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A brief herbal monologue

Written by Kianna Ewan & Ashley Bissonnette-Murphy


The use of rosemary dates back to 500 B.C. (at least in the written record) to the Ancient Greeks and Romans. The herb was used as medicine, in beauty remedies, a cognitive enhancement, and perfume. (7) The scientific name Rosmarinus officinalis Albus is derived from a Latin word meaning "dew of the sea" because it prefers to grow close to the sea in areas of the Mediterranean. (2) The herb is largely cultivated in Southern Europe and a small portion of Asia, where temperatures are cool, rainfall low, and most like the climate in the Mediterranean. (1)

Rosemary has a strong association with the dead, and sacred remembrance. Ancient Egyptians were known to lay this plant around the bodies of dead pharaohs in tombs, and Europeans centuries later used the plant to treat and protect against the bubonic plague. The graves were so numerous during the plague, it was used to safeguard grave robbers from the lethal disease. (6) 

In ancient Greece, students would wear rosemary before exams as they believed it could improve their memory. (19) Folklore from around the world details the herb as a tool to ward off evil spirits and witches, making it an overall protector to those who used it. (11) One popular tale is that the flowers of this plant turned blue after they were covered by the blue cloak of the Virgin Mary, helping her flee from Herod when protecting the baby messiah. (10) 

Today, Rosemary is popular for its hair growth benefits with social media raving over its ability to enhance shine and strengthen damaged hair. (4) According to research in recent years many plants with flavonoids, a metabolite that assists our body with anti-inflammatory functions, can help with hair loss. (4) Flavonoids, help the hair follicle to speed up its cycle towards the growing phase instead of resting, resulting in more hair growth. Rosemary is rich in this metabolite and because of its popularity and accessibility, has been a public favorite. Aside from its hair growth abilities, rosemary-infused oil is also used to soothe skin irritation and to ease sore muscles when applied topically. In aromatherapy, the essential oil is inhaled with controlled breath to relieve stress and elevate mood. (8)


Native to the Mediterranean, Rosmarinus officinalis appears as a fragrant, green perennial shrub with small leaves that resemble needles. Flowers can sometimes be a mixture of blue and white depending on their stage of growth, while the leaves are dark green. The usual height of the plant can vary anywhere from 1-2 meters depending on the plant's environment. (2) The oil content in the fresh leaves ranges anywhere from 0.22% to 1.22%, dried leaves containing approximately 2%, and the flowers of rosemary approximately 1.4%. (19)

Primary Uses

  • In Aromatherapy, rosemary is used to enliven the senses and awaken the nervous system, increasing blood circulation to the body and brain; (19)

  • Topical sore muscle relief;

  • Menstrual pain relief, popular in folk medicine to soothe spasms during menstrual periods and aid renal colic; (2)

  • To stop hair loss and stimulate hair growth. Used in hair oil treatments or creams to restore health and length; (4)

  • Herb for seasoning culinary dishes and improving digestion;

  • Anti-inflammatory and antispasmotic to the digestive tract. Rosemary leaf extract can be used to soothe the muscles of the trachea and intestines if irritated. (2)

Hair Preparation: add a few drops (2-4% dilution) of rosemary essential oil to castor oil, apply to the scalp, and massage well to encourage hair growth.

Standardized Preparations

Rosemary is taken as tea, powdered into capsules, infused in oils, cooked with rich meats, baked into bread, used in toothcare (18), and so much more.


Rosemary is rich in flavonoids, terpenols, phenols, antioxidants (caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, carnosolic acid), ursolic acid, and glucocolic acid. (12) The plant is also rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Vitamin B6. The herb is rich in rosmanaric acid which helps synthesize many essential amino acids in the body. (2)


Drug Interactions & Adverse Effects

There are no well-documented drug interactions with rosemary.


