4 Rosemary Essential Oil Benefits and Uses
As for Rosmarine, I lett it runne all over my garden walls, not onlie because my bees love it, but because it is the herb sacred to remembrance, and, therefore, to friendship; whence a sprig of it hath a dumb language that maketh it the chosen emblem of our funeral wakes and in our burial grounds.”
~ Sir Thomas More (1478-1535)
We love rosemary on potatoes and chicken, but it's so much more than a culinary treat. Rosmarinus officinalus was a sacred substance for nearly all ancient peoples, including Egyptians, Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans. As an evergreen Mediterranean native, rosemary would have been readily available, so its presence in folk medicine over the centuries is unsurprising.
Ancient peoples used rosemary for many purposes, including:
- Mental clarity
- Digestive soothing
- Muscle pain relief
In recent uses, rosemary is frequently used in skincare and hair products thanks to known antiseptic ability. As with many ancient remedies, rosemary is the subject of modern research as we begin to unlock the medicinal wisdom of generations past.
Can Rosemary Treat Cancer?
Although we only have in vitro (cells in a petri dish) studies, researchers suggest that rosemary essential oil can help prevent and treat a variety of cancer cells lines. Of the 30 compounds in the essential oil, there are a few main players: α-pinene, borneol, (−) camphene, camphor, verbenone, and bornyl-acetate. Interestingly, it doesn't seem that any one of these chemicals is responsible for rosemary's anti-tumor prowess. The research actually suggests that it's the synergy of them interacting together, which gives rosemary essential oil the true medicinal effect.
The study suggesting this was published in the journal Molecules after evaluating in vitro antibacterial activities and toxicology properties. of R. officinalis L. essential oil compared to α-pinene, β-pinene, and 1,8-cineole. According to the study,
“R. officinalis L. essential oil possessed similar antibacterial activities to α-pinene, and a little bit better than β-pinene, while 1,8-cineole possessed the lowest antibacterial activities. R. officinalis L. essential oil exhibited the strongest cytotoxicity towards three human cancer cells. Its inhibition concentration 50% (IC50) values on SK-OV-3, HO-8910 and Bel-7402 were 0.025‰, 0.076‰ and 0.13‰ (v/v), respectively. The cytotoxicity of all the test samples on SK-OV-3 was significantly stronger than on HO-8910 and Bel-7402. In general, R. officinalis L. essential oil showed greater activity than its components in both antibacterial and anticancer test systems, and the activities were mostly related to their concentrations.” (1)
Four Favorite Benefits of Rosemary Oil
Alongside the exciting prospect of slowed cancer growth and inflammation spread, rosemary has effects that are useful for our more common needs as well. Here are four of the ways rosemary exhibits its strengths in our everyday lives.
1. Hair Growth
Stimulating for the scalp, rosemary is a dandruff and dry scalp treatment that may facilitate hair growth. Some even go as far as to say that it can prevent hair loss and graying.
Years ago, Francesc Casadó Galcerá patented a lotion for scalp and hair (US 6447762 B1), including a mixture of rosemary, hops, and swertia. H found that his blend was able to stimulate (2):
- New hair growth, by as much as 22%
- Stimulated “rapid” hair growth
- Improved scalp health via microcirculation
- Smoother hair
- Retained hair, with fewer incidences of loss after shampooing
Include rosemary essential oil in simple vinegar hair rinses or DIY shampoo and conditioner formulas for improved scalp health and hair growth.
2. Memory Retention
“There's rosemary, that's for remembrance, pray you love, remember.
~ Ophelia (Shakespeare's “Hamlet”)
Rosemary has been known as the “herb of remembrance” for centuries. Greek scholars used it when taking exams to help recall important information, and allusions to its memory improvement have been peppered into poetry throughout the ages. The International Journal of Neuroscience published one study that confirmed these effects in recent science.
Over 140 participants were gathered for the study conducted by University of Northumbria, Newcastle. Aromatherapy including rosemary and lavender, as well as a control group were utilized to affect cognitive performance.
- Regarding lavender and it's calming abilities, “lavender produced a significant decrement in performance of working memory, and impaired reaction times for both memory and attention based tasks.”
- On the other hand, as a memory stimulant, “rosemary produced a significant enhancement of performance for overall quality of memory and secondary memory factors.”
Test taking and alert feelings pale in comparison to the studies conducted on rosemary in relation to Alzheimer's disease. One such study, published in Psychogeriatrics, evaluated the effects of aromatherapy on 28 elderly people suffering from dementia, with the majority also diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. They were given rosemary and lemon inhalations in the morning, then lavender and orange in the evening. Through multiple tests and forms of analysis, the “patients showed significant improvement in personal orientation” without any deleterious side effects. (4)
3. Liver and Gallbladder Support
The primary function of the liver is to detoxify the body, and with such heavy levels of toxins exposed to us on a daily basis, sometimes it can use a little help.
Traditional use of rosemary includes digestive and gastrointestinal relief. (5) Coupled with liver support, rosemary becomes a fantastic detoxifier. This has been confirmed in studies conducted in India, where it was observed helping the body increase its bile production and improve plasma liver enzyme levels. When these processes are inhibited, fat metabolism and detoxification are inhibited, and risks for type II diabetes increase.
With a properly functioning liver, gallbladder, and gastrointestinal system, nutrients are more readily absorbed and toxins released, bringing balance and wellness to the whole body.
4. Reduced Cortisol Levels
The Meikai University School of Dentistry in Japan conducted a study that monitored cortisol levels in saliva after just five minutes of rosemary and lavender inhalation. Twenty-two volunteers participated, and both essential oils had excellent results. Not only was the “stress hormone” cortisol reduced significantly, but free radical scavenging activities were increased as well. (6) So the oils help to prevent added stress, then go a step further to help erase effects of previous stressful exertion.
Implementing Rosemary Uses
Clearly a safe and effective oil, rosemary's benefits can be implemented in many ways. Here are just some of my favorite DIY recipes for application:
- Aromatherapy Use – Add 5 drops to your favorite diffuser, which typically contains four ounces of fluid.
- Dietary Supplementation – Dilute 1 drop in a teaspoon of honey, maple syrup or coconut oil.
- Culinary Use – Next time your recipe calls for rosemary, add a drop or two and experience a Heavenly burst of flavor!
- Topical Application – Enjoy its antioxidant and antiseptic properties on the skin, but be sure to heavily dilute with coconut, almond, or jojoba oil before applying to skin.
Note on Seizures & Hyptertension
This is tough one for me to figure out because there's virtually no research on this in the last 20 years and the only couple articles that I can find are case studies. (7, 8) Nonetheless virtually every blog that I see on the topic state that rosemary is contraindicated for epileptics and people prone to seizures.
According to Aromatherapist Lauren Bridges, a mother of an epileptic child, this issue has become convoluted by myths and jumping to conclusions prematurely.
“Long story short, a lot of the seizure lists floating around the internet are not accurate nor real pictures of the risks and threats. None of them seemingly account for species or chemotype, which makes a difference in this matter. As far as a list of oils with convulsant properties, I would check essential oils safety expert Robert Tisserand's work, but with the understanding that this list can no way give a complete risk profile because of the nature of epilepsy an other seizure disorders.”
Same message applies to hypertension. According to Tisserand “I believe that there is no case for contraindicating any essential oil in someone with high blood pressure. As well as closely examining the evidence above, I also refer to more recent research, which confirms that the four “Valnet oils” present no risk. The lack of compelling evidence is reason enough to let go of this chimera.” (9)
If these are areas of concern for you, please contact your physician before using rosemary.