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  • Writer's pictureToni Kenyon

Garden Herbs for Health: Rosemary

Rosemary in flower
My bees love the beautiful blue flowers of Rosemary

While most people associate Rosemary with a good Sunday night roast dinner, I like to think about how this aromatic plant to help me with my health.

Rosemary [Rosmarinus officinalis] is often on my mind, probably because I find myself stroking the leaves of this perennial bush as I walk out to the back garden. The scent is pungent and stimulating.

Rosemary is native to Mediterranean Europe and grows in well-drained rocky situations. [1] It does not grow wild in New Zealand, but can be propagated easily from cuttings and also grows from seed. In my experience (growing for many years in in North Shore clay soils and now struggling with the expansive clay soils further north of Auckland), Rosemary is not a very hardy shrub and can, for no apparent reason having grown happily for years, just “turn up its toes” and die overnight!

I have already lost one plant for no apparent reason and it was even growing in a raised bed.

The parts used medicinally are the aerial parts of the herb, including twigs. [1]

Rosemary is an anti-oxidant herb and strong brain and memory stimulant and is greatly valued for its ability to ease headaches and migraines and relieve mild depression. It's a well known circulatory stimulant, useful for problems associated with the cardiovascular system, poor circulation, and low blood pressure. It also contains high levels of rosmaricine, which acts as a mild analgesic and antioxidants which together make it useful for treating inflammation, such as arthritis and joint damage. [3]

In ancient times the herb had a reputation for strengthening the memory and on this account became the emblem of fidelity for lovers (perhaps also why it was used often at weddings).

We associate Rosemary with remembrance and historically Churches were decorated for funerals with Rosemary. In early times Rosemary was cultivated for the kitchen garden and came to represent the dominant influence of the house mistress. ‘Where Rosemary flourished, the woman ruled.’ [2] Might be why some of mine ups and dies overnight!

Rosemary is used by many herbalists as an anti-inflammatory, as a circulatory stimulant (a tonic for the heart and blood vessels), for indigestion & colic (hence its use in a culinary way with fatty meats), for stimulating the nervous system (depression, migraine headaches, poor memory, poor concentration), externally as a rinse for baldness and dandruff and the camphor content of the herb suggests its use in stimulating mucus flow in the treatment of respiratory tract disorders. [1]

I often burn Rosemary oil in a diffuser when I am having trouble concentrating. It helps tremendously with getting jobs completed. The essential oil can also be used as a liniment in cases of myalgia, scciatica and neuralgia. [1]

Rosemary and Thyme tea is one of my favourites. I've adapted a recipe of Rosemary Gladstar's:

I pour boiling water over 1 part rosemary and 1 part thyme. Rosemary Gladstar suggests that you use Lemon Thyme--but I usually don't have that growing abundantly in the garden, so I use ordinary thyme and then add some fresh lemon (or lemon verbena--anything lemon will work).

Let the tea steep for a good 10 minutes, strain and drink. You can add honey if you want it a little sweeter (I usually do).

It's delicious and a wonderful drink to take mid-afternoon.

Love & Lettuce,


Reference materials:

[1] Materia Medica of Western Herbs for the Southern Hemisphere by Carole Fisher & Gilian Painter

[2] A Modern Herbal by Mrs M. Grieve

[3] Medicinal Herbs, A beginner's guide by Rosemary Gladstar


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