What Is It?
Health Benefits
Dosage Information
Guidelines for Use
General Interaction
Possible Side Effects
Evidence Based Rating Scale


What Is It?

A silvery evergreen shrub that originated in the Mediterranean region and is now grown worldwide, rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is prized both as a culinary and healing Herb. Many of the current uses of this aromatic plant have been handed down from ancient times.

Historically, Greek and Chinese healers used rosemary as a soothing digestive aid and to relieve intestinal gas (flatulence). In many countries today, rosemary leaf tea is a standard treatment for these purposes. Germany's Commission e, for instance, has even given its official approval to rosemary leaf tea for treating indigestion, gas, bloating, and other digestive symptoms. The tea can be prepared from dried rosemary leaves; alternatively, small amounts of either the Tincture or the liquid Extract can be mixed with warm water.

The ancient Greeks also believed that the plant could enhance memory, and students were known to take their examinations wearing garlands of rosemary. In Shakespeare's Hamlet, Ophelia in her mad scene lists rosemary among the herbs she's wearing: "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance.

 Health Benefits

The herb's enduring reputation as a memory aid may in part be due to its high concentrations of health-promoting antioxidants. These compounds help to protect the brain and other parts of the body against unstable oxygen molecules, called Free radicals, which can damage cells in the body. Rosemary may also sharpen memory by helping to prevent the breakdown of a brain chemical called acetylcholine.

Specifically,  topical use of  rosemary may help to:

Sharpen the mind, counter mental fatigue, and treat nervous exhaustion. Aromatherapists commonly recommend inhaling rosemary oil to aid cognitive function and improve mood. A 2003 studied 144 participants who completed mood questionnaires before and after taking a cognitive assessment test in a cubicle with lavender or rosemary essential oils or in a cubicle with no odors. Rosemary significantly improved alertness and enhanced performance for overall quality of memory and second memory factors. The rosemary group also reported improved mood after the test. (1) The essential oil of rosemary can be inhaled directly, added to bath water, or diluted with a neutral carrier oil and used for massage.

Soothe arthritic joints, muscle sprains and strains, and migraines. Rosemary oil, which is steam-distilled from the plant’s pale blue flowers, can help soothe joint and muscle pain when applied topically. Although it is not clear how rosemary oil works to soothe joints and muscles, it appears to quiet stimulated nerve endings that are transmitting pain signals to the brain. Several studies have found extracts of rosemary to be useful in combating inflammatory diseases, such as arthritis. (2-4) And camphor, a skin irritant found in rosemary oil, may help by increasing blood circulation to the skin when applied topically. (5) The same mechanisms may help improve migraines. When massaged into the temples, the hollows near the eyes, behind the ears and over the neck, rosemary oil has been shown to relieve migraines.

Prevent hair loss. The aromatic oil is frequently added to hair preparations. One trial found that rosemary oil, when combined with thyme, cedarwood and lavender oils in a neutral carrier oil (jojoba) may help to lessen a type of patchy hair loss of unknown cause called alopecia areata. The 1998 trial found the combination improved hair growth in up to 44 percent of patients after seven months of treatment. (6)

Combat bacteria and fungus. Rosemary oil is one of the four essential oils recently made available in capsule form for internal use. Herbalists often suggest capsules containing rosemary oil along with the essential oils of oregano and thyme for the treatment of yeast and fungus. (7-10)


  • capsule 
  • dried herb/tea
  • extract
  • oil
  • powder
  • tincture
  • Dosage Information

  • As a tea: 3 cups daily. Steep 6 g powdered herb in 2 cups water for 3 to 5 minutes. Divide into three doses to drink over the course of the day.

  • Essential oil: (6 to 10%): 2 drops semisolid or liquid in 1 tablespoon carrier oil.  

    Guidelines for Use

    Self-care use of rosemary is recommended only in the form of a tea to be sipped or as an essential oil  which is to be used externally / topically and diluted with a carrier oil such as almond oil.

    When applied topically, rosemary oil can cause dermatitis and skin redness in people who are sensitive to it. If this happens to you, stop using the herb.

