Other Common Names:
The other common names for the herb rosemary are Polar Plant, Compass-weed, Compass Plant, and Rosmarinus coronarium, Dew of the Sea, Garden Rosemary, Incensier, Mary’s Mantle, Mi-tieh-hsiang and Old Man.
The evergreen shrub originated in the Mediterranean area, but it is today cultivated almost everywhere in the world, primarily for its aromatic leaves. Rosemary has been named the Herb of the Year in 2001 by the International Herb Association. It was one of the herbs introduced to Britain by the Romans and this piney-scented plant is still particularly loved today by the Italians and the British, who use it frequently in their cooking. In ancient Greece and Rome rosemary was believed to strengthen the memory, which accounts for its being known as the herb of remembrance and fidelity. Rosemary was an essential part of the apothecary's repertoire during the Renaissance. The French regarding it as a cure-all, Hippocrates, Galen, and Dioscorides all prescribed rosemary for liver problems.
The herb of rosemary has several ash colored branches, and the bark is rather scaly and it grows upto a height of three feet. The leaves are with a prominent vein in the middle and margins which are rolled down on the sides. The evergreen leaves of this herb are about 1 inch long, linear, revolute, dark green above and paler and glandular beneath, with an odour pungently aromatic and somewhat camphoraceous.Colored a dark shade of green above and white below, the leaves of the rosemary give off a beautiful fragrance, and with its small pale blue flowers. The flowers are small and pale blue. Much of the active volatile principle resides in their calyces. The small, blue nettle-shaped flowers appear in May to June and are a great attraction to bees. The whole plant is strongly aromatic. There are several decorative variegated types, but none are as hardy as the ordinary green rosemary.
Rosemary is said to be a native of Mediterranean regions and covers a wide range in Southern Europe and now it is cultivated throughout the world.
Rosemary needs full sun, and a sandy, well-limed soil, but it can also be wintered indoors. Rosemary generally grows best in light, well-drained, rather dry soil; with its recommended pH range about 6.0 to 7.5.It will grow in gardens, but prefers to be near the sea.
Rosemary is propagated by seeds, cuttings and layers, and division of roots. Rosemary succeeds best in a light, rather dry soil, and in a sheltered situation, such as the base of a low wall with a south aspect. On a chalk soil it grows smaller, but is more fragrant.
Sow the seeds indoors in a dark room, as this will aid germination, covering a liberal amount of the seeds lightly after sowing. The optimum soil temperature should be around 15c .Although rosemary can take up to 3 months before germination you should start to see some results in about 2-3 weeks. When you have shoot that are around 20cm (4inches) high they may be planted out. Keep the young plant moist but not too wet as the roots easily rot. The new plants should be transplanted in the early autumn to allow them to harden off before the winter, and they may need to be protected with straw where winter conditions are severe. Once established, rosemary bushes do not like to be moved. If this is attempted, the leaves will often turn brown and die, so if it is necessary to transplant try to avoid cutting any roots when doing so and retain as much of the original ball of earth as possible. If happy in its position, rosemary can last for about 30 years. Trim it lightly to maintain its thickness.
Layering is a good technique to be used when one has a rosemary plant already. Stem cuttings can be used for this purpose. One can simply pin down the lower rambling branches of an existing herb to the soil until they root, and this will ultimately form a new plant.
One must take care to space garden plants 0.3 to 0.6 m (1 to 2 feet) apart.
When one is trying to grow rosemary in a container, one must make sure that the plant is slightly pot bound. This means that the container that one must use to grow the plant in must be just big enough for the roots to be housed properly. The pot itself must be kept in a bright and sunny place, because this plant thrives best in open and bright sunshine. The soil must never dry out completely. An established rosemary plant can be kept for three to four years in a container, before it may need to be replaced. The long and straggly branches of the plant must be shortened and trimmed adequately, as this would stimulate new and robust growth of the plant.
The flowers of rosemary are in full bloom in mid to late spring, and sometimes again in late summer.
Pests and Diseases
The rosemary is extremely susceptible to infestations of scale, mealy bugs and spider mites, and to root rot in wet soil, and these are the conditions one must be constantly aware of when one is cultivating the shrub. The leaves must be misted every alternate week.
The herb, aerial parts of rosemary and the roots are the most commonly used parts for its medicinal and commercial applications.
- It stimulates bile production by the liver.
- It is used to prepare hair lotions which helps in preventing premature baldness. It forms an effectual remedy for the prevention of scurf and dandruff.
- The oil is also used externally as a treatment for paralyzed limbs.
- Rosemary helps in palpitation, and stimulates the brain and nervous system, thus acting as a good remedy for headaches caused by feeble circulation.
- A spirit of Rosemary may be used as an antispasmodic.
- Rosemary and Coltsfoot leaves are considered good for asthma and other affections of the throat and lungs.
- Rosemary is often recommended especially for cases of low blood pressure.
- It is effective in stimulating menstrual flow and as abortifacients.
- It is used in treating rheumatic disorders and circulatory problems.
- Long-term stress and chronic illnesses can also be treated with the rosemary herb.
- Rosemary stimulates the adrenal glands, and used to treat debility and other similar ailments, and most especially if they are accompanied by poor digestion and circulation.
- Rosemary is a powerful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory. It contains diterpenes and flavonoids that inhibit free-radical damage and strengthens the capillaries.
- Rosemary is also one of the ingredients used in the preparation of Eau-de-Cologne.
- Rosemary is often used widely as a common household spice, and also as a fragrant aromatic flavoring agent in several commercially available products.
- Rosemary is used in soaps, lotions, facial and body creams, toilet waters, and perfumes as the primary and most important fragrance component.
- The fragrance are added to the products such as frozen desserts, candy, alcoholic beverages, puddings and various other similar goods.
- One of the best known uses of rosemary oil is that it serves as an extremely effective mouthwash.
- Fragrant rosemary can be included in potpourris or scented sachets.
- Rosemary plants can often be used in topiary, the venerable craft in which shrubs are trained into ornamental forms.
Cultural and Religious Importance
The Ancients were well acquainted with the shrub, which had a reputation for strengthening the memory. On this account it became the emblem of fidelity for lovers. It holds a special position among herbs from the symbolism attached to it. Not only was it used at weddings, but also at funerals, for decking churches and banqueting halls at festivals, as incense in religious ceremonies, and in magical spells. In early times, Rosemary was freely cultivated in kitchen gardens and came to represent the dominant influence of the house mistress 'Where Rosemary flourished, the woman ruled.’ Rosemary was one of the cordial herbs used to flavour ale and wine. It was also used in Christmas decoration. In place of more costly incense, the ancients used Rosemary in their religious ceremonies. An old French name for it was Incensier.The Spaniards revere it as one of the bushes that gave shelter to the Virgin Mary in the flight into Egypt and call it Romero, the Pilgrim's Flower. The Sicilians believe that young fairies, taking the form of snakes, lie amongst the branches.
Folklore and Myths
A sprig of rosemary was often placed in a bride's bouquet or worn at funerals, and those taking examinations would twine rosemary into their hair or massage rosemary oil into the forehead and temples. This may well have worked, for rosemary stimulates the circulation, increasing the blood supply to the brain. Rosemary is widely thought to be a powerful Guardian and to give Power to Women; therefore it is used by many people to Ward Off Evil in the home and bring Good Luck in Family Matters and so it is planted by their front door or tie a conjure bag filled with dried leaves over their lintel so that all must pass under it when entering.