16 Proven Benefits of Rosemary Oil

by Meenakshi Nagdeve last updated - Medically reviewed by Scott Johnson (AMP, CEEOS, CCMA, CPC)

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Rosemary oil is a popular essential oil known for its wide array of health benefits. It has become increasingly important and popular over the years as more of its benefits are known, including its ability to stimulate hair growth, boost mental activity, relieve respiratory problems, and reduce pain.

What is Rosemary Essential Oil?

Rosemary oil is the essential oil that is extracted from the popular herb of the same name. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is very popular in the Mediterranean region as a culinary herb. Many dishes are cooked with rosemary oil and its freshly plucked leaves. Rosemary essential oil is extracted from the leaves. The rosemary bush belongs to the mint family, which includes basil, lavender, peppermint, and sage.

Rosemary has been extensively used since ancient times for a variety of purposes. The Romans gave special importance to the rosemary plant and used it frequently in religious ceremonies. It was also used during wedding ceremonies, food preparations, cosmetics, and medicinal herbal products. Rosemary plant and its extracts were used by the ancient Egyptian civilization as incense.

The health benefits of rosemary essential oil made it a favorite of Paracelsus, a renowned German-Swiss physician, and botanist, who made significant contributions to the understanding of herbal medicine during the 16th century. Paracelsus valued rosemary oil because of its ability to strengthen the entire body. He correctly believed that rosemary oil had the ability to heal delicate organs such as the liver, brain, and heart.

Health Benefits of Rosemary Oil

Today, many medicinal preparations contain rosemary oil. The various, well-researched health benefits of rosemary oil are listed below:

Aids in Digestion

Rosemary oil is often used for curing indigestion, relieving flatulence, stomach cramps, constipation, and bloating. This essential oil is also thought to relieve symptoms of dyspepsia and is an appetite stimulant, states a 2015 report published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine.

Detoxifies the body

Research has shown that rosemary essential oil detoxifies the liver, whilst helping in the regulation, creation, and release of bile, which is a key part of the digestive process. A team of researchers from Libya published a report in the Indian Journal of Experimental Biology, that gave empirical evidence to show that rosemary oil helps in increasing the volume of secretion of bile from the liver and prevent damage to the vital organ. The researchers conducted an experiment, in which they used freeze-dried ethanol and liquid extracts of young sprouts of rosemary to protect rats against chemical-driven liver damage. It was discovered that by feeding rats rosemary sprouts, there was a significant increase in their bile flow, and, also a drastic improvement in their liver conditions

The results of an animal study led by Aleksandar Raskovic, et al. showed that rosemary oil exhibits antioxidant properties participate in eliminating free radicals from the body, and also helps protect the liver against damage.

Hair Care

Rosemary oil and rosemary teas are widely used for hair care in shampoos and lotions. The Colomer Group Spain, S.L. a subsidiary of Revlon Consumer Products Corp has received a patent for using rosemary extracts in hair lotion for the treatment of hair loss and stimulating hair growth. Regular use of rosemary oil helps stimulate follicles, making hair grow longer and stronger. It is also believed that rosemary oil slows down premature hair loss and graying of the hair.

According to a report in the Skin Med Journal, by a group of researchers from Iran led by Dr. Panahi Y, a research scholar from the University of Medical Sciences, Iran, rosemary oil helps to treat androgenetic alopecia. The study aimed to investigate the clinical efficacy of rosemary oil in the treatment of androgenetic alopecia as against minidoxil. After administering rosemary oil to the patients suffering from alopecia, for a period of six months, it was noted that there was a significant increase in their hair count. It was thus concluded that rosemary oil is an excellent tonic for bald people or for those who are beginning to show signs of male pattern baldness.

Rosemary essential oil is also beneficial for dry and flaky scalps. Regular massaging of the scalp with rosemary oil nourishes the scalp and removes dandruff. Furthermore, it is often mixed with tea tree oil and basil oil to alternately treat scalp problems. For many years, Rosemary has been combined with olive oil as a way to darken and strengthen hair by using hot oil treatments.

A bottle of rosemary oil with a rosemary plant

 Oral Care

Dr. Alexandra Meier et.al published a report on the antimicrobial activity of essential oils and essential oil components towards oral bacteria in the Molecular Oral Microbiology journal in which it is stated that most essential oils are used as a disinfectant and a mouthwash. Rosemary has been found to be useful in removing bad breath or halitosis according to a research study conducted by Sanae Akkaoui, et al. By removing oral bacteria, rosemary essential oil may help prevent gingivitis, cavities, plaque build-up, and other damaging dental conditions. However, more scientific evidence and studies are required to support this claim.

