of herbs to treat common complaints has long historical roots, it is best to discuss herbal therapies with your doctor or other qualified health care professional. Rosemary should be avoided in pregnancy – at least in large quantities – due to its uterine-stimulating properties, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Use as a spice is considered safe for everyone, but large doses of rosemary may cause vomiting, spasm, coma or fluid in the lungs. Rosemary may interact with some pharmaceutical drugs like blood thinners, ACE inhibitors, diuretics and lithium. Always consult your doctor before using any herbs if you are taking pharmaceutical medications.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Rosemary
- Herbal Medicine From the Heart of the Earth; Sharol Tilgner, N.D.
- Journal of Neurochemistry: Carnosic Acid, a Catechol-Type Electrophilic Compound, Protects Neurons Both in Vitro and in Vivo Through Activation of the Keap1/Nrf2 Pathway via S-Alkylation of Targeted Cysteines on Keap1
- Journal of Medicinal Food: Short-Term Study on the Effects of Rosemary on Cognitive Function in an Elderly Population
- Wise Woman Herbal Ezine with Susan Weed: Now Remember Rosemary
- Journal of the American Medical Association Dermatology: Randomized Trial of Aromatherapy -- Successful Treatment for Alopecia Areata
Amy Myszko is a certified clinical herbalist and nutritional consultant who has been helping people find greater health and balance through diet, lifestyle and natural remedies since 2006. She received her certification from the North American Institute of Medical Herbalism in Boulder, Colo. Myszko also holds a BA in literature from the University of Colorado.