Everything About Rosemary (10 Benefits & Uses, Folklore, Recipes, and the Science of the Herb)
Rosemary: You either love this herb or choose not to use it…but I don’t think anyone truly dislikes it. After all, there is so much to love! Rosemary is rich in folktales, culinary and medicinal uses, and even cleaning and skincare benefits! The pungent aroma wakes a person up, and refreshes a space. In fact, rosemary essential oil is one of the more popular for beginners! Let’s find out about rosemary and all the things (including a few recipes) you can do with her!
“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love and remember.” —W. Shakespeare
All About Rosemary: Benefits, Uses, A Few Recipes, Folktales, & How to Grow
How to Grow Rosemary
Rosemary is such a fun herb! She’s a perennial in southern gardens, and in fact, in southern Nevada, did quite well in the hard, rocky soil there. Here in N. Idaho, however, I have to grow rosemary as an annual or else in a pot I bring in during the cold winters.
Rosemary is drought tolerant, so if you’re in an area lacking in precipitation, that’s ok! Rosemary can do quite well with occasional deep watering, allowing the soil to dry in between.
She loves sunny locations and thrives in full sun, even in the hottest of places, like Las Vegas, NV. If you’re going to bring rosemary indoors for the winter, or try to grow it inside all year long, you’ll want the sunniest window possible.
Another plus is rosemary happens to be deer resistant. If you live in an area where deer are plentiful, like I do, one of the things best to do is find plants the deer don’t like. Rosemary is known for not being a deer treat favorite.
You can cut sprigs of rosemary and root them in water, however, buying a small, established plant is generally much easier to get going and keep alive. I’ve even purchased the herb plugs from the veggie section in the grocery store and started plants with those!
My friend, Kathi over at Oak Hill Homestead has some great advice about propagating sprigs of rosemary!
And here’s another article that’s really cute about how to NOT grow rosemary by my friend, Kathryn at Farming My Backyard. (Don’t be fooled—-there are some great tips in this article!)
And for a very complete tutorial about ALL the ways to grow rosemary, check out my friend, Sarah from The Free Range Life’s, article, How to Grow Rosemary.
FTC Disclosure: There are affiliate links scattered throughout this article. If you click through and make any kind of purchase, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Folktales Abound About Rosemary
This is a FUN section about rosemary. This herb has been used for thousands of years in a variety of spiritual, medicinal, and decorative ways. Even the Greeks wore it around their necks or heads, both for the scent as well as it’s beautiful appearance.
Here are a few fun facts you’ll enjoy:
1) A Dominant Wife
It’s been said for the past few hundred years that if you have a large, healthy rosemary plant growing in your garden, then the wife is dominant in that household. :-) If the plant is straggly and not doing well, or very small, the husband is the dominant one.
Ladies, it’s time to get that rosemary growing! :-)
Rosemary is used in many cultures and some religions for protection and to get rid of negative energy. In olden times, women hung sprigs above the doorways to keep out bad spirits. They also grew it near a door for the same reason.
3) To Smoke Out the Devil
During medieval times, families would burn it in order to “smoke out the devil.” This was a manner of smudging and cleansing an area—-but with a more menacing reason.
4) For Luck
If you plant rosemary by your garden gate, you’ll receive good luck!
5) To Honor Christ
And I love this one: It’s said that a rosemary plant will never grow more than six feet tall in 33 years time so as not to overtake Jesus’ height.
6) A Lovely Name
The Latin name, Rosemarinus, means “dew of the sea.” Rosemary naturally grows near warm coastal areas, like the Mediterranean.
7) Why the Flowers are Blue
The “Mary” in Rosemary comes from Jesus’ mother, the Virgin Mary. It’s said the rosemary plant protected the family of the Virgin Mary. When she laid her cloak over the plant, the flowers turned from white to blue, becoming the “rose of Mary.”
8) Legend of the Four Thieves:
During the Dark Ages, in the time of the great plague, people were dying left and right. In fact, some estimates concur that around 2/3 of the population of Europe expired during this period because the disease was so contagious and rampant.
Well, four thieves had gotten together and had been busy robbing dead bodies and grave sites. One of these thieves happened to be an alchemist, and he had made a special blend of five different aromatic oils for the thieves to spread on their clothes and bodies.
