One of our most familiar kitchen herbs, often associated with the evocative smell of a Sunday roast. Rosemary is often overlooked medicinally but it is a very important herbal remedy and has had official status in the pharmacopoeias of Europe for hundreds of years – we know this because of the Latin name ‘officinalis’. Rosemary is an excellent circulatory stimulant, used to warm the body and the extremities. It is a wonderful antidepressant for mild to moderate depression, with none of the interaction issues of Saint John’s Wort. It is used to improve memory and concentration because it helps deliver more blood, therefore oxygen, to the brain. As a whole, it is a wonderful tonic for elders.
The name is meant to reflect that Mary’s blue cloak was thought to have touched the bush as she passed by and turned the flowers bright blue. Rosemary is mentioned by Shakespeare as being for remembrance, and for memory and we have a long tradition of it being grown by and thrown into graves in remembrance of our loved ones. Herbalists use rosemary to help relieve feelings of grief. Since it is the essential oils that are most useful for grief and low mood, it is only necessary to run your hands up the plant, and inhale the oil deposits on your skin.
Of course, there are thousands of recipes using rosemary in culinary doses but if you want the medicinal effects, you need a little more than that. You can simply add rosemary to your water bottle, or to a mug of hot water to keep you focussed on a busy day. There is even now a ‘Rosemary Water’ product available that made all sorts of medicinal claims when it was first produced. However, you really only need some water and the fresh sprigs to make your own home version that will do you just as well.
Take care that because rosemary is calming but also stimulating to the mind, taking it too late in the day can interrupt your night if you tend to have sleep issues.
One of the most versatile ways to use it is simply to infuse some apple cider vinegar with fresh rosemary sprigs. After two weeks you have herbal vinegar that can be diluted and used as a hair tonic after shampoo, a muscle rub to help aching joints and it makes a pretty nice basis for a salad dressing too!