Some of the most interesting and unique health benefits of rosemary include its ability to boost memory, improve mood, reduce inflammation, relieve pain, protect the immune system, stimulate circulation, detoxify the body, protect the body from bacterial infections, prevent premature aging, and heal skin conditions.
Native to the Mediterranean region, rosemary is one of the most commonly found herbs in a spice rack, and for good reason – not only does it have a wonderful taste and aroma, but also a wealth of beneficial health effects if regularly added to our diet. The scientific name of this perennial woody herb is Rosmarinus officinalis, but the world knows it by its common name. Similar to many other useful herbs, rosemary is in the same taxonomic family as mint, but doesn’t have that characteristic flavor. Rosemary has a warmer, bitter, and more astringent taste that gives wonderful flavor to soups, sauces, stews, roasts, and stuffing. It is particularly prevalent in Italian cultural cuisine.
Although small amounts like those used to flavor food aren’t typically considered large enough to have a major effect on the body, regular addition of the leaves to your food will allow your body to derive accumulated benefits from the organic compounds and unique phytochemicals present in the leaves. There are also uses of rosemary that involve consuming larger quantities or applying the essential oils from rosemary onto the skin directly. You can find out all about the health benefits of rosemary essential oil in its respective article here on Organic Facts. Now, let’s take a more detailed look at the health benefits of rosemary.
Memory Booster: One of the earliest reported or documented uses of rosemary for health reasons was as a cognitive stimulant. It was said to improve memory and help to increase intelligence and focus. While many of those claims are still being researched and studied, its effects on the brain do indicate an increase in memory retention, which is never a bad thing; keeping your mind quick will help to keep it young. In that same vein, rosemary has been linked to stimulating cognitive activity in the elderly, as well as those suffering from more acute cognitive disorders, such as Alzheimer’s or dementia. This is an exciting alternative or supplement to more modern treatment for these as yet uncured conditions.
Mood and Stress: The aroma of rosemary alone has been linked to improving mood, clearing the mind, and relieving stress in those with chronic anxiety or stress hormone imbalances. When the plant is consumed or applied topically in some sort of salve of the leaves, it can have similar effects. Aromatherapy also uses rosemary essential oil for this purpose, but that concentration of active components isn’t necessary to have positive effects on stress and mood.
Immune System Strength: The active components in rosemary are antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-carcinogenic in nature. This represents a three-pronged attack against many different diseases and pathogens that could threaten the immune system or damage the integrity of the body. Antioxidant compounds form a secondary line of defense behind the body’s own immune system, and rosemary contains a significant amount of those powerful compounds, including rosmarinic acid, caffeic acid, betulic acid, and carnosol.
Antibacterial Potential: While the general immune boosting qualities of rosemary are impressive enough, it is specifically powerful against bacterial infections, particularly those in the stomach. H. pylori bacteria is a common and very dangerous pathogen that can cause stomach ulcers, but rosemary has been shown to prevent its growth when consumed. Similarly, rosemary is linked to preventing Staph infections, which kill thousands of people each year.
Stomach Soother: Rosemary has traditionally been used by dozens of cultures as a natural remedy for upset stomachs, constipation, bloating, diarrhea, and everything in between. Its anti-inflammatory and stimulant effects are largely the cause of these effects, so adding rosemary to your weekly diet can quickly help you regulate your bowel movements and your gastrointestinal system.
Breath Freshener: As a natural antibacterial agent, rosemary works as a wonderful breath freshener that also improves your oral health. Steep rosemary leaves in a glass of hot water and then gargle or swish the water in your mouth to eliminate bacteria and give you naturally fresh and clean breath all night!
Stimulate Blood Flow: Rosemary acts as a stimulant for the body and boosts the production of red blood cells and blood flow. This helps to oxygenate vital organ systems and areas of the body, ensuring that the metabolic activities in those areas are running smoothly, in addition to stimulating the movement of nutrients to cells that require repair.
Pain Relief: As an analgesic substance, rosemary has been topically applied in a paste or salve for hundreds of years to the affected area of the pain. When consumed orally, rosemary acts as a pain reliever for harder to reach spots, such as headaches and pain from a condition. In fact, one of the most popular uses of rosemary is for the treatment of migraines. Applying a decoction to the temples, or simply smelling the aroma of rosemary has been linked to reducing the severity of migraine symptoms.
Anti-Inflammatory Qualities: Perhaps the most important function of rosemary is as an anti-inflammatory agent in the body. Carnosol and Carnosic acid are two powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds found in rosemary that have been linked to reducing inflammation of muscles, blood vessels, and joints. This makes rosemary an effective treatment for many things, including blood pressure, gout, arthritis, and injuries sustained during physical exertion or surgery. Rosemary is effective in oral or topical form for these anti-inflammatory effects. Furthermore, the reduction in inflammation in the cardiovascular system can help to boost heart health and prevent atherosclerosis from appearing.
Detoxify the Body: Rosemary is slightly diuretic in nature, meaning that it can help flush out toxins more efficiently during urination. Furthermore, by increasing the rate at which water leaves the body, it can also help push out pathogens, salts, toxins, and even excess fat when consumed regularly (or when you’re feeling particularly “toxified”). In terms of the particular organ it benefits, rosemary has been linked to lower levels of cirrhosis and a faster healing time of the liver, which is one of the slowest organs to heal.
Skin Health: The anti-aging properties of rosemary are quite well known. Although more commonly thought of in the essential oil form, the leaves of rosemary can also effect the skin internally or topically, and has been shown to improve the youthful quality of the skin, while also healing blemishes and increasing the natural shine and hydrated appearance of your body’s largest organ.
A Final Word of Warning: The essential oil of rosemary is not to be consumed, but normal rosemary is far less potent, and therefore not dangerous to consume in normal culinary proportions. If you are allergic to other members of the mint family, you may experience discomfort if you consume or apply rosemary, but the reactions are typically mild.