The thieves went about their thievery and never got sick! Not a one of them.
Finally, they were brought before the magistrate who promised them leniency if they would share their secret for not contracting the disease after coming in such close contact over and over again with the diseased and deceased.
It turns out, rosemary oil was one of the ingredients in this special blend! Other oils included clove, cinnamon, eucalyptus, and lemon.
This is now the blend I use when I make homemade antibacterial spray! :-)
Anyhow, it’s a pretty good story, whether or not it’s true!
Now on to more serious stuff about rosemary:
Main Chemicals, Actions, and Energetics:
Name: Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis)
Primary Chemical Constituents: Phenoloic diterpenes, tripertenes, flavonoids
Primary Actions: hepatoprotective, anti-microbial, diureic, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, carminative, and stimulating
Energetics: Warming, drying, stimulating, with a pungent and spicy taste. It’s very useful for cold, stagnant conditions.
Rosemary is a member of the mint family, having square stems and opposite leaves. The leaves are evergreen, and look much like pine needles, as they are about an inch long. The flowers are blue-ish purple, and the bees just love them!
Uses and Benefits of Rosemary
1) For Brain Power and Health
Rosemary is one of the best herbs for brain health, aiding focus, concentration, and memory. In fact, scientific research validates that smelling rosemary during academic activities like taking a test can help improve performance!
Also, because rosemary stimulates circulation in the body, this helps the brain get more blood flow.
Due to rosemary’s anti-oxidant capabilities, it helps protect the brain against free radicle damage. In fact, rosemary may protect the brain again stroke and damage from aging.
2) As a Stimulating Nervine
Rosemary can soothe your spirits, too. The effect is not necessarily calming like lavender is, but rosemary helps create a sense of alertness without the stress response.
3) For the Joints
Since rosemary helps increase circulation, using infused oil or essential oils added to a carrier oil will bring some relief for soothing sore joints. You can also add it to a pain relief salve meant for joints and muscles.
4) For Health of the Scalp and Hair
Rosemary is an herb long touted with being great at helping the hair follicles on your head. It stimulates them, cleans them out, and helps hair to grow. In fact, rosemary essential oil in a carrier oil has been compared to hair loss solutions such as minoxidil.
My friend, Mindy, at Our Inspired Roots has written a wonderful article about how to make a rosemary hair rinse.
5) For a Healthy Mouth:
Due to rosemary’s exceptional antioxidant and antiseptic actions, it’s a wonderful herb to use for the health of your mouth. Ellen at Confessions of an Overworked Mom has an excellent article about using rosemary infused coconut oil as part of your oral care regimen.
I’ve also used rosemary as an ingredient in my herbal mouthwash. This stuff works like a charm, and the health benefits go far beyond your teeth and mouth!
6) As a Digestive Aid:
Since rosemary has carminative properties, it’s very useful for aiding sluggish digestion. In fact, one of the reasons you’ll find rosemary added to meat dishes is that it helps break down the proteins. You can drink a little rosemary tea before or after a meal to help your body digest meats fully.
7) For Fighting Colds & Flu
When used as a tea, rosemary may help you get over a cold or flu more quickly. Also, if you are in the early stages of a fever, feeling cold then hot and shivery, drinking rosemary tea may help stimulate warmth and have slight diaphoretic actions—-helping you sweat it out.
Rosemary is also wonderful for helping open the bronchial passages, and is one of the ingredients in my Vapor Rub Salve.
8) Cosmetic Uses of Rosemary:
Rosemary is wonderful for several skin conditions! It is especially helpful with oily skin, and I’ve used it in my facial cleanser for my teenaged daughter, her friends, and my friends’ daughters with great success! You can find this recipe in Number 3 of the article: Necessities I Never Buy at the Store Anymore and What I Do Instead.
Diane at Suburbia Unwrapped has an excellent recipe for rosemary and mint facial toner.
And since rosemary is such a wonderful herb (and essential oil) for helping with circulation, take a look at these recipes that will help soothe your legs and improve the appearance of cellulite!
And this recipe for Bath Salts for Sinus Congestion Relief uses rosemary too!
