An evergreen shrub native of Mediterranean countries, rosemary likes well drained, chalky soil in full sun and sheltered from the wind. It grows to about 1.5m tall and is typically found in coastal areas and its name actual means ‘dew of the sea’.
Traditionally the herb is associated with friendship and remembrance, and it has played important part in ceremonies of marriage, love and death – it was woven into posies and veils for brides as a symbol of love and loyalty. In Italy and Portugal, Rosemary was placed in the slippers of the bride and groom so they would remain loyal to each other.
A sprig of Rosemary was given to mourners at funerals as a symbol of immortality and remembrance to place in the coffin as it was lowered into the ground.
Is said if Rosemary grows in your garden you will never be without friends and there is a widespread belief that a rosemary bush will only grow in the garden of a house where the wife is the dominant partner.
Today Rosemary is mainly used internally as a digestive herb for flatulence and stimulating the liver. Drink a rosemary tea after food to help stimulate digestion and prevent wind.
It is also a powerful nerve stimulator and is used for strengthening memory and lifting depression. Its circulatory properties make it good for chronic headaches when taken as infusion and will also help prevent hair loss if you rinse your hair with a cool infusion of rosemary, as it will stimulate the circulation in your scalp. Rosemary infusion can also be used to give dark hair extra lustre and darken light hair.
Use a warm, strong infusion of rosemary to make a compress for bruises, aches and sprained muscles. The rosemary will stimulate blood flow to the area, improving healing times, and also acts as an analgesic, reducing pain in the area.
Rosemary essential oil is also used as a tonic for the nerves, the heart and circulation. It can be used to rekindle energy and improve concentration – often used by students before exams. Just add 2-3 drops to 10ml of base oil and rub into the forehead or temples to improve concentration.
It’s painkilling properties also help dull the pain of arthritis, rheumatism and neuralgia. However rosemary oil is a powerful abortifacient so should never be used on pregnant women and it’s powerful effect on the nerves means it is not suitable for epileptics.