Rosemary in flower Scientific classification Kingdom: Plantae (unranked): Angiosperms (unranked): Eudicots (unranked): Asterids Order: Lamiales Family: Lamiaceae Genus: Rosmarinus Species: R. officinalis Binomial name Rosmarinus officinalis
Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis, is a woody, perennial herb with fragrant, evergreen, needle-like leaves and white, pink, purple or blue flowers, native to the Mediterranean region. It is a member of the mint family Lamiaceae, which includes many other herbs, and is one of two species in the genus Rosmarinus. The name "rosemary" derives from the Latin name rosmarinus, derived from from "dew" (ros) and "sea" (marinus), or "dew of the sea" because in many locations it needs no water other than the humidity carried by the sea breeze to live. The plant is also sometimes called Anthos, from the ancient Greek word ἄνθος, meaning "flower".
Rosemary is used as a decorative plant in gardens and has many culinary and medical uses. The plant is said to improve the memory and is used as a symbol of remembrance, especially in Australia and New Zealand to commemorate ANZAC Day. The leaves are used to flavor various foods, like stuffings and roast meats. Rosemary contains the antioxidants carnosic acid and rosmarinic acid, and other bioactive compounds including camphor, caffeic acid, ursolic acid, betulinic acid, rosmaridiphenol, and rosmanol. Some of these may be useful in preventing or treating cancers, strokes and Alzheimer's Disease.
Rosmarinus officinalis is one of two species[dubious ] in the genus Rosmarinus. The other species is the closely related, but less commercially viable, Rosmarinus eriocalyx, of the Maghreb of Africa and Iberia. Named by the 18th-century naturalist and founding taxonomist Carolus Linnaeus, it has not undergone much taxonomic change since.
Rosemary is an aromatic evergreen shrub that has leaves similar to pine needles. The leaves are used as a flavouring in foods like stuffings and roast lamb, pork, chicken and turkey. Rosemary is native to the Mediterranean and Asia, but is reasonably hardy in cool climates. Rosemary can withstand droughts, surviving a severe lack of water for lengthy periods.  Forms range from upright to trailing; the upright forms can reach 1.5 m (5 ft) tall, rarely 2 m (6 ft 7 in). The leaves are evergreen, 2–4 cm (0.8–1.6 in) long and 2–5 mm broad, green above, and white below, with dense short woolly hair. The plant flowers in spring and summer in temperate climates but the plants can be in constant bloom in warm climates; flowers are white, pink, purple or deep blue.
The name derives from the Latin words ros marinus, which translate as dew of the sea. According to legend, it was draped around the Greek goddess Aphrodite when she rose from the sea, born of Ouranos's semen. The Virgin Mary is said to have spread her blue cloak over a white-blossomed rosemary bush when she was resting, and the flowers turned blue. The shrub then became known as the 'Rose of Mary'.
Since it is attractive and drought tolerant, Rosemary is used as an ornamental plant in gardens and for xeriscape landscaping, especially in regions of Mediterranean climate. It is considered easy to grow and pest-resistant. Rosemary can grow quite large and retain attractiveness for many years, can be pruned into formal shapes and low hedges and has been used for topiary. It is easily grown in pots. The groundcover cultivars spread widely, with a dense and durable texture.
Rosemary grows on friable loam soil with good drainage in an open sunny position. It will not withstand waterlogging and some varieties are susceptible to frost. It grows best in neutral to alkaline conditions (pH 7–7.8) with average fertility. It can be propagated from an existing plant by clipping a shoot 10–15 cm (4–6 in) long, stripping a few leaves from the bottom, and planting it directly into soil.
Numerous cultivars have been selected for garden use. The following are frequently sold:
- 'Albus' – white flowers
- Arp' – leaves light green, lemon-scented
- 'Aureus' – leaves speckled yellow
- 'Benenden Blue' – leaves narrow, dark green
- 'Blue Boy' – dwarf, small leaves
- 'Golden Rain' – leaves green, with yellow streaks
- 'Gold Dust' -dark green leaves, with golden streaks but stronger than Golden Rain
- 'Irene' – low and lax, trailing, intense blue flowers
- 'Lockwood de Forest' – procumbent selection from 'Tuscan Blue'
- Ken Taylor' – shrubby
- Majorica Pink' – pink flowers
- Miss Jessop's Upright' – distinctive tall fastigate form, with wider leaves.
