Updated: Jan 28
A staple in Mediterranean cuisine, rosemary is used as a primary herb in many delicious recipes thanks to its versatility, soothing smell and delicious flavour. Rosemary (Rosmarinus Officinalis) is a member of the mint family Lamiaceae, native to the Mediterranean and Asian regions and one of the oldest Mediterranean aromatic shrubs in cultivation. The herb is perennial, meaning it grows all year round, and is distinguishable by its strong, aromatic needle-like leaves, often flowering with blue, white, pink or purple flowers.
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Culinary - Rosemary is used in many cuisines and is commonly paired with lamb. It can be used in healthy stuffings, marinades or simply added to food before or after cooking. Furthermore, studies have shown that marinading meat in rosemary can drastically reduce heterocyclic amines levels (dangerous chemical formed when meat is cooked at a high temperature directly over an open flame) (1).
Oils - Rosemary oil can be used to improve cognitive function (2), decrease cortisol levels (3) and stimulate hair growth (4). The potential applications of all herbal oils are expansive; the scientific community in particular have shown clear interest on this topic so expect to hear and see more and more about their benefits. An example of a recent related health trend is rosemary water which I have tried and recommend for health benefits, not for taste.
Medicinal - Sacred to ancient civilisations, rosemary was held in mystical regard by the ancient Greeks and Romans thanks to its reported healing powers. Later civilisations held rosemary in similar regard as a medicinal herb and it appears in Shakespeare’s 'Hamlet'. For a fascinating insight into the history of rosemary, read this article. Interestingly, in Acciaroli, Italy, a large proportion of the inhabitants live to be over 90 years old and many strongly believe the inclusion of rosemary in their diet contributes to a long, healthy life due to its powerful medicinal qualities (5). In fact, a species of rosemary (up to 10 times more pungent than the regular species) grows freely in the surrounding hills and the neurological benefits of rosemary oils could be amplified in the community leading to their extraordinary longevity.
Other - Studies have shown rosemary can extend the shelf life of Omega-3 fish oils due to its ability to inhibit the oxidation process of Omega-3 (6)(7). It is also used to enhance the flavour and palatability of fish oils.
Rosemary is commonly used as a landscaping bush thanks to its hardiness and perennial qualities although most would admit we grow it mainly for its delicious flavour and cooking applications.
Antioxidant - Free radicals are damaging molecules which are produced by the body in response to certain endogenous chemicals, stressors or other factors. A balance between free radicals and antioxidants is vital for our physiological function and when the levels of free radicals exceed the body’s ability to cope with them, a condition called oxidative stress ensues. Oxidative stress leads to inflammation which is thought to be the root cause of many common, chronic illnesses that plague millions of people (8). Dried rosemary scores highly on the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) and contains many potentially antioxidative compounds such as rosmarinic acid and carnosic acid (9).
Cognitive function - Rosemary has been shown to possess the ability to protect the brain and improve cognitive function. Those with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s may benefit from the multifunctional properties of rosemary and treatment options for these diseases could feature rosemary oils or extracts (12). Carnosic acid, found in rosemary, has been shown to have neuroprotective properties against oxidative stress and cerebral ischemia (13).
Gastrointestinal health - Rosemary has been used as a remedy for an upset stomach and other digestive ailments for a long time (14). Gastrointestinal function and the microbiome of the gut are starting to become better understood. A healthy gut microbiome can benefit human health (15) and it is important to support healthy propagation of beneficial bacteria and reduce the growth of dangerous bacteria. One of these dangerous bacteria is H. pylori and rosemary has been shown to inhibit the formation of this harmful bacteria - albeit in Mongolian gerbils (16).
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Rosemary provides many health benefits and has remained a staple in many diets around the world largely because of this. Its ability to protect your brain, keep your hair in place and your gut happy should persuade you to include rosemary in your diet right away. Add it to meats and marinades, use the essential oils and/or plant it in your garden.
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ABOUT THE AUTHORS
John Maitland is the co-founder of 'The Evolved Way.’ A personal trainer with over 10 years’ experience, he has worked alongside a wide range of leading CEOs, entrepreneurs and medical professionals. John is a keen athlete and holds a black belt in Shaolin Kung fu. A fan of the great outdoors, he can often be found exploring the British countryside and mountains...or breaking pine boards with his fingers.
Co-founder of 'The Evolved Way', and experienced personal trainer, Samson practices what he preaches. His own healthy lifestyle, which informs this site, is based on understanding the right way to eat and exercise, not excluding of course going out and enjoying life knowing you can still feel and look good.