Although it is not common, contact dermatitis can occur. Photosensitivity has also been reported in some cases of topical use when large doses of the herb applied increased the skin's sensitivity to the sun. To prevent skin irritation, a patch test is recommended. (3)




1      Achour, M., Mateos, R., Ben Fredj, M., Mtiraoui, A., Bravo, L., & Saguem, S. (2018). A comprehensive characterization of rosemary tea obtained from Rosmarinus officinalis L. collected in a sub‐humid area of Tunisia. Phytochemical analysis29(1), 87-100.

2      Al-Sereiti, M. R., Abu-Amer, K. M., & Sena, P. (1999). Pharmacology of rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis Linn.) and its therapeutic potentials.

3      Barnes J, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD. Herbal Medicines. 3rd ed. Pharmaceutical Press; 2007: 508-511.

4      Begum, Asia, et al. "Evaluation of herbal hair lotion loaded with rosemary for possible hair growth in C57BL/6 mice." Advanced Biomedical Research 12.1 (2023): 60.

5      Burnett KM, Solterbeck LA, Strapp CM. Scent and mood state following an anxiety-provoking task. Psychol Rep. 2004;95(2):707-722.15587240

6      Chalchat, J. C., Garry, R. P., Michet, A., Benjilali, B., & Chabart, J. L. (1993). Essential oils of rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L.). The chemical composition of oils of various origins (Morocco, Spain, France). Journal of essential oil research5(6), 613-618.

7      Charles, Denys J., and Denys J. Charles. "Rosemary." Antioxidant properties of spices, herbs and other sources(2013): 495-507.

8      Duke J, Bogenschutz-Godwin M, duCellier J, Duke P. Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. 2nd ed. CRC Press; 2002.

9      EFSA Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food (ANS). (2015). Extension of use of extracts of rosemary (E 392) in fat‐based spreads. EFSA Journal13(5), 4090.

10    Etyemez, Senem, and Nurhayat İFLAZOĞLU. "From Mythology to Symbolic Meanings: Spices and Aromatic Herbs in Ancient Times." Journal of Tourism & Gastronomy Studies10.4 (2022): 3444-3457.

11    Field, A., & Scoble, G. (2015). The Meaning of Herbs: Myth, Language & Lore. Chronicle Books.

12    Jiang, Yang, et al. "Chemical composition and antimicrobial activity of the essential oil of Rosemary." Environmental toxicology and pharmacology 32.1 (2011): 63-68.

13    Karimi, Ali et al. “Herbal versus synthetic drugs; beliefs and facts.” Journal of nephropharmacologyvol. 4,1 27-30. 1 Jan. 2015

14    Moss M, Cook J, Wesnes K, Duckett P. Aromas of rosemary and lavender essential oils differentially affect cognition and mood in healthy adults. Int J Neurosci. 2003;113(1):15-38.12690999

15    Pengelly A, Snow J, Mills SY, Scholey A, Wesnes K, Butler LR. Short-term study on the effects of rosemary on cognitive function in an elderly population. J Med Food. 2012;15(1):10-17.21877951

16    Raskovic, A et al. “Analgesic effects of rosemary essential oil and its interactions with codeine and paracetamol in mice.” European review for medical and pharmacological sciences vol. 19,1 (2015): 165-72.

17    Ribeiro-Santos, Regiane, et al. "A novel insight on an ancient aromatic plant: The rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L.)." Trends in Food Science & Technology 45.2 (2015): 355-368.

18    Valones MAA, Silva ICG, Gueiros LAM, Leão JC, Caldas AF Jr, Carvalho AAT. Clinical assessment of rosemary-based toothpaste (Rosmarinus officinalis Linn.): a randomized controlled double-blind study. Braz Dent J. 2019;30(2):146-151.30970057

19    Vârban, D. I., Vârban, R., Ghețe, A., Odagiu, A., & Czako, R. Ş. (2018). The influence of some products on the rooting of Rosmarinus officinalis L. cuttings.


***This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease***








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