ROSEMARY-Rosemarinus Officinalis, Rosemarinus Prostratus
Also known as: garden rosemary, Moroccan rosemary, Spanish rosemary, rosemary provence, rosemary verbenone
Parts Used: leaves, flowers
Meridians/Organs affected: liver, stomach, spleen, pancreas, blood, nerves, gall bladder
Properties: stimulant, emmenogogue, antispasmodic, tonic, astringent, carminative, diaphoretic, aromatic, cephalic, nervine, antipyretic, anti-inflammatory, stomachic, anodyne, antiseptic, digestive, sudorific, rubefacient
Rosemary is a member of the Lamiaceae family and a native of the Mediterranean. It is a shrub-like plant that has dense, needle-like leaves and pale blue flowers that bloom at different times depending on their location and climate. It is a very aromatic plant that emits a pine like woodsy scent.
Rosemary has an interesting story that has followed it over the centuries. Typically, the rosemary grown in this country gets from between two to four feet tall. However, in the Mediterranean it can get up to six feet tall but will never be found taller than that. It is said that it takes rosemary 33 years to get to a height of six feet tall, which was believed to be the height of Christ (at least they believed this in Mediterranean countries ages ago) and that out of respect to Christ, the plant ceases to grow any taller than He was and will instead spread out at that point. It also was said that as Mary was fleeing Egypt with the Christ child she lost her cloak over a rosemary shrub and that the plant now has blue flowers because it absorbed the color from Mary's cloak.
Rosemary is steeped in a host of religious traditions-it was a symbol of fidelity and remembrance and as such was found at two of the most religious ceremonies in Christendom-marriage and death. Rosemary sprigs were often woven into bridal bouquets or exchanged by the couple at the time of their vows. The sprigs were also presented to the wedding guest as a reminder of virtue. On the opposite end of the spectrum, rosemary also was put upon the graves of the recently departed as a promise that they would not be forgotten.
Rosemary comes from the Latin term "marinus" meaning "dew of the sea" where it was most commonly found. It was one of the very first plants recorded to be used as medicine, as food, and in religious ceremonies. The rosemary flower is said to mean 'remembrance' and there may be something to that as it has been shown to improve memory. This has been known since ancient times as the Greeks would often wear a rosemary garland while studying. The Elizabethans would use rosemary to treat brain disorders, headaches and toothaches. Paracelsus (16th century German physician) used it as the main component in most of his natural remedies. He often used it for illnesses affecting the liver, heart, eyes and brain. The Arabs would use it to restore strength, speech and memory. During the 16th century it was used as an incense by the wealthy, who paid to have perfumers scent their homes with it.
Medieval herbalists used rosemary for all kinds of nervous conditions. They also believed it could restore one's youth and was used by many for just such purposes. This is where the famous 'Hungary water' came from. Elizabeth, the Queen of Hungary, was an older woman who suffered terribly with rheumatic joints. An aged monk (some records also say a hermit), wanting to help his Queen, told her to use the oil of rosemary in alcohol and rub it on her problem areas. She did as instructed and in a year's time she was free of her pain and so vibrant that she won the heart of a man several decades her junior. This herbal formula was supposedly passed down and was recorded in a 1732 edition of a book on herbal remedies. The original formula reads something like this: "Take a handful of foot long tips and chop them into inch-long slivers. Add them to a gallon of brandy. Add almost as much myrtle as rosemary, and let the concoction stand three days. Then distill it to an oily reduction."
Culpeper recommended using rosemary as incense 'to expel the contagion of pestilence.' Decoctions of rosemary tea and rosemary wine were said to cure joint stiffness when applied topically. The tea is also said to help alleviate headaches and restlessness when taken before bed. The infusion was also used as a mouthwash when rosemary was combined with mint and anise.
Theophrastus and Dioscorides used it as a remedy for liver and stomach issues and Hippocrates would use it for disorders of the spleen and liver. Galen also used it for liver disorders, particularly jaundice. European physicians used rosemary oil for arthritis, depression, headaches, coughs, colds, diabetes, memory loss, muscle spasms, migraines and the flu. The British have used it to lower blood cholesterol and strengthen the cardiovascular system. They have also used it for gall bladder problems, hepatitis, colitis, colic, indigestion, asthma, bronchitis, whooping cough, sinusitis, and excess mucus buildup in the body. Both the herb and the oil are highly antiseptic, diuretic, stimulant and cholagogue. It has been found to help with weakness and fatigue, sore muscle, shingles, abscesses and boils, backaches, edema, etc. Surprisingly, what rosemary is most well-known for aside from its culinary aspects is its effectiveness as a hair and scalp treatment. It is tonic and conditioning to the hair and scalp, especially dark hair; and rosemary is said to help retain the color as well. Adding a little oil to shampoos can not only condition the hair but help with dandruff and hair loss.
Rosemary stimulates cell renewal. It can help to heal wounds, burns dry skin, aged skin, acne, broken capillaries, varicose veins, and diminish cellulite. It helps to tighten and tone tissues, strengthen the central nervous system, balance emotions and control mood swings. This is a plant that has so many benefits it rightfully deserves a spot in the herbal first aid kit as well as the culinary shelf.
CAUTION: As a word of caution, rosemary has been shown to elevate the blood pressure; if you suffer from hypertension it is best not to use this herb on a regular basis. It can also be irritating to sensitive skin and the oil has been known to trigger epileptic seizures in a few individuals. PREGNANT WOMEN SHOULD NOT USE THIS HERB ON A REGULAR BASIS AS IT STIMULATES THE UTERUS.
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