Its analgesic and antioxidant benefits linger long after its pungent, peppery taste has disappeared.
A Multitude of Health Benefits
Hamlet’s Ophelia speaks of rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) for remembrance—and for good reason. Several substances in this herb (some readily absorbable through the skin) help prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine, a brain chemical whose deficiency has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. “Rosemary (and the similarly acting sage) is a perfect complementary adjunct to Ginkgo biloba in your herbal arsenal against Alzheimer’s disease and the loss of cerebral blood circulation,” says herbalist James A. Duke, PhD. Rosemary’s many anti-oxidants help protect the capillaries, making it useful against hardening of the arteries, cataracts, and heart disease. Cineole in this herb even serves as a pick-me-up in the central nervous system.
German practitioners commonly prescribe rosemary tea for digestive problems. Others recommend this tea or tincture for dyspepsia, headache, some forms of depression, and fatigue. As an antimicrobial, rosemary is one more herb to consider during cold and flu season.
Used externally, rosemary can help ease muscular pain, neuralgia, and sciatica. Its oil also stimulates hair follicles and improves circulation to the scalp, so you’re likely to find it in natural products for premature baldness. One recent study suggests that “rosemary could have cosmetic benefits and may represent an efficient tool to minimize free radical-induced skin damage.”
A Safe Multitasker
Rosemary is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) in the United States. In fact, the food industry has discovered that adding this herb to healthy fats increases the oxidative stability of oils.
While there are no known contraindications, rosemary tea or tincture should not be taken with iron supplements, as this herb’s phenols may inhibit that mineral’s absorption. Supplements are compatible with breastfeeding. Even though there’s no evidence of harmful effects from the herb on the fetus during pregnancy, the camphor in rosemary essential oil makes many practitioners advise against it. Also, “people with epilepsy should be careful,” Dr. Duke says, because camphor is a volatile oil “known for causing convulsions.” Used topically, carnosol in rosemary extract, its oil, and even the needle-like leaves may cause allergic contact dermatitis in rare cases.
Dr. Duke considers taking this herb safer than drinking coffee. Recommended adult dosage: 6 to 12 g daily of dried leaf or herbal infusion (tea), or its equivalent in tablet or capsule.