Rosemary Herb - September Featured Herb


Rosemary is a hardy bushy perennial shrub with aromatic, evergreen leaves and pale-blue flowers around the stem. Its leaves look like flat pine-tree needles, deep green in color on top while silver-white on their underside. As an evergreen, Rosemary is available throughout the year. Rosemary belongs to the Labiatae family that is related to mint. The leaves and flowers as well as the essential oil are used.

Found in abundance near seashores, the Rosemary herb gets its name from the Latin words meaning "dew" and "of the sea". Although Rosemary is native to the Mediterranean, it now grows throughout much of the temperate regions in Europe, Asia and America.

Looking like a small sprig from an evergreen tree the wonderful smell and assertively pine-like fragrance and pungent flavor of Rosemary goes a long way to flavor to chicken, lamb, pork, salmon and tuna dishes as well as many soups, salads and sauces. It is most often used in cooking but has a wonderful woodsy scent and is also great in air fresheners and aromatherapy mixes.

Concentrated extracts like Rosemary Oil should be used externally, though the dried herb can be taken internally when used in cooking. Some research suggests that it has anti-cancer properties. It is also a super antioxidant food that can ward off disease, and help you live a long, active, and healthy life. Its memorable flavor and unique health benefits makes it an indispensable herb for every home.

History

Rosemary's history as a symbolic and medicinal herb goes back for thousands of years. Since ancient times it was a symbol of friendship, loyalty, and remembrance. Rosemary plant and its extract were used by the ancient Egyptian civilization as incense.

Part of Rosemary's popularity came from the widespread belief that Rosemary stimulated and strengthened the memory, a quality for which it is still used. In ancient Greece, students would place Rosemary sprigs in their hair when studying for exams, and mourners would also throw the fragrant herb into the grave of the deceased as a symbol of remembrance.

The Romans gave special importance to the Rosemary plant and used it frequently in religious ceremonies. It was also used during wedding ceremonies, food preparation, cosmetic care, and medicinal herbal care. Brides wore Rosemary wreathes as a symbol of their love and fidelity, believing that this beautiful herb was a gift from the goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite.

In the thirteenth century, Queen Elisabeth of Hungary who suffered from crippling gout and rheumatism claimed at 72 years old that drinking Rosemary water helped her regain her beauty and strength.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, Rosemary became popular as a digestive aid in apothecaries. The Rosemary herb was burned in sick chambers to purify air, and during the Plague of 1665, it was carried and sniffed to protect against contamination. Reinforcing its antiseptic uses, Rosemary was burned in French hospitals to kill germs during World War II.

In olde England, Rosemary's ability to fortify the memory transformed it into a symbol of fidelity, and it played an important role in the costumes, decorations and gifts used at weddings.

Nutritional Profile

Rosemary is a good source of the minerals iron and calcium, as well as dietary fiber. Fresh Rosemary has 25% more manganese (which is somehow lost in the process of drying) and 40% less calcium and iron, probably due to the higher water content.

Current Uses

Recently, as modern research focuses on the beneficial active components in Rosemary, our appreciation for this herb's therapeutic as well as culinary value has been renewed.

Rosemary is such an extremely useful herb, with so many culinary, medicinal and aromatherapy attributes that it is an indispensable herb for your home. Even the twigs, stripped of their leaves find use as kindling and as a aromatic addition to barbecue fires. It is not surprising that the taste and aroma of the herb Rosemary, historically used for strengthening the memory, is unforgettable. Rosemary has a unique pine-like fragrant flavor that is balanced by a rich pungency, a combination that evokes both the forest and the sea.

Cooking with Rosemary

Rosemary is used widely in Mediterranean cooking and the fresh or dried leaves are used to flavor meat (especially lamb and kid), sausages, stuffing, soups, stews and to make tea. The flowers can also be added to salads. Unlike milder herbs, Rosemary can withstand longer cooking times, and lends itself well to roasted meats, chicken and hearty stews. Rosemary leaves are often added to meat dishes because it is particularly helpful in digesting meat, particularly lamb, beef and pork. A few teaspoons of chopped Rosemary lends a tangy taste to biscuits as well. Rosemary vinegars are an excellent and healthy way to dress cold vegetables and salads.

Health Properties

The wonderful smell of Rosemary is often associated with good food and great times. But it could just as easily be associated with good health.

The Rosemary herb can be used for: circulation problems and improvements, muscle pain, nerve and sciatic pain, eczema, rheumatism, blocked menstrual flow, liver congestion, halitosis, enhancing and stimulating the immune system because it increases the rate of perspiration and toxin removal, adrenal fatigue, fever reduction, digestive upset, bloating, cramping, antibacterial purposes, fungal infections including candida. Rosemary is a tonic, astringent and restorative herb that relaxes spasm and stimulates the liver and gall bladder. It improves digestion and circulation and controls pathogenic organisms (anti-parasitic). It has antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, antioxidant, smooth muscle modulating, analgesic and venotonic properties. Rosemary also contains anti-inflammatory compounds that may make it useful for reducing the severity of asthma attacks.

