Herb: Rosemary

Latin name: Rosmarinus officinalis

Family: Labiatae

Medicinal use of Rosemary:

Rosemary is commonly grown in the herb garden as a domestic remedy, used especially as a tonic and pick-me-up when feeling depressed, mentally tired, nervous etc. Research has shown that the plant is rich in volatile oils, flavanoids and phenolic acids, which are strongly antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. Rosmarinic acid has potential in the treatment of toxic shock syndrome, whilst the flavonoid diosmin is reputedly more effective than rutin in reducing capillary fragility. Rosmarol, an extract from the leaves, has shown remarkably high antioxidant activity. The whole plant is antiseptic, antispasmodic, aromatic, astringent, cardiac, carminative, cholagogue, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, nervine, stimulant, stomachic and tonic. An infusion of the flowering stems made in a closed container to prevent the steam from escaping is effective in treating headaches, colic, colds and nervous diseases. A distilled water from the flowers is used as an eyewash. The leaves can be harvested in the spring or summer and used fresh, they can also be dried for later use. This remedy should not be prescribed for pregnant women since in excess it can cause an abortion. An essential oil distilled from the stems and leaves is often used medicinally, that distilled from the flowering tops is superior but not often available. The oil is applied externally as a rubefacient, added to liniments, rubbed into the temples to treat headaches and used internally as a stomachic and nervine. The essential oil is used in aromatherapy. Its keyword is "Stimulant".

Description of the plant:


150 cm
(5 feet)

March to


Habitat of the herb:

Dry scrub and rocky places, especially near the sea.

Edible parts of Rosemary:

Young shoots, leaves and flowers - raw or cooked. The leaves have a very strong flavour that is bitter and somewhat resinous, the flowers are somewhat milder. They are used in small quantities as a flavouring in soups and stews, with vegetables such as peas and spinach, and with sweet dishes such as biscuits cakes, jams and jellies. They can be used fresh or dried.The leaves have a tough texture and so should either be used very finely chopped, or in sprigs that can be removed after cooking. A fragrant tea is made from the fresh or dried leaves. It is said to be especially nice when mixed with tansy.

Other uses of the herb:

The growing plant is said to repel insects from neighbouring plants. Branches or sachets of the leaves are often placed in clothes cupboards to keep moths away. An infusion of the dried plant (both leaves and flowers) is used in shampoos. When combined with borax and used cold, it is one of the best hair washes known and is effective against dandruff. An essential oil is obtained from the leaves and flowering stems. One kilo of oil is obtained from 200 kilos of flowering stems. The oil is used in perfumery, soaps, medicinally etc. It is often added to hair lotions and is said to prevent premature baldness. The leaves are burnt as an incense, fumigant and disinfectant. The cultivar "Prostratus" can be used as a ground cover in a sunny position. This cultivar is the least hardy form of the species. The plant can be grown as a hedge, it is fairly resistant to maritime exposure, though when this is coupled with very cold weather the plants can suffer severely. Any trimming is best carried out after the plant has flowered. The cultivar "Miss Jessopp's Upright" is particularly suitable for hedging. "Fastigiatus" is also very suitable. A yellow-green dye is obtained from the leaves and flowers.

Propagation of Rosemary:

Seed - sow spring in a cold frame or greenhouse. Germination can be slow. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow on in a greenhouse or cold frame for their first winter. Plant out in late spring or early summer. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 10 - 18 cm with a heel, July/August in a frame or shady border. Very easy, they usually root within 3 weeks. It is best to give the plants some protection for their first winter and then plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer. Cuttings of young shoots in spring in a frame. They usually root well within 3 weeks, prick them out into individual pots and plant them out during the summer. Layering in summer.

Cultivation of the herb:

Dry scrub and rocky places, especially near the sea.

Known hazards of Rosmarinus officinalis:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.