    General Interaction

    There are no known drug or nutrient interactions associated with rosemary.

    Possible Side Effects

    Large amounts of leaves containing rosemary oil might cause deep coma, spasm, vomiting, gastroenteritis, uterine bleeding, kidney irritation, pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs), and death. Ingestion of undiluted oil might cause some stomach and intestinal irritation, kidney damage, and seizures. The camphor constituents can cause allergic reactions.


    If you are pregnant, don't use rosemary in therapeutic amounts. High doses could potentially cause complications, including miscarriage. The amounts that typically appear in food or cosmetics pose no risk, however.

    If you have epilepsy, don't use medicinal amounts of rosemary; the camphor in the herb could potentially aggravate seizures.

    If insomnia is a problem, don't use rosemary nor take a rosemary bath in the evening; its stimulant effect may keep you from falling asleep.


    1. Moss M, Cook J, Wesnes K, Duckett P. Aromas of rosemary and lavender essential oils differentially affect cognition and mood in healthy adults. Int J Neurosci. 2003 Jan;113(1):15-38.

    2. Lukaczer D, Darland G, Tripp M, et al. A pilot trial evaluating Meta050, a proprietary combination of reduced iso-alpha acids, rosemary extract and oleanolic acid in patients with arthritis and fibromyalgia. Phytother Res. 2005 Oct;19(10):864-9.

    3. Aggarwal BB, Shishodia S. Suppression of the nuclear factor-kappaB activation pathway by spice-derived phytochemicals: reasoning for seasoning. Ann NY Acad Sci. 2004 Dec;1030:434-41.

    4. Darshan S, Doreswamy R. Patented anti-inflammatory plant drug development from traditional medicine. Phytother Res. 2004 May;18(5):343-57.

    5. Blumenthal M, ed. The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Trans. S. Klein. Boston, MA: American Botanical Council, 1998.

    6. Hay IC, Jamieson M, Ormerod AD. Randomized trial of aromatheraphy. Successful treatment for alopecia areata. Arch Dermatol. 1998;134:1349-52.

    7. Newall CA, Anderson LA, Philpson JD. Herbal Medicine: A Guide for Healthcare Professionals. London, UK: The Pharmaceutical Press, 1996.

    8. The Review of Natural Products by Facts and Comparisons. St. Louis, MO: Wolters Kluwer Co., 1999.

    9. Bozin B, Mimica-Dukic N, Samojlik I, Jovin E. Antimicrobial and antioxidant properties of rosemary and sage (Rosmarinus officinalis L. and Salvia officinalis L., Lamiaceae) essential oils. J Agric Food Chem. 2007 Sep 19;55(19):7879-885.

    10. Fu Y, Zu Y, Chen L, et al. Antimicrobial activity of clove and rosemary essential oils alone and in combination. Phytother Res. 2007 Jun 11;21(10):989-94.

    Evidence Based Rating Scale 

    The Evidence Based Rating Scale is a tool that helps consumers translate the findings of medical research studies with what our clinical advisors have found to be efficacious in their personal practice. This tool is meant to simplify which supplements and therapies demonstrate promise in the treatment of certain conditions. This scale does not take into account any possible interactions with any medication/ condition/ or therapy which you may be currently undertaking. It is therefore advisable to ask your doctor before starting any new treatment regimen.







    Alopecia areata









    Preliminary evidence indicates efficacy. More research is needed.














    Anecdotal evidence and preliminary studies indicate efficacy. More research is needed.




    Fungus Infection








    Use favored by consensus.



    Improve memory


    Date Published: 04/19/2005
    Previous  |  Next
    > Printer-friendly Version Return to Top

    © 2000- 2019 ., LLC. 21251 Ridgetop Circle, Suite 150, Sterling, VA 20166. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited. Privacy Policy

    Disclaimer: All material provided in the WholeHealthMD website is provided for educational purposes only. Consult your physician regarding the applicability of any information provided in the WholeHealthMD website to your symptoms or medical condition.