Rosemary has a rich and lengthy history and has been used for centuries as a culinary and medicinal herb. It is most well known for its abilities to improve memory and help with significant hair loss. Today the oil can be found in medicine cabinets of those who are looking for a more natural approach to treating fungal infections, stomach discomfort or headaches. Here are some of the more interesting facts related to the rosemary bush, rosemary itself and the essential oil that is produced from its leaves.
About The Rosemary Bush
Rosemary is a perennial herb and a member of the mint family. It is an evergreen with leaves that resemble pine needles and produces white, blue, pink or purple flowers. It is native to the Mediterranean region but can now be found on almost every corner of the globe. While it prefers a warmer climate, the herb can survive in cooler climates and usually still thrives during droughts. Though it is a perennial, in climates where temperatures dip below freezing, it may not be able to survive without being moved indoors. It is often used in landscaping as an ornamental plant.
The leaves are commonly used as a flavoring in a variety of foods, including roast lamb, pork, chicken and turkey. It is also used in herbal teas and salad dressings. The leaves and flowering buds can be steam distilled to produce rosemary essential oil, one of the most popular oils for use in aromatherapy and around the home. The oil is also in high demand by perfume companies who use it in body sprays, lotions, hair care and cleaning products.
Rosemary In History
Like many other popular herbs, rosemary has been used by many of the ancient cultures that fascinate us today. The ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians all had their own uses for the herb and its oil. The Greeks believed that garlands of rosemary would improve memory and concentration. It was often worn by philosophers and scholars to improve their research and experiments. It is said that the Romans were responsible for rosemary being used in burial services, a trend that continued well into the Middle Ages and beyond. They also burned rosemary as an incense for religious ceremonies and decorated statues with sprigs of the herb, as it was a symbol of stability. It is speculated the Egyptians used rosemary oil for promoting healthy hair growth, as the condition of hair was very important.
As rosemary spread throughout Europe, it eventually made its way to the America’s, most likely by commoners who were searching for a new start at life. While written and preserved recipe books of the time show that the herb was popular during the early 18th century, it seemed to disappear from the cupboards of American homes until the World Wars. As soldiers were introduced to new foods and flavors overseas, including rosemary, the herb once again became popular. It is now a staple flavoring agent and usually shows up around the holidays, where more festive and infrequently made dishes are made, like lamb.
- Greek legends say that the goddess Aphrodite was draped with rosemary when she rose from the sea. Aphrodite is the goddess of love, which may be the reason that rosemary was such an important part of Greek wedding ceremonies. The bride would usually wear a wreath that contained rosemary and if they were able to afford it, the couple would give each guest a rosemary sprig.
- Rosemary was often buried with deceased family members as a symbol that those left behind would not forget about them. In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Juliet was honored at her burial ceremony with rosemary. Even the ancient Egyptians placed rosemary in tombs as a symbol of remembrance. This was a tradition in England for centuries and only lost popularity in the 18th century.
- Even if you don’t plan on using rosemary to make oil or in the kitchen, it is still a great bush to plant in your garden. It attracts bees, which can help pollinate vegetable plants. It’s also great for keeping unwanted pests away that can cause damage to produce. If the leaves are dried and crumbled, they can be used to keep fleas and ticks away.
- French legends taught men that if they didn’t enjoy the scent of rosemary, they would be a bad lover. Napoleon developed a small obsession with rosemary water. One of his wives, Empress Josephine, requested that he wash with rosemary water before entering her bedroom. It is said that Napoleon used over 160 bottles of rosemary water in a three month time period. Rosemary water became so popular that it was the first herbal product to be commercially produced and marketed.
- Rosemary became a popular name during the 1940s. During 1940, it was the 91st most popular name among girls. As of 2014, it is much further down on the list, at 575. In pop culture, many people think of Rosemary’s Baby when they hear the name, a horror book written by Ira Levin that was eventually turned into a popular film in 1968.
Rosemary Oil Today
Rosemary is still one of the most popular herbs on the planet and is used often when flavoring festive dishes. The oil has grown in popularity over the years, especially as more studies have been conducted that show promising results for the oil’s use as a natural treatment for many ailments. It can aid in digestion and is also helpful in stimulating a healthy appetite. It also is a great natural stress reliever and may be able to help with anxiety and mild depression symptoms. The oil is often used to treat pain, whether it be a headache, sore joints or a sprained muscle. For an immune boost, rosemary oil can help the body protect itself from illnesses as it helps to rid the body of free radicals. It is also a great treatment for respiratory problems, such as allergies, colds, sore throats and the flu. Like any other medication, speak with your doctor before using rosemary oil. Allergic reactions are rare but can be serious.