Rosemary is a popular herb most commonly used in cooking to add flavor to food. While its culinary potential knows no bounds, what’s not so commonly known is that rosemary also has many health benefits.
Rosemary, or Rosmarinus officianalis, grows natively in the sunny and warm climates of Asia and the Mediterranean. Its fragrant evergreen needles come in a variety of colors, including purple, blue, pink, or white.
Rosemary leaves are often used as a seasoning for food, especially in Mediterranean and Italian cuisines. Since the leaves are aromatic and sweet, they can also be added to flavor meats and soups. Use whole sprigs of rosemary for seasoning poultry, as in this roasted chicken recipe. The herb is also a great addition to side dishes, such as in this recipe for roasted rosemary root vegetables.
Rosemary has wide-ranging health benefits that are the subject of much current research.
Sometimes all you need to destress is a soothing scent. Rosemary oil is often used in aromatherapy, and this rosemary and spearmint tincture works well to help clear your mind.
One study of 20 adults published in Scientia Pharmaceutica found that inhaling rosemary oil can increase brain wave activity, decrease drowsiness, and even improve your mood.
Other research, an animal study, published in the journal Fitoterapia indicates that rosemary leaf extract might be able to treat and prevent dementia. Another study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food indicated that rosemary might improve cognitive function among older people.
In addition to the benefits rosemary has on your mental state of mind, it can also fight serious physical problems. According to one study done on mice reported in the journal Cancer Research, rosemary could possibly be used in skin cancer treatments to help reduce the spread of cancer cells. The study found that application of rosemary extract helped block skin tumor cells.
Rosemary extracts have also been found to inhibit the growth of some cancer cells, such as the cells in lung carcinoma. Another study published in the journal Biofactors revealed that rosemary works as an antioxidant by protecting healthy cells.
Alopecia is a disease that causes hair loss, and it can be uncomfortable for many people. However, rosemary has been shown in some instances to help treat the disease. In one study, published in the Archives of Dermatology, 43 people with alopecia massaged their scalps with essential oils of rosemary, thyme, lavender, and cedarwood daily for seven months. Almost half of them saw hair growth. Researchers concluded that these essential oils are a safe and effective treatment for alopecia.
Medicinal use of rosemary is gaining more traction worldwide. Germany’s version of the FDA, the German Commission E, approves the use of rosemary oil to treat joint pain and circulation problems. They also approve the use of rosemary leaves to help treat various digestive issues.
While rosemary can be beneficial to your health, it’s not for everyone to use. The herb should only be taken in small doses. Avoid rosemary if you’re pregnant or nursing, as it can be an abortifacient, a product that could stimulate an abortion. Patients with high blood pressure should also avoid taking rosemary as a supplement.
Though culinary use of rosemary is safe, you should always consult with your doctor before trying any new supplements or treatments. Check to see if rosemary oils will interfere with your diabetes or blood thinner medication. If your doctor gives you the all clear to use rosemary, you know it can certainly contribute to your health.
Medically reviewed by Natalie Butler, RD, LD on May 27, 2016 — Written by Summer Fanous