Help for the Mind

Rosemary probably became known as the herb of remembrance because of its stimulating effects on the mind. It's a warming, stimulating herb that increases the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your head and brain, which may be one reason why it improves concentration and is such a good memory booster. In addition, the compounds in Rosemary herb are said to prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine, which is a chemical that induces the brain cells that are responsible for memory and reasoning to communicate with one another.

Antioxidant

Because it is a well-established antioxidant, you will definitely want to include this wonderful herb in your arsenal against disease! It's been shown to prevent mutations in your DNA (particularly in the liver and the bronchial cells) that are caused by disease causing chemicals and toxins which can lead to cancerous growths. What's more, in spite of the increased awareness and media attention that skin cancer has been getting in the last decade or more, few of us know that the Rosemary herb helps protect your skin. Well over a decade ago scientists confirmed that the antioxidant components of Rosemary called carnosol and ursollic acid were effective in preventing the deadly skin cancer melanoma.

Antibacterial

As an antibacterial, Rosemary is really special because it cleanses the blood and helps control the growth of many pathogenic bacteria without killing the good microflora (beneficial bacteria and yeast) in your body and therefore does not throw off the balance of your inner ecosystem. It prevents the growth of fungal infections like candida and kills yeast infections maintaining true vitality.

Uses

Here are a few different ways to use Rosemary herb:

Internal Use

Internally, it is best added to foods as a cooking spice, though a mild tea of Rosemary Leaf can help fight illness when sipped.
  1. It is used with great success for dyspeptic complaints, flatulence and to stimulate appetite and the secretion of gastric juices.
  2. It is also used as supportive therapy for rheumatism and circulatory problems.
  3. Furthermore it is used for headaches, as well as for nervous complaints.
  4. A Few Quick Serving Ideas:
  5. Tea
    Steep one teaspoon of Rosemary in 1 cup of hot water for 5-10 minutes, then strain off. Drink before meals for better digestion and liver support. Rosemary tea should not be used regularly but only for a few consecutive days, every month.
  6. For colds and to fight infections: Rosemary Tincture - add 1/2 c Rosemary needles to 2 c of vodka and allow to sit for 2 weeks. Strain and use 1/ dropperful every 2 hours for a couple of days. Then use 2 time daily for about 2 weeks. This treats colds and infections and is also good to clean cuts and scrapes. It removes bacteria and prevents infections.

External Use

  1. Externally, Rosemary is very often used in hair care products and lotions as it stimulates the hair follicles to renewed activity and to prevent premature baldness and its antiseptic qualities helps with scurf and dandruff.
  2. It has two important properties - it is an outstanding free radical scavenger and therefore has amazing antioxidant properties, and secondly has an remarkable stimulating effect on the skin.
  3. It has rubefacient properties helping to increase circulation and therefore is most useful when an increase of blood flow is required or when below-par circulation needs to be rectified.
  4. It can also be used in mouth rinses and gargles.
  5. Rosemary can be infused into an oil and used externally for skin irritations like eczema and joint problems like arthritis.
  6. It has also been reported to speed healing of wounds and bruises when used externally.
  7. A favorite natural air-freshener is to put a small handful of Rosemary Leaf, 1 sliced lemon or orange, a splash of vanilla and 1 cup of water into a sauce pot and simmer on low all day (watch the water levels). It smells amazing and freshens the house for days
  8. Rosemary supposedly deters small pests like mice. Several people have recommended tucking small sprigs of dried Rosemary into the backs of cabinets to ward of mice and rats during the winter.
  9. Rosemary is also helpful in warding off smaller pests like mosquitos.
  10. Rosemary Antioxidant Extract is a very effective natural preservative that can extend the shelf life of homemade lotions, cosmetics or other homemade body products.

Safety

Because of its effect on menstrual cycles, women who are pregnant are advised against using Rosemary. Rosemary is not a commonly allergenic food and is not known to contain measurable amounts of oxalates or purines.

How to Select and Store

The sprigs of fresh Rosemary should look vibrantly fresh and should be deep sage green in color, and free from yellow or dark spots.

Fresh Rosemary should be stored in the refrigerator either in its original packaging or wrapped in a slightly damp paper towel. You can also place the Rosemary sprigs in ice cube trays covered with either water or stock that can be added when preparing soups or stews. Dried Rosemary should be kept in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dark and dry place where it will keep fresh for about six months.

Tips for Preparing Rosemary

Quickly rinse Rosemary under cool running water and pat dry. Most recipes call for Rosemary leaves, which can be easily removed from the stem. Alternatively, you can add the whole sprig to season soups, stews and meat dishes, then simply remove it before serving.

References

  1. The Great Encyclopaedia of Healing Stones, Fragrances and Herbs, published by Methusalem, 2008.
  2. Herbal Home Remedies, published by Llewllyn Publications, 1992 and 2004.
  3. http://bodyecology.com/articles/rosemary_super_antioxidant_memory_booster.php#.UfsaqlPlUk8
  4. http://wellnessmama.com/5193/herb-profile-rosemary/
  5. http://www.anniesremedy.com/herb_detail51.php
  6. http://www.ageless.co.za/herb-rosemary.htm
  7. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=75