Skin Care

A study led by Dr. Lucia Montenegro, Department of Drug Sciences, Pharmaceutical Technology Section, University of Catania, and his team of researchers from Italy, conducted a study in which they assessed the effects of rosemary oil on the skin. The study concluded that rosemary oil, when regularly applied or added as the main component to your moisturizer and other creams showed a significant improvement in skin hydration and elasticity.

Rosemary essential oil is not used in skin care as extensively as it is used in hair care, but it does have antimicrobial and antiseptic qualities that make it beneficial in efforts to eliminate eczema, dermatitis, oily skin, and acne. Topical application of the essential oil or a regular massage with the oil helps in toning the skin and removing dryness.

Improves Cognitive Function

Rosemary essential oil is an excellent brain and nerve tonic. It is often used by students during exams because it increases concentration and helps in studying efficiently. It stimulates mental activity and is a good remedy for depression, mental fatigue, and forgetfulness. Whenever your brain is tired, try inhaling a little rosemary oil to remove boredom and renew your mental energy.

In a study conducted by Moss M, et al., head of the Department of Psychology, Northumbria University, found that of 144 test participants who inhaled rosemary oil during an exam displayed significantly higher cognitive function. This is why some researchers are beginning to explore the options for using rosemary oil as an alternative therapy for slowing down the onset of Alzheimer’s disease in certain patients because of this apparent connection between boosted neural activity and the essential oil.

Relieves Stress

Apart from the relaxing nature of aromatherapy and general inhalation of rosemary essential oil, it may help lower the level of cortisol in the saliva. Cortisol is one of the main stress hormones that are released during the “flight or fight” response of the body to stress. Excess cortisol in the blood that may occur due to chronic stress can wreak havoc on the body, including its hormonal balance and the efficiency of the metabolism.

A study published by Dr. Toshiko Atsuri and Dr.Keiichi Tonosaki, Department of Oral Physiology, Meikai University, School of Dentistry, 1-1, Keyaki-dai, Sakado-shi, Japan, in the Psychiatry Research journal said that inhaling rosemary oil and lavender oil for five minutes significantly reduced the levels of cortisol in the test subject’s saliva, which could decrease the inherent dangers of chronic stress.

Boosts Immune System

The same study which found that cortisol levels decreased after simultaneous massage and inhalation of rosemary essential oil also found that the scavenging free radical activity in the test subjects’ bodies also increased significantly. This means that a regular use or inhalation of rosemary essential oil in aromatherapy sessions or in other ways may aid in strengthening the immune system.

Relieves Pain

In a study carried out over a period of two weeks, by South Korean researchers, stroke survivors with shoulder pain, who were given acupressure for 20 minutes, twice daily, with rosemary oil blended with lavender and peppermint oils, experienced a 30% reduction in pain. On the other hand, those who received only acupressure (without rosemary oil) had a 15% reduction in pain.

Another study suggests that rosemary essential oil has anti-inflammatory properties and may help relieve pain. The ability of rosemary essential oil to relieve pain has resulted in its use in providing relief from headaches, muscle pains, rheumatism, and even arthritis.

Removes Bad Odor

Rosemary has a mesmerizing aroma, which makes rosemary essential oil an excellent inhalant. The oil is used in room fresheners, cosmetics, beauty aids, foods, bath oils, candles, and perfumes because of its unique and intoxicating aroma. Many people use a mixture of rosemary essential oil and water as an air freshener to remove bad odor from the house. However, more scientific evidence and studies are required to support this claim.

Health benefits of rosemary essential oil infographic

Health benefits of rosemary essential oil

Prevents Herpes

An animal study suggests that rosemary oil and Spanish lavender oil help lower the damage to the reproductive function and also reduce free radical activity in diabetic rats.

Respiratory Problems

The scent of the oil has been shown to give relief from throat congestion, and it is also used in the treatment of respiratory allergies, colds, sore throats, and flu. Since rosemary oil also has antiseptic qualities, it is also effective for respiratory infections. According to Dr. Györgyi Horváth and Dr. Kamila Acs’ research report published in the Flavour and Fragrance Journal, rosemary oil is antispasmodic and is used in treatments for bronchial asthma.

Anticancer Potential

A group of Tunisian researchers led by Dr. Jardak M, Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular screening Processes, Centre of Biotechnology of Sfax, published a research report in the Lipids in Health and Disease Journal that examined the chemical composition of rosemary essential oil. The study also evaluated its anti-biofilm activity on the biofilm-forming bacterium and its anticancer activity on cancer cell lines. After thorough research, it was concluded that rosemary oil could have a potential role in the treatment of diseases related to infection by microorganisms or proliferation of cancer cells.

