Rosemary is a perennial herb with fragrant, evergreen, , needle-like leaves and white, pink, purple, or blue flowers. The name “rosemary” derives from the Latin word ros for “dew” and marinus for “sea” or “dew of the sea”. Rosemary is used as a decorative plant in gardens and can grow quite large and retain attractiveness for many years. It can be pruned into formal shapes and low hedges, and therefore is used for topiary. Rosemary also has many medical and culinary uses.
In the lab, rosemary has been shown to have antioxidant properties. Antioxidants can neutralize harmful particles in the body known as free radicals, which damage cell membranes, tamper with DNA, and even cause cell death. Also in the lab, rosemary oil appears to have antimicrobial properties (killing some bacteria and fungi in test tubes).
Rosemary contains substances that are useful for stimulating the immune system, increasing circulation, improving digestion, relieving heartburn, flatulence, liver and gallbladder complaints, and loss of appetite. It is also used for gout, cough, headache, and high blood pressure. It improves blood flow to the head and has a reputation for improving memory and has been used as a symbol for remembrance during weddings, war commemorations and funerals in Europe and Australia. During the Middle Ages, a bride would wear a rosemary headpiece and the groom and wedding guests would all wear a sprig of rosemary, and from this association with weddings, rosemary evolved into a love charm. Newlywed couples would plant a branch of rosemary on their wedding day. If the branch grew, it was a good omen for the union and family.
Rosemary is applied topically to the skin for preventing and treating baldness; and treating circulation problems, toothache, eczema, and joint or muscle pain, such as myalgia, sciatica, and neuralgia. It is also used for wound healing, in bath therapy, and as an insect repellent.
Native to the Mediterranean region, rosemary leaves are used as a fragrant flavoring in foods such as eggs, potatoes, roast lamb, pork, chicken and turkey. Rosemary is high in iron, calcium and vitamin B6.
Fresh rosemary should be stored in the refrigerator either in its original packaging or wrapped in a slightly damp paper towel. You can also place the rosemary sprigs in ice cube trays covered with either water or stock that can be added when preparing soups or stews. Dried rosemary should be kept in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dark and dry place where it will keep fresh for about six months.