Rosemary herb is used frequently for culinary purposes and yet most of us do not realise its multiple health benefits. Rosemary’s origins lie in the Mediterranean and it is a very hardy plant with silvery leaves which exude a pine type fragrance due to their essential oil content. Rosemary leaves are best picked in early summer before the plant flowers and can be used fresh or dried. Rosemary leaves are often used with meat dishes or sprinkled onto vegetables such as potatoes and tomatoes for a pleasant flavour.
Rosemary has a long history of traditional use as a medicinal herb and was recommended for a myriad of health concerns from boosting the immune system to the growth of hair. Ancient Greek scholars wore rosemary garlands on their heads to improve memory; Shakespeare mentioned rosemary in several of his plays, and in the 13th Century, Queen Elizabeth of Hungary was responsible for a tonic called ‘Hungary Water’ which contained rosemary in alcohol and was credited with curing a wide range of ailments. During the bubonic plague in Europe, rosemary was burned to purify the air and prevent infection.
What are the health benefits of rosemary?
Although the anecdotal benefits of rosemary have been known through history, it is only recently that scientists have been investigating the herb in order to substantiate these claims. Rosemary contains a vast array of chemical compounds which display potent antioxidant properties. Two of the most researched compounds rosmarinic acid and carnosic acid have been found to supress inflammation, possess antioxidant properties and protect various structures within our bodies through a variety of mechanisms. Various studies indicate that rosemary may be beneficial for:
- Preventing Macular Degeneration – The compound carnosic acid found in rosemary leaves has been found to be of benefit in the prevention of Age-Related Macular Degeneration.
- Infections – Rosemary tea is often used as a gargle to combat throat infections since rosemary herb displays powerful antibacterial properties.
- Diabetes – In a study conducted by the American Chemical Society, rosemary was found to inhibit an enzyme which promotes the secretion of insulin. This led researchers to conclude that rosemary could be useful to prevent and treat diabetes. Although some cases of diabetes can be controlled with diet and exercise, many patients lack the discipline to follow a successful regimen. In addition, anti-diabetic drugs can be expensive and are not without side effects. On the other hand, herbs such as rosemary offer a safe and natural way of reducing blood glucose.
- Anti-inflammatory – Rosemary contains high levels of phytochemicals, including gallic acid, a potent antioxidant. Gallic acid also displays anti-fungal, anti-viral and cell protective properties. When fats are burned for energy, the by-products of this process are very harmful and can damage cells and structures within our bodies. Rosemary has been found to combat this type of damage very effectively. Additionally, rosemary’s anti-inflammatory properties have been found to ease breathing difficulties and allergies.
- Nutritive – Rosemary is a good source of B vitamins, copper, potassium, magnesium, manganese, calcium and iron. It is also a good source of fibre, vitamins A and E. Manganese works alongside superoxide dismutase to try and prevent and protect against cell mutation.
- Memory, concentration and Alzheimer’s – Accounting for an estimated 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases in the world, Alzheimer’s disease is a major health challenge globally. The accepted theory is one of a particular chemical which degrades the nerve cells in the brain resulting in a whole host of symptoms aside from memory and cognitive decline. Certain drugs may help with the symptoms of Alzheimer’s however a cure for this disease does not seem to be within sight. It is in this sector that the most exciting research is being carried out. Containing rosmarinic acid and carnosic acid, these two compounds have been found to exhibit some exciting properties. Carnosic acid appears to boost circulation in the brain and has been shown to enhance the production of nerve growth factors (NGF); protein structures responsible for the survival and repair of nerve cells. Rosmarinic acid has been shown to protect brain cells from plaque which is known to cause degeneration and death of the nerve cells in the brain. This plaque is now considered the primary culprit in Alzheimer’s disease.
- Encourages a healthy heart – Rosemary is known to dilate blood vessels which helps to reduce blood pressure. Additionally, it is known to inhibit the oxidation of bad cholesterol which causes this type of cholesterol to stick to the walls of arteries. Finally, rosemary may help prevent platelets from sticking together to form a clot which is a risk factor for heart disease.
These are just some of the benefits of rosemary herb and of course there are other benefits associated with rosemary oil, which is often used in muscle balms to relieve fatigue and alleviate pain as well as in hair preparations for conditioning hair and stimulating hair growth.
What is the best rosemary herb supplement?
The supplement of choice if you are considering using rosemary is Rosemary Extract by Swanson with a dose of one capsule twice a day. Each capsule provides 500mg of standardised rosemary leaf extract which guarantees purity and strength.
Rosemary is generally considered as safe but should not be used as a supplement during pregnancy or whilst breast-feeding although it is safe for these groups to use rosemary leaves in small quantities for seasoning foods. People with epilepsy, colitis, diverticulitis and ulcers should not use rosemary supplements.
Rosemary could well be the herb that allows us to live longer by protecting our brain, heart, liver and lungs.