Rosmarinus officinalis is the botanical name for rosemary, a woody shrub in the mint family that grows wild in areas with hot summers and warm winters. It produces flowers that range from white to pale blue to pink. Sometimes, the plant is used in landscaping as an upright bush that can be pruned in many shapes. The needle-like leaves of rosmarinus officinalis are used in cooking for a pungent, pine-like taste, and the oil derived from the plant is valued in aromatherapy and homeopathic medicine.
Since ancient times, a sprig of rosmarinus officinalis has been a symbol of love. It was also burned in sickrooms as a disinfectant; the clean, refreshing scent can cleanse the air of germs. In modern times, the oil and plant have been found to heal a variety of physical and mental ailments.
As a home herbal remedy, oil distilled from the leaves has been used for centuries as a treatment for many different problems. When the diluted oil is spread on the skin, it is an excellent antiseptic for burns, scrapes and cuts. It contains camphor, which has a warming sensation, and salicylates, which are a natural pain reliever, so it can help relieve arthritis pain and muscle stiffness. Homeopathic medicine uses the plant in tablet form to heal infections in the digestive tract. Studies have also shown that a tea, or infusion, of rosmarinus officinalis leaves contains carnosic acid that may help in healing cancer and Alzheimer’s patients.
Aromatherapy uses the essential oils of plants for physical and emotional health. Rosmarinus officinalis oil is steam-distilled from the flowers and leaves of the plant and can be used in an oil diffuser to spread the scent into the air. The camphoric, minty, pine-like scent of the oil is said to have an energizing effect. It may also clear sinuses and help with respiratory problems, such as asthma, bronchitis, and pneumonia. This essential oil blends well with citrus oils, lavender, geranium, and peppermint.
The undiluted essential oil of rosmarinus officinalis should not be ingested because it can have a toxic effect on the nerves. It can also have a negative effect on pregnant women or people who have high blood pressure; the oil should not be used near the eyes as it may cause burning. Care should be taken to use the plant parts properly. When used as described, rosmarinus officinalis is a valuable plant for health and well-being.