Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Botany, Geographical Distribution, and Horticultural Information of Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)


Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus), formerly known as Rosmarinus officinalis, is a fragrant evergreen shrub native to the Mediterranean region. It belongs to the sage family Lamiaceae, which includes many other medicinal and culinary herbs. Rosemary has needle-like leaves and flowers that can be white, pink, purple, or blue. The plant is known for its aromatic properties and is used extensively in cooking and herbal medicine.

The leaves of rosemary are evergreen, typically 2–4 cm 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 can bloom constantly in warmer areas. Rosemary can reach up to 1.5 meters in height and forms range from upright to trailing.

Geographical Distribution:

Originally from the Mediterranean region, rosemary has adapted to various climates and is now found worldwide. It thrives in a Mediterranean climate and is commonly grown in gardens and for xeriscape landscaping in these regions. The plant has been naturalized in various parts of the world, including the Americas, where it was introduced by early European settlers.

Genetic studies suggest that rosemary’s diversification center is likely in the western Mediterranean basin. The species shows a lack of geographical structure, indicating a wide and varied distribution. Rosemary’s migration routes include a northern route along the Mediterranean and two southern routes through North Africa and the south-west of the Iberian Peninsula.

Horticultural Information:

Rosemary is a hardy plant that can withstand droughts and survive with minimal water. It prefers well-drained soils and full sun exposure. The plant is considered easy to grow and pest-resistant. Rosemary can be pruned into formal shapes and low hedges and is suitable for topiary. It is also grown in pots, and groundcover cultivars are used for their dense and durable texture.

The plant’s seeds have a low germination rate and relatively slow growth, but once established, rosemary can live for many years. Special cultivars like ‘Arp’ can withstand winter temperatures down to about −20 °C (−4 °F).


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History, Traditional Herbal & Culinary Uses of Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)


Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus), previously known as Rosmarinus officinalis, has a rich history dating back to ancient civilizations. The earliest mention of rosemary is found on cuneiform tablets from 5000 BCE. The Egyptians used it for embalming corpses starting around 3500 BCE. The herb gained prominence in the writings of the ancient Greeks and Romans, including Pliny the Elder and Pedanius Dioscorides, a Greek botanist who discussed rosemary in his influential herbal book, “De Materia Medica.”

Rosemary made its way to China by 220 CE during the late Han dynasty. It was introduced to England, likely by the Romans, and was recorded in Britain in the 8th century CE. Charlemagne promoted the cultivation of rosemary in monastic gardens and farms. By 1338, rosemary was naturalized in Britain, and its use spread throughout Europe and eventually to the Americas with early European settlers.

Traditional Herbal Uses:

Traditionally, rosemary has been used for its medicinal properties. It was believed to enhance cognitive ability, reduce stress, treat insomnia, and respiratory system diseases. Rosemary oil, rich in essential components, has been used in aromatherapy, as a natural antimicrobial agent, and in traditional remedies like “Hungarian water,” a rosemary alcohol solution reputed for its rejuvenating effects.

The herb’s antibacterial properties have been recognized in traditional medicine, making it a valuable remedy for treating infectious diseases. Its essential oil composition varies depending on the geographical location, influencing its medicinal efficacy.

Culinary Uses:

Rosemary is a popular culinary herb, used fresh or dried to flavor various foods like stuffing, roast meats, lamb, pork, chicken, and turkey. It is a staple in traditional Mediterranean cuisine, known for its bitter, astringent taste and characteristic aroma that complements many cooked foods. Rosemary leaves can also be used to make herbal tea. When roasted with meats or vegetables, it imparts a mustard-like aroma with an additional fragrance of charred wood, ideal for barbecued foods.

Rosemary extract has been shown to improve the shelf life and heat stability of omega-3-rich oils, which are prone to rancidity. It is also recognized as an effective antimicrobial herb, enhancing the safety and preservation of food products.


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5. Abdulrahman Kloy, et al. “Antibacterial Properties of Rosemary (Rosmarinus Officinalis)” –


Scientific and Medicinal Studies on Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Overview of Scientific Research:

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L.), a Mediterranean shrub, has been extensively studied for its therapeutic effects. Traditionally used in folk medicine for various ailments, modern scientific research has validated its numerous health benefits.

Neuropharmacological Properties:

Rosemary exhibits significant neuropharmacological properties, including antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-apoptotic, antitumorigenic, antinociceptive, and neuroprotective effects. Studies have shown its clinical effects on mood, learning, memory, pain, anxiety, and sleep. Active constituents like carnosic acid and rosmarinic acid have been identified as key compounds contributing to these effects. The herb has shown promise in treating nervous system disorders, including depression, Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, and neuropathic pain.

