The ancients believed that rosemary strengthened memory, and thus it became an emblem of fidelity, important at both weddings and funerals. The smoke was inhaled to protect against brain weakness and dizziness, and the herb was burned in schools and universities to inspire the pupils. Japanese researchers have preliminary evidence that rosemary does indeed improve memory. Rosemary was burned by the poor instead of frankincense; the old French name for it, incensier, came from rosemary’s celebrated history as church incense.
Until the twentieth century, the fragrant branches were burned in French hospitals, with juniper, to purify the air. Rosemary also made its impression on early cosmetics; it was the main ingredient in the famous fourteenth century “Hungary Water,” which is still available today. This Mediterranean native with tiny, pale blue flowers that bloom in late winter loves growing by the ocean -- its name rosmarinus means “dew of the sea.” It is cultivated worldwide for aromatherapy and other uses, although France, Spain, and Tunisia are the main producers of the essential oil.
Principal constituents of rosemary: Borneol, camphene, camphors, cineol, verbenone, pinenes, limonene, linalol, terpineol, and others
Scent of rosemary: The odor is herbaceous, woody, sharp, and camphorous.
Therapeutic properties of rosemary: Antiseptic, astringent, antioxidant; relieves rheumatic and muscle pain, relaxes nerves, improves digestion and appetite, increases sweating
Uses for rosemary: As an ingredient in a massage oil, compress, or bath, rosemary essential oil is excellent for increasing poor circulation and easing muscle and rheumatism pain. It is especially penetrating when used in a liniment. It is very antiseptic, so inhaling the essential oil or adding it to a vapor balm that is rubbed on the chest and throat relieves lung congestion and sore throat. It is a stimulant to the nervous system and increases energy. Cosmetically it encourages dry, mature skin to produce more of its own natural oils. It also helps get rid of canker sores. Add it to shampoos -- it is an age-old remedy for dandruff and hair loss.
Warnings about rosemary: It can be overly stimulating and may increase blood pressure.