Herb: Wild Rosemary

Latin name: Ledum palustre

Family: Ericaceae (Heath Family)

Medicinal use of Wild Rosemary:

The leaves and young flowering shoots are astringent, diaphoretic, disinfectant, diuretic, laxative, pectoral, stomachic and tonic. The plant is more strongly narcotic than L. groenlandicum and should not be used without expert supervision. A tea is taken internally in the treatment of asthma, coughs, colds, stomach aches, kidney ailments etc. Externally, it is used as a wash for burns, ulcers, stings, infections etc. A homeopathic remedy is made from the whole, dried and powdered, plant. This is used in the treatment of stings, injuries and joint pains. It is also used in the treatment of various chest complaint, asthma, menstrual pain etc.

Description of the plant:


100 cm
(3 1/4 foot)

to June


Habitat of the herb:

Possibly native to Britain in acid bogs near Bridge of Allan in Sterling and Perth. A rare escape elsewhere in Britain.

Edible parts of Wild Rosemary:

A tea is made from the aromatic leaves. Considered by some to be a better tea than that made from L. groenlandicum. Some caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity. It would be better to brew the tea in cold water by leaving it in a sunny place, or to make sure that it is brewed for a short time only in an open container. The leaves are used as a flavouring, they are a bayleaf substitute. The plant has been used as a hop substitute in making beer, though this has caused an unpleasant kind of drunkenness which is accompanied by a headache and dizziness.

Other uses of the herb:

The leaves are hung up in the clothes cupboard in order to repel insects. The branches are also placed among grain in order to keep mice away. A strong decoction of the leaves is used to kill lice and insects. The leaves contain tannin.

Propagation of Wild Rosemary:

Seed - surface sow in a shady part of the greenhouse in February or March. Another report says that the seed is best sown in the autumn as soon as it is ripe. Germination is variable and can be quite slow. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle and grow the pots on in a shady frame for 18 months before planting them out into their permanent positions. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 5 - 8cm with a heel, July/August in a frame. Plant out in spring. Fair percentage. Cuttings of mature wood, November/December in a frame. Layering in the autumn. Takes 12 months. Division.

Cultivation of the herb:

Possibly native to Britain in acid bogs near Bridge of Allan in Sterling and Perth. A rare escape elsewhere in Britain.

Known hazards of Ledum palustre:

Plants contain a narcotic toxin called Ledel. This toxin only causes problems if the leaves are cooked for a long period in a closed container.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.