In ancient Greece, students wore rosemary garlands while studying for exams as they believed it would improve memory. Because of rosemary’s association with memory, it became a symbol for friendship and love.
Rosemary was a part of wedding ceremonies, either worn by the bride or as part of the bouquet as a symbol of fidelity.
In the Middle Ages rosemary was used to ward off demons and to prevent bad dreams by placing a sprig of rosemary under the pillow. The demons may have a connection with illness as Banckes Herbal in 1525 noted that rosemary tea has “much worthe against all manner of evils in the body.”
In France during World War II rosemary leaves and juniper were burned in hospitals to kill germs.
Research has found antibacterial properties in rosemary oil. Rosemary has a long list of uses and properties such as an antibacterial, antioxidant, astringent, carminative, emmenagogue, expectorant, diaphoretic, nervine, stimulant and tonic. The tea has been used for headaches, depression, nervous diseases, colds and colic. It has also been used for asthma and other lung and throat conditions. The aromatic essential oils found in rosemary calm and soothe irritated nerves and upset stomach and help relieve strenuous anxiety. Rosemary has substantial amounts of minerals, including calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium and potassium, that are needed by cardiac muscles and nerves for proper function. This may be why rosemary has been used for heart palpitations and improving circulation.
Rosemary stimulates the production of bile and aids in proper digestion. It also stimulates the kidneys and helps with edema. Traditionally, rosemary wine was used for these effects. Rosemary has been found to have significant antioxidant properties. Studies suggest that rosemary’s antioxidant actions may be better than the popular milk thistle or vitamin C.
Externally, rosemary has been noted to be beneficial to hair by stimulating hair bulbs and preventing premature baldness. Additionally, it is an excellent remedy for dandruff and eczema. A rosemary scalp wash is easily made by making a tea with rosemary leaves and sprigs, letting it cool and then rinsing the scalp. Rosemary ointment is also beneficial for rheumatism, sores, eczema, bruises and wounds. Considering all of its wonderful uses, rosemary’s history will continue as a significant herb for good health for a long time to come.
- Grieve, M. A Modern Herbal Vol. II. Dover Publications, 1982.
- Kowalchik, C. & Hylton, W. Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs. Rodale Press, 1987.
- Lust, J. The Herb Book, Bantam Books, 1974.
- Mowrey, D. Scientific Validation of Herbal Medicine, Cormorant Books, 1986.
* From Spring 1998 Herbal Insights.
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