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Botanical Description & Habitat

Rosmarinus officinales


Common names

Compass plant
Old Man

Found in southern Europe, North Africa, and southwest Asia. It is a evergreen shrub growing in dry places, hills, and banks, and is now widely cultivated as a kitchen seasoning.

Rosemary has a woody rootstock which produces scaly, rigid branches. The branches are ash-colored and bear thick, dark green leaves with white, hairy undersides. The leaves have prominent veins and grow in whorls. The flowers are pale blue and grow in clusters from the leaf axils and bloom during April and May.

Medicinal parts
Leaves - fresh, gathered before flowering
Flowering tops, fresh, gathered after flowering (contain oils superior to those of stems or leaves)

Historical Properties & Uses

Rosemary leaf contains rosmaricine, the derivatives of which possess considerable smooth muscle stimulant activity (and some analgesic activity). The leaf also possesses valuable aromatic essential oils which, as is true for many of similar plants, calm and soothe irritated nerves and upset stomach, and extinguish strenuous anxiety. Rosemary contains beneficial concentrations of minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, sodium, and potassium, all of which are involved in the electrolytic balance of fluids surrounding nerves and cardiac tissues.

One of the primary uses of rosemary is to lower blood pressure, effect that has been observed experimentally. The leaf also contains a flavonoid pigment called diosmin, which decreases capillary permeability and fragility, thereby contributing even further to cardiovascular health.

Rosemary leaf has been used in Europe and China for centuries to treat headaches and stomach pains. Its moderate analgesic activity has been recently verified. In Europe and America, rosemary is a popular and proven cholagogue. The stimulant and antispasmodic properties of rosemary may be deduced from the presence of aromatic oils having those properties, but its purported emmenagogue and abortifacient actions have not been experimentally substantiated, although many clinical anecdotes attest to these properties.

Rosemary is applied externally as an ointment for the treatment of rheumatism, sprains, and bruises. The ointment is commonly used as a treatment for baldness in Europe and China.

Rosemary leaf is an approved herb by the German Commisssion E for use internally and externally.

Internally, it is used for dyspepsia.

Externally it is supportive therapy in rheumatic conditions and circulatory problems.


Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Method of Action

Rosemary leaf has certain cardiovascular effects
Rosemary leaf contains several potent aromatic oils, including borneol, camphor, cineole, and many terpenes. In addition, it contains the active rosmaricine and the flavonoid pigment diosmin, both of which contribute to cardiovascular health. Diosmin decreases capillary permeability and fragility (even more so than rutin), while tri-methyl derivatives of rosmaricine stimulates smooth muscle and acts as an analgesic. Hypotensive activity has also been observed in rosemary leaf extracts; in doses of 5, 10 and 20 mg/kg, rosmaricine depresses the arterial blood pressure of narcotized cats.

Rosemary is generally recognized as an agent for use during convalescence and during old age, by physicians in Germany who still use natural medicines. It is purported quickens and quiets circulation, and relieves symptoms of rheumatism, and neuralgia.

Rosemary Is A Cholagogue
The cholagogue effect was first substantiated early in this century, but has not been extensively investigated since.

Rosemary has effective antibiotic properties
Due to the presence of volatile oils, rosemary leaf has demonstrated antibacterial properties against N. perflava, B. mesentericus, Aerobacter aerogenes, B. subtilis, M. aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Seratia marcescens, and E. coli., using the filter paper disk method. A nutrient agar test failed to find any antibacterial activity in rosemary against several of the same organisms. Incubated at 37 degrees C. for seven days with the H37Rv strain of mycobacterium tuberculosis, rosemary leaf extract produced inhibition at concentrations lower than 1:80 but higher than 1:40. This makes it one of the weakest among those plants with such activity, but demonstrates the presence of the property nonetheless.

Drug Interactions & Precautions

Possible Interactions
The antituberculous activity of rosemary may potentiate the adverse effects of other antituberculous drugs, especially ethionamide.

There is evidence to show combined use of bactericidal and bacteriostatic agents will lower the effectiveness of the bacteriostatic agent. However, how this finding applies to herbal anti-infectives is not known.

