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  • Rosmarinus officinalis L.
  • Labiatae
  • Mint family

Common Names

herbsGarden rosemary
herbsMi-tieh-hsiang (Chinese name)
herbsRosemary plant

Parts Usually Used

Leaves and flowers

Description of Plant(s) and Culture

Rosemary is an evergreen shrub with numerous branches; ash-colored. scaly bark and bears opposite, leathery, thick leaves which are lustrous and dark green above and downy white underneath. They have a prominent vein in the middle and margins which are rolled down. The pale blue, sometimes white, relatively small, flowers grow in short axillary racemes, arranged in false whorls on the upper parts of the branches, blooming during April and May, or later in cooler climates. Zone 5.

Because it is not winter-hardy, it seldom succeeds in finding a home in the gardens north of Florida and southern California, but it is frequently grown in flower pots. Rosemary needs an alkaline soil in a sunny, well-drained spot. To harvest, cut 4-inch sections from the tip of the plant.

Varieties of rosemary: Prostratus, Collingwood Ingram, Tuscan blue, Arp, Hardy Hill.

Where Found

Originated in the Mediterranean are and is now widely cultivated for its aromatic leaves and as a kitchen seasoning.

Medicinal Properties

Stimulant, diaphoretic, carminative, nervine, aromatic, cephalic antispasmodic.

Legends, Myths and Stories

In the sixth century Charlemagne decreed that rosemary should be grown in all the imperial gardens, and it was beloved by the Romans long before that. Romans made crowns and garlands of Rosemary. Centuries later, Anne of Cleves, bride of King Henry VIII, "wore on her head a circlet of gold and precious stones set full with dainty twigs of Rosemary."

In Queen Elizabeth's time, this herb was considered an emblem of fidelity to lovers and was worn at weddings, funerals, and to give to friends.

They were used in sick rooms to "correct the air" when infections were present. The dried leaves were shredded and used in a pipe like tobacco to help a cough. Used in herbal or tobacco mixtures in England, where smoking was first introduced by Sir Walter Raleigh. The ashes of burnt Rosemary was rubbed on loose teeth to fasten and beautify.

Rosemary's name is derived from its Latin name Rosmarinus, meaning "dew of the sea" and referring to its blue flowers or to the fact that this herb thrives by the seashore, especially in Spain where its thick growth covers the cliffs.

To explain the range in the color of rosemary's flowers from a pale bluish-white to a deep blue, Christian legend claims that flowers were originally white but were turned varying shade of blue when Mary hung her blue cloak over a rosemary bush. Since the rosemary plant seldom grows higher than a man's height, it was believed that rosemary grew to the height of Christ in 33 years, and after that it grew thicker but not higher.

13th century manuscript: If the leaves be put beneath your pillow, you will be well protected from troublesome dreams and all mental anxiety. Used as a lotion, this herb or its oil will cure all pains in the head, and a spoonful of the herb mixed with honey and melted butter cannot but help your coughing.

Rosemary was taken by the Roman Empire to China during the reign of Wenti of the Wei dynasty (452 AD). Valued for its fragrance, it was used in perfume, and when burned it was supposed to drive away demons and mosquitoes.

Through the ages, many legends have been woven about many plants, but probably none as fanciful as those of rosemary. Most of the following legends were from sources more than 300 years old:

"Old English belief: where Rosemary flourishes, woman rules."

"See the Rosemary in vinegar or wine, and let a thief wash his feet therein, and he shall neither rob, steale, nor fright any man."

"Lay Rosemary on thy pillow, to keepe thee from all evill dreams."

"To be delivered from all evills, boyle the leaves of Rosemary in strong vinegar and apply them to thy stomach."


A fine tonic for the scalp and skin, adds luster to the hair and is a common ingredient of many commercial shampoos.

A valuable heart and liver tonic and also helps reduce high blood pressure. Used to treat 'nerves', digestive disorders, palsy, weak memory, dizziness, migraine, dandruff, stimulates hair growth, restore appetite, gas, clears sight, jaundice, consumption, and menstrual pains.

An old fashioned remedy for colds, colic, and nervous conditions. Very good for headaches. Should be taken warm for these complaints.

It acts to raise blood pressure and improve circulation.

Good as a mouthwash for bad breath, gums, and sore throat. Aids digestion, cough, consumption, and strengthens the eyes.

Because of the real danger of poisoning, rosemary is more often used externally. Leaves cooked in wine or a salve made from rosemary oil is useful for rheumatism, sores, eczema, bruises, age spots, marks and scars, and wounds.

An infusion of the leaves has also been used, alone or with borax, as a scalp wash to prevent baldness.

The leaves are used for flavoring. The oil is used as a perfume for ointments and liniments. Is reported to prevent premature baldness.

Today, rosemary is still regarded as an antidote to mental fatigue and forgetfulness. A tisane (tea) of this herb is becoming popular with tired businessmen and students who find it refreshing and a good natural remedy for bringing added agility to the intellect.

Formulas or Dosages

Infusion: steep 1 tsp. dried flowering tops or leaves in 1/2 cup water. Take up to 1 cup per day.

Tea: prepare ordinary tea, put a pinch of ground ginger in the drink for variety. Drink 3 or 4 cups per day.

Tincture: a dose is from 5 to 20 drops.

How Sold

Sold commercially as a spice.


Excessive amounts of rosemary taken internally can cause fatal poisoning.

Rosemary oil may not be taken internally, because it irritates the stomach, intestinal tract, and kidneys.

Pregnant women should not drink rosemary tea.

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