Aromatherapy: Rosemary

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.


To learn more about Aromatherapy and other alternative medicines, see:

  • Aromatherapy: Learn about aromatherapy, how it works, what part essential oils play, and how to use aromatherapy.
  • Essential Oils Profiles: We have collected profiles of dozens of plants that are used to produce essential oils. On these pages, you will learn the properties and preparations for the most popular essential oils.
  • How to Treat Common Conditions With Aromatherapy: Aromatherapy can be used to treat a number of conditions, from asthma to depression to skin problems. Here you will learn how to treat some common medical problems with aromatherapy.
  • Home Remedies: We have gathered over a hundred safe, time-tested home remedies for treating a wide variety of medical complaints yourself.
  • Herbal Remedies: Herbal remedies and aromatherapy can be very similar, and they stem from similar historic roots. On this page, you will find all of our herb profiles and instructions for treating medical problems with herbal remedies.



Kathi Keville is director of the American Herb Association and editor of the American Herb Association Quarterly newsletter. A writer, photographer, consultant, and teacher specializing in aromatherapy and herbs for over 25 years, she has written several books, including Aromatherapy: The Complete Guide to the Healing Art and Pocket Guide to Aromatherapy, and has written over 150 articles for such magazines as New Age Journal, The Herb Companion, and New Herbal Remedies.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.