Rosemary Benefits and Rosemary Recipes
Latin Name – Rosmarinus officinalis
What is Rosemary?
The herb rosemary is a small perennial shrub that originated in the Mediterranean, but is now grown in many parts of the world including North America and Europe. Rosemary can easily be grown almost anywhere in North America in a back garden, a potted garden or window garden.
Rosemary leaves look quite like a piece of an evergreen tree and does have a piney fragrance. The leaves are narrow and about an inch or inch and a half long. They are a deep green color on top and silver white on the bottom. Rosemary flowers can be pink, blue, or purple.
Benefits of Rosemary for Your Health
For many centuries consumption of rosemary has been thought to improve the memory. That belief developed into many traditions. For example, in olden England it became a symbol of fidelity and began to be incorporated into wedding gifts, costumes and decorations. Greek students would put sprigs of it in their hair while they studied for exams.
Rosemary’s essential oils were extracted and used in cosmetics as early as the 14th and 15th centuries. It was also used as a digestive aid.
More recently research has been done on health giving rosemary benefits and wonderful results have emerged.
Remember how people thought that it had memory-enhancing properties? Well it turns out that it has. Modern research has discovered something called carnosic acid in rosemary, which has protective properties for our brain. Researchers now believe that this acid may be of benefit in protecting against the development of both Alzheimer’s disease as well as age related memory loss.
Research has found that smelling this fragrant herb improved test subjects’ quality of memory. This same research also found that the participants’ mood significantly improved after smelling it.
Rosemary also contains carnosol. Research has shown carnosol to be a potent anti-cancer compound. Carnosol has shown promising results in the prevention and treatment of breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, leukemia, and skin cancer.
The carnosic acid and carnosol found in rosemary benefits us in several ways. In addition to cancer fighting and memory enhancing, these compounds inhibit the enzyme COX-2, which causes pain and inflammation in our body.
Studies have also found that rosemary has strong antibacterial properties and works well against the bacteria that causes stomach ulcers (H. pylori) and Staph infections.
The antibacterial properties of rosemary means that it is a natural mouthwash. Steep fresh rosemary in a pint of hot water for 30 minutes to an hour, then strain it and use it to rinse your mouth.
In addition, rosemary also has antioxidant properties, so it really does help to increase the body’s overall health.
The essential oil of rosemary can also be applied to the skin as a natural treatment for arthritis, sore muscles and joint pain. It also helps relieve migraine pain. To use oil of rosemary for migraines, simply boil some rosemary in a pot of water. Pour it into a bowl. Sit with your head over the bowl and a towel over your head. With your face several inches away from the hot water, inhale the steam. Do this for about 10 minutes. This method also works for congestion due to colds, allergies, sinus congestions and respiratory problems or infections.
Rosemary has mild diuretic properties, so it can help get rid of bloating and water retention in the body. Taken regularly, this herb may help increase the amount of urine flow and help the kidneys eliminate excess water in the body.
Rosemary benefits digestive health and helps to alleviate problems such as an upset stomach, indigestion, constipation, or other digestive related issues.
Some of the health benefits of this amazing herb have been backed up by scientific research, while others have a strong anecdotal history that spans centuries.
For instance, although there has been no research done to prove it, the essential oil found in rosemary is often used in a topical rub for poor circulation.
This fragrant herb is also found in anti-aging skin creams. It is a primary ingredient in a cream to treat horses’ coats (yes, horses) and the people who rubbed it on the animals found their own skin becoming softer. The rosemary reduces puffiness and firms the skin as well as stimulating cell regeneration.
It has also been used as a treatment for liver problems. A study has shown that an extract of rosemary reduced cirrhosis of the liver in rats.
A Word of Caution:
For most people, rosemary is one of the healthy herbs. However, pregnant women and those with high blood pressure should consult with their health care provider before consuming large amounts of rosemary. It could possibly increase the risk of uterine contractions or increase blood pressure. Again, check with your personal health care professional for advice.
Choosing and Storing Rosemary
As with all herbs, if you can use fresh rosemary it is always preferable to its dry counterpart. However, in cooked dishes, if dry rosemary is what you have, use it. It will still taste great.
When you are purchasing fresh rosemary, always select sprigs that are crisply fresh and green with a lighter, softer silver to sage green color on the underside. Store it in the refrigerator, either in its original plastic packaging that you purchased it in, or wrapped lightly in slightly damp paper towelling.
Rosemary sprigs can also be frozen. Simply place several leaves, whole or chopped in an ice cube tray and fill the tray with water or broth. Freeze it and use the rosemary filled ice cubes to flavor soups, stews and other cooked dishes.
When purchasing dried herbs, purchase organic when possible to ensure that it has not been irradiated, which reduces its health benefits. Try to purchase all of your dried healthy herbs from a store with a high turnover of herbs and spices to ensure freshness. Store your dried rosemary in a tightly sealed jar or other container. Kept in a cool, dark, dry place it will taste great for at least 6 months.
Cooking with Rosemary
When using fresh rosemary you will usually use the long, thin leaves, either whole or chopped.
Rosemary recipes are some of my favorite. Fresh rosemary is wonderful sprinkled on potatoes or a mix of potatoes, carrots, parsnips and sweet potatoes before roasting. Drizzle it all with olive oil and season with salt and pepper before baking it. Have a look at our recipe for roasted potatoes to see how wonderfully rosemary benefits the flavor of that simple vegetable.
If you want the flavor of this herb in a stew or soup, but not the actual leaves, you can add the whole sprig as the dish cooks and simply remove it before serving.
The flavor of rosemary goes perfectly with many meats, especially lamb and chicken. Grilled or roasted lamb crusted in a mix of chopped rosemary and garlic is simply amazing. Or bake chicken topped with lemon zest and juice, garlic, chopped rosemary and olive oil. It is delicious.
Here is my recipe for roasted chicken with white and sweet potatoes. It incorporates the wonderful flavor of this herb nicely.
Olive oil dipping sauces are popular and you can easily make a delicious one by adding chopped herbs like this one to extra virgin olive oil. Let it sit for at least an hour before serving to allow the oil to absorb the wonderful pungent rosemary flavor. Serve it with sliced crusty bread or slices of baguette.
Fresh chopped rosemary is also wonderful for flavoring tomato sauce, soups and egg dishes like frittata. Give it a try and enjoy the wonderful pungent taste and great health benefits of this super healthy herb.