Antimicrobial Effects:

Rosemary has been recognized for its potent antimicrobial properties. This makes it a valuable candidate for developing new drugs with a broad spectrum of effects, especially in the context of increasing antibiotic resistance.

Antidiabetic Effects:

Research on rosemary’s antidiabetic effects has revealed its ability to regulate glucose and lipid metabolism, demonstrating anti-inflammatory and antioxidative actions. Its phenolic constituents, particularly carnosic acid and rosmarinic acid, have shown significant potential in improving diabetes mellitus and related complications.

Hypolipidemic Effects:

Studies have also focused on the hypolipidemic effects of rosemary, particularly its ethanol extract and active compounds like rosmarinic acid and carnosic acid. These components have been found to reduce liver triglycerides, cholesterol, and free fatty acids, offering potential therapeutic benefits for conditions like non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).


The extensive scientific and medicinal research on rosemary underscores its potential as a source of natural therapeutics for a range of health conditions. Its active compounds, particularly carnosic acid and rosmarinic acid, are of particular interest for further research and drug development.


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4. Sitong Wang, et al. “Regulation effects of rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis Linn.) on hepatic lipid metabolism in OA induced NAFLD rats” –


Phytochemistry of Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L.) is renowned for its aromatic and medicinal properties. The plant’s essential oil and extracts contain a variety of phytochemical compounds that contribute to its health benefits.

Essential Oil Components: Rosemary essential oil is used in beauty products like soaps, perfumes, and deodorants. It contains compounds such as α-pinene, β-pinene, camphene, camphor, and borneol. 1,8-cineole is identified as the chemotype in some varieties.

The following is a list of specific molecular compounds identified in rosemary:

1. Carnosic Acid: A major phenolic compound predominant in rosemary.

2. Rosmarinic Acid: A significant phenolic acid found in rosemary.

3. Carnosol: Another key phenolic compound present in rosemary.

4. Ursolic Acid: A triterpenoid identified in rosemary.

5. Betulinic Acid: A triterpenoid compound found in rosemary.

6. Luteolin-7-O-glucoside: A flavonoid detected in rosemary.

7. Sagerinic Acid: A polyphenol newly identified in rosemary.

8. Salvianolic Acid A and B: Phenolic acids detected in rosemary.

9. Corosolic Acid: A pentacyclic triterpenoid found in rosemary.

10. α-Pinene: A volatile compound contributing to the aroma of rosemary.

11. β-Pinene: Another volatile compound found in rosemary.

12. Camphene: A terpene contributing to the essential oil profile of rosemary.

13. Camphor: A key component of rosemary essential oil.

14. Borneol: A terpene alcohol found in rosemary essential oil.

15. 1,8-Cineole: Identified as the chemotype in some rosemary varieties.


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Herbalist-Style Report on Contraindications and Safety of Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)


Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L.) is a well-known aromatic and medicinal plant, widely used in various forms such as essential oils, extracts, and as a culinary herb. While it offers numerous health benefits, understanding its safety profile and potential contraindications is essential for its responsible use.

Safety Profile:

Rosemary is generally considered safe when used in typical culinary amounts. However, its essential oil and concentrated extracts should be used with caution. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel has deemed rosemary-derived ingredients safe in cosmetics when formulated to be nonsensitizing. However, due to the presence of various phytochemicals, including carnosic acid, carnosol, rosmarinic acid, and ursolic acid, rosemary oil may have side effects and lacks extensive safety data. Therefore, its use in pediatrics and pregnant women should be approached with care.


1. Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: Due to limited safety data, high doses of rosemary or its essential oil should be avoided during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

2. Allergic Reactions: Individuals with known allergies to rosemary or other Lamiaceae family members should exercise caution.

3. Medication Interactions: Rosemary may interact with certain medications, including anticoagulants and drugs metabolized by the liver. It is advisable to consult with a healthcare provider before using rosemary in medicinal doses if on medication.

4. Epilepsy and Seizure Disorders: High doses of rosemary essential oil may not be suitable for individuals with epilepsy or seizure disorders due to its camphor content.

5. Skin Sensitivity: Topical application of rosemary oil may cause skin irritation in sensitive individuals. A patch test is recommended before widespread use.


While rosemary is a beneficial herb with a good safety profile for culinary use, caution is advised when using concentrated forms like essential oils, especially in vulnerable populations. Awareness of potential interactions and contraindications is crucial for the safe use of rosemary in herbal practices.


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