There are various other claims regarding possible health benefits of rosemary oil, including its use for disorders in the menstrual cycle, prostate, gallbladder, intestine, liver, cataract, and heart, and even menstrual cramps, peptic ulcers, urine flow, sperm mobility, leukemia, kidney stones, and associated pain. Research is currently being performed to study its potential in treating various types of cancers including those of the colon, stomach, breasts, and lungs.

Enhances Blood Circulation

Benefits of rosemary oil include its use in improving blood circulation. It is said that when people feel cold even in a relatively warm climate, they should try massaging themselves with rosemary oil. According to a research study by P. Sagorchev, et al. use of rosemary oil may help improve local blood circulation and also give relief from pain.

Another study published by Dr. Von Schoen-Angerer, et al. involved a woman with Raynaud’s disease, thoroughly massaging her hands with a rosemary oil blend, that helped keep her hands and legs warm. This turned out to be more effective than the time she used regular olive oil.

For the uninitiated, Raynaud’s disease, causes the blood vessels in your fingers and toes to contract to cause them to go cold and lose color.

Instant Mood Uplifter

By sniffing rosemary oil, one can immediately feel rejuvenated and energetic. A study published by Dr. Tapanee Hongratanaworakit in the Scientia Pharmaceutica Journal stated that by applying diluted rosemary oil to the skin, 35 healthy people felt drastically more alert, rejuvenated and happy just within 20-25 minutes. On the contrary, when they applied a placebo oil, there was no significant mood upliftment that was witnessed.

Another study by Moss M, et al. suggests that oils like the olfactory impact of rosemary essential oil may help improve cognitive performance and feeling of being content

How to make Rosemary Oil?

Rosemary essential oil requires distillation equipment that most people won’t have at home. However, you can make a “macerated” rosemary oil infusion. All you need are very few ingredients and a slow cooker. Let us look at the recipe below:

  • Step 1: Take fresh rosemary sprigs and remove the needles of the rosemary off the stem (about 1 cup)
  • Step 2: Heat a slow cooker and add two cups of sunflower oil to it
  • Step 3: Add rosemary needles and set the slow cooker on low heat for 5-6 hours
  • Step 4: Once you start to get the fragrant rosemary smell, it is time to stop the heating process
  • Step 5: Let the oil cool and finally strain the resultant needles out.

Application of this oil may help in increasing hair growth and protecting the hair against oxidation and skin damage.

How to use Rosemary Oil for Hair?

There are many ways in which rosemary oil can be applied to hair. Let us look at some of them

  • You can mix rosemary oil with other carrier oils like coconut oil and jojoba oil and apply topically
  • Dilute rosemary oil with a carrier oil like jojoba oil and then apply the mixture to your hair.
  • Mix 20-30 drops of rosemary oil with a carrier oil and then rub the mixture onto your scalp and on your hair strands. This is believed to be able to slow graying, stop dandruff, increase growth, and keep the scalp free of irritation or infection.
  • Mix this oil with your shampoo and conditioner. Just make sure not to add too much.

Note: Do not apply the pure oil directly on your scalp.

Where to buy Rosemary Oil?

You can buy rosemary oil in nearly every whole food and health store, in addition to large big-box chains like Walmart and Target. However, one should always request a GC-MS report to confirm the oil is high-quality and free of adulterations. Rosemary is one of the most popular herbs, and its oil enjoys similar fame all over the world. Making your own rosemary oil at home is also simple. There are different types, chemotypes (rosemary oils with different dominant chemical constituents; e.g. 1,8-cineole CT, verbenone CT, and camphor CT), and strengths of rosemary oil, so do your research well before buying.

Cautions for Rosemary Oil

  • Rosemary oil may, at times, cause allergic reactions, so it should only be used if prescribed or after thorough consultation with your medical specialist.
  • Since rosemary oil is volatile in nature, the oil occasionally causes vomiting and spasms. Therefore, it is advisable to exercise caution while ingesting it.
  • It is strongly suggested that rosemary essential oil should not be used by pregnant, breastfeeding or nursing women.
  • Excessive use of the oil may even lead to miscarriage or disability in the fetus.

Blending: The oil blends well with frankincense, lavender, clary sage, cedarwood, basil, thyme, citronella, lemongrass, elemi, geranium, chamomile, peppermint, and cardamom oil.

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About the Author

Meenakshi Nagdeve, Co-Founder, Organic Facts is a health and wellness enthusiast and is responsible for managing it. She has completed the Nutrition And Healthy Living Cornell Certificate Program, Cornell University, US. She holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from IIM Bangalore and B. Tech in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science from IIT Bombay. Prior to this, she worked for a few years in IT and Financial services. An ardent follower of naturopathy, she believes in healing with foods. In her free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.

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