- 'Pinkie' – pink flowers
- 'Prostratus' - lower groundcover
- 'Pyramidalis (a.k.a. 'Erectus') – fastigate form, pale blue flowers
- 'Roseus' – pink flowers
- 'Salem' – pale blue flowers, cold hardy similar to 'Arp'
- 'Severn Sea' – spreading, low-growing, with arching branches; flowers deep violet
- 'Tuscan Blue' – traditional robust upright form
- 'Wilma's Gold' – yellow leaves
The leaves, both fresh and dried, are used in traditional Mediterranean cuisine. They have a bitter, astringent taste and are highly aromatic, which complements a wide variety of foods. A tisane can be made from the leaves. When burnt, they give off a mustard-like smell and a smell similar to burning wood, which can be used to flavor foods while barbecuing. Rosemary is high in iron, calcium and vitamin B6, 317 mg, 6.65 mg and 0.336 mg per 100 g, respecively. Rosemary extract has been shown to improve the shelf life and heat stability of omega 3-rich oils, which are prone to rancidity.
Rosemary has a very old reputation for improving memory and has been used as a symbol for remembrance during weddings, war commemorations and funerals in Europe and Australia.  Mourners would throw it into graves as a symbol of remembrance for the dead. In Shakespeare's Hamlet, Ophelia says, "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance." (Hamlet, iv. 5.) A modern study lends some credence to this reputation. When the smell of rosemary was pumped into cubicles where people were working, they showed improved memory, though with slower recall.
Hungary water was first prepared for the Queen of Hungary to " ... renovate vitality of paralyzed limbs ... " and to treat gout. It was used externally and prepared by mixing fresh rosemary tops into spirits of wine. Don Quixote (Chapter XVII, 1st volume) mixes it in his recipe of the miraculous balm of Fierabras.
Potential medicinal use
The results of a study suggest carnosic acid, found in rosemary, may shield the brain from free radicals, lowering the risk of strokes and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's disease and Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and is anti-inflammatory. Carnosol is also a promising cancer chemoprevention and anti-cancer agent. A study found that rosemary "produced a significant enhancement of performance for overall quality of memory and secondary memory factors, but also produced an impairment of speed of memory compared to controls."
Rosemary contains a number of potentially biologically active compounds, including antioxidants carnosic acid and rosmarinic acid. Other bioactive compounds include camphor (up to 20% in dry rosemary leaves), caffeic acid, ursolic acid, betulinic acid, rosmaridiphenol and rosmanol. Rosemary antioxidants levels are closely related to soil moisture content. Rosemary may have some anticarcinogenic properties. A study where a powdered form of rosemary was given to rats in a measured amount for two weeks showed a reduction in the binding of a certain carcinogen by 76%, and greatly reduced the formation of mammary tumors.
Folklore and customs
In the Middle Ages, rosemary was associated with wedding ceremonies - the bride would wear a rosemary headpiece and the groom and wedding guests would all wear a sprig of rosemary, and from this association with weddings, rosemary evolved into a love charm. Newlywed couples would plant a branch of rosemary on their wedding day. If the branch grew, it was a good omen for the union and family. In ‘A Modern Herbal’, Mrs Grieves says “A rosemary branch, richly gilded and tied with silken ribands of all colours, was also presented to wedding guests, as a symbol of love and loyalty.” If a young person would tap another with a rosemary sprig and if the sprig contained an open flower, it was said that the couple would fall in love.
Rosemary was used as a divinatory herb. Several herbs were grown in pots and assigned the name of a potential lover. They were left to grow and the plant that grew the strongest and fastest gave the answer. Rosemary was stuffed into poppets (cloth dolls) to attract a lover or attract curative vibrations for illness. It was believed that placing a sprig of rosemary under a pillow before sleep would repel nightmares, and if placed outside the home it would repel witches. Somehow, the use of rosemary in the garden to repel witches turned into signification that the woman ruled the household in homes and gardens where rosemary grew abundantly. By the 16th century, men were known to rip up rosemary bushes to show that they, not their wives, ruled the roost.
Health precautions and toxicology
Rosemary in culinary or therapeutic doses is generally safe, but can cause allergic skin reactions when used in topical preparations. According to recent European research, rosemary interferes with the absorption of iron and should not be consumed by those with iron deficiency anemia. A toxicity study of the plant on rats has shown hepatoprotective and antimutagenic activities; however, precaution is necessary for those displaying allergic reaction or are prone to epileptic seizures. Rosemary essential oil may have epileptogenic properties, as a handful of case reports over the past century have linked its use with seizures in otherwise healthy adults or children. Avoid consuming large quantities of rosemary especially if pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Four Thieves Vinegar
- Scented water
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- Chisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). "rosemary". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- Rosemary List of Chemicals (Dr. Duke's)
- medicinal use: botanical.com
- Rosemary for Remembrance
- History of Rosemary
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