9) For Cleaning:
It’s no surprise that rosemary is a terrific additive in cleaning solutions. Rosemary essential oil can help disinfect surfaces, and when used along with a bit of lemon essential oil or lemon juice can create quite the powerful cleaning team!
Here is a recipe for making your own cleaning spray:
1 cup water
1/2 cup white vinegar
Juice from 1/2 lemon and/or a few drops of lemon essential oil
25 drops rosemary essential oil
Shake well, and spray on surfaces. Wipe clean. NOTE: Do not use on wood.
You might also enjoy my Natural All Purpose Lavender Cleaning Spray recipe too!
10) In Cooking:
Rosemary is an excellent herb to use in your general cooking! Especially for meats, research shows rosemary contains compounds that when marinated, helps get rid of carcinogenic toxins called HCA’s (heterocyclic amines) when cooked at high temperatures.
And guess what? It’s a wonderful preservative as well. During medieval times and before refrigeration, rosemary was rubbed into meat to help keep it fresh longer. I’m sure this has to do with it’s antimicrobial and anti-oxidant properties.
Did you know you can make rosemary pesto? What a delicious way to eat this healthy herb! This fun pesto is from my friend, Miss, over at Miss in the Kitchen. I’ll be giving this a try!
Personally, I love adding rosemary to sour dough bread. This recipe for Rosemary-Thyme Sour Dough Tortillas gives a gourmet touch to a favorite Latin bread.
You can also create a delicious rosemary infused olive oil for drizzling over foods or dipping bread. My friend, Caisie, at Building Our Story has a great tutorial for using fresh herbs in infused olive oil. Just a caution: fresh herbs will go bad, and the oil will need refrigeration. You can substitute dried herbs for a long lasting infused oil, but it won’t be as pretty as Caisie’s.
Cynthia, over at What a Girl Eats, has written an entire article about using fresh rosemary in your cooking!
My friend, Ashley at Practical Self-Reliance, has an exceptional tutorial on how to make lamb sausage with red wine and rosemary. Sounds SO good! And one thing you should know about Ashley is that she creates the most amazing and unusual dishes—-this sausage is bound to be awesome!
And another good friend, Cery, from Back to Our Roots, who is just an amazing traditional foods cook shares this recipe for Succulent Herbed Lamb Chops for the Grill!
Want a rosemary drink? Here is a super recipe from Jay and Leah at Gastronom for a Rosemary & Grapefruit Moscow Mule. It sounds heavenly for a summer day!
Safety Factors & Contraindications for Rosemary
Used in simple cooking, rosemary is quite safe. However, when used in therapeutic applications, such as teas, tinctures, and essential oils, care should be taken. Pregnant or nursing women should avoid large doses of rosemary or using the essential oil.
Also, I’ll just put my disclaimer right here: I am not a doctor. Any statement made here is for informational purposes only and not meant to treat, cure, diagnose, or prevent any disease. Before using any herb or essential oil, please be sure to seek advice from your medical professional. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
Final Thoughts on Working with Rosemary in All the Areas of Your Life
What an amazing herb rosemary is! Not only is it beautiful, easy to grow, and a delicious culinary spice…rosemary abounds with health benefits too.
I really believe that food is medicine, and using healing herbs like rosemary in your daily food choices is a wonderful way to get the benefits of the gifts God gave to us in plants.
How do you use rosemary? I’d love your ideas, questions, etc. so please share a comment in the comments section.
You might also enjoy these related articles:
and there are SO many more on the blog! I hope you’ll head over there and browse around!
By the way—-if you are going to purchase dried rosemary, I suggest Starwest Botanicals. You’ll get a much fresher product than you will from the grocery store, and you’ll save tons of money this way, too.
And, for essential oil, I suggest Rocky Mountain Oils because the quality of their essential oils is exceptional and at a much lower price than the large MLM companies.
One last thing: Have you thought about learning how to use herbs, possibly even becoming an herbalist? It’s a great field if you love plants! Take a look at The Herbal Academy of New England’s online courses. They have something for every level of experience and interest.
Hugs, Health, & Self-Reliance,
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Grieve, M. (1931). A Modern Herbal (Vol. 2). New York: Dover