Safety Factors & Toxicity

Rosemary should not be taken large doses; it can be toxic, and is reported to have caused death in large doses. At the very least, overdose can cause kidney and gastrointestinal irritation. In humans, large doses (as when taken to induce abortion) have led to deep coma, clonic/tonic convulsions, exhaustion, lowering of patellar and pupillary reflexes, in addition to vomiting, gastroenteritis, and certain clinical symptoms such as leukocytosis.

This herb has approval status by the German Commission E.


Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Preparation & Administration

Three times a day

Dried leaf and twig
2-4 grams

made from 1 tsp dried leaf and twig

Fluid extract
1:1 in 25% alcohol, 2-4 ml

This herb has approval status by the German Commission E.

Recommended daily dosages in Germany are as follows:


4 - 6 g of the herb.
10 - 20 drops of essential oil.


50 g herb per bath.
6 - 10% essential oil.


Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Note: This Herbal Preparation information is a summary of data from books and articles by various authors. It is not intended to replace the advice or attention of health care professionals.


Am Hospital Formulary Service. Am Soc of Hosp Pharm. Wash, D.C.

Aruoma, O.I. et al: An evaluation of the antioxidant and antiviral action of extracts of rosemary and Provencal herbs. Food Chem. Toxicol. 1996, 34(5): 449 - 456.

Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Boido, A., F. Sparatore & M. Biniecka. N-substituted derivatives of rosmaricine. Studi Sassar Sez. 2, 53(5-6), 383-393, 1975.

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Chamberlain, M.J., et. al. Toxic effect of podophyllum application in pregnancy. The British Medical Journal, 3, 391-392, 1972.

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Drug package insert (FDA approved official brochure) and other labeling based on sponsored clinical investigations and New Drug Application data.

Facts and Comparisons. The Lawrence Review of Natural Products. Feb, 1992.

Fitzpatrick, F.K. Plant substances active against mycobacterium tuberculosis. Antibiotics And Chemotherapy, 4(5), 528-536, 1954.

Goodman, L.S. & A. Gilman. 1975. Pharm Basis of Thera. MacMillan, NY.

Hansten, P.D. 1979. Drug Interactions, 4th ed. Lea & Febiger, Phila.

Hyde. British Herbal Pharmacopoeia. Brit Herb Med Assoc: England, 1983.

Kastrup, E.K., ed. 1981. Drug Facts and Comparisons, 1982 edition. Facts and Comparisions Division, J.P. Lippincott Co, Phila (St. Louis).

Kiangsu Institute of Medicine. Encyclopedia of Chinese Drugs (2 volumes). Shanghai, Prc.

List, P. & L. Hoerhammer. 1969-1976. Hagers Hanbuch der Pharmazeutischen Praxis, vols. 2-5. Springer-Verlag, Berlin.

Martin, E. Drug Interactions Index, 1978/79. J.B. Lippincott Co., Phila.

Maruzzella, J.C. & N.A. Sircurella. Antibacterial activity of essential oil vapors. J Of The Am Pharm Assoc, 49(11), 692-694, 1960.

Maruzzela, J.C. & M.B, Lichtenstein. The in vitro antibacterial activity of oils. J. Of The Am. Pharm. Ass. 45(6), 378-381, 1956.

Mowrey, Daniel B., Ph.D. Exper. Psych., Brigham Young University. Director of Nebo Institute of Herbal Sciences. Director of Behavior Change Agent Training Institute. Director of Research, Nova Corp.

Pahlow, M. Das Grosse Buch Der Heilplanzen. Graefe und unzer GmgH., Munich, 1979, pp. 124-126.

Scientific Committee, British Herbal Pharmocopaeia, British Herbal Med Assoc, Lane House, Cowling, Keighley, West Yorks, l983

Singletary, KW & Nelshoppen, JM: Inhibition of 7,12-dimethylbenz(a) anthracene (DMBA)-induced mammary tumorigenesis and of in vivo formaiton of mammary DMBA-DNA aducts of rosemary extract. Cancer Lett. 1991, 60(2):169.

Von Haler, A. Kraeuter--Heilkraefte der natur. Krakenpflege, 29(3), 96-97, 1975.

Essential Oil

See Rosemary Essence under Aromatherapy


Rosmarinus officinales

? Southwest School of Botanical Medicine


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