Today we talk about the properties of rosemary, one of the most loved and easy to find aromatic plants on balconies and in gardens. A pair of scissors, a jump out and here we have a precious sprig of rosemary in our hands, to give flavor to our preparations but also to enrich them with healthy benefits, as we will see later in the article.
Rosemary, what it is, properties and active ingredients
Rosemary, scientific name Rosmarinus officinalis, is an aromatic plant of the Lamiaceae family, native to the Mediterranean area but, nowadays, cultivated everywhere in the world. Rosemary is widely used in the kitchen to flavor dishes, but it is also highly appreciated as a medicinal plant. The active ingredients of rosemary are rosmarinic acid, chlorogenic acid, carnosic acid and carnosol. These substances give rosemary anticancer, antioxidant, antidiabetic and hepatoprotective properties against toxin damage, also capable of protecting the stomach from ulcers (Perez Sanches et al, Scientific Reports, 2019).
Then, rosemary is also a concentrate of vitamins, such as vitamin C and group B, and minerals, such as calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium (USDA Food Data Central). In the following we will see to deepen some particular properties of rosemary, as they emerge from recent scientific studies.
Rosemary, brain health and mood
Carnosic acid, one of the active ingredients of rosemary, is able to overcome the barrier between blood and brain and act as a powerful antioxidant, counteracting free radical damage and neurodegeneration (Shiravi et al, Mediterranean Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, 2021).
Then, rosemary is useful for increasing the feeling of well-being, improving mood and counteracting depression (Shiravi et al, Mediterranean Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, 2021). Not only that, rosemary counteracts insomnia and improves the quality of sleep (Shiravi et al, Mediterranean Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, 2021). Finally, rosemary is also a valid ally in case of mental fatigue, recharging with energy and supporting cognitive functionality (Araki et al, Nutrients, 2020).
Rosemary for the liver
Rosemary against inflammation
Rosemary supports the intestinal microbiota, promoting the proliferation of good bacteria. One of the consequences of this precious prebiotic action is that rosemary counteracts chronic inflammation and reduces circulating pro-inflammatory substances (Shiravi et al, Mediterranean Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, 2021).
Rosemary against cellular degeneration
Rosemary is a synergy of substances that have been shown to counteract some types of cellular degeneration. In particular, studies have observed that rosemary extracts have proved to be useful in protecting the colon, counteracting the proliferation of diseased cells and a possible invasion into other tissues. It was also possible to explain the mechanism of action. In particular, rosemary increases free radicals in diseased cells and thus favors apoptosis, which is their programmed death (Perez Sanches et al, Scientific Reports, 2019).
Rosemary for the health of the respiratory system
Rosemary is also beneficial for the health of the respiratory system thanks to an action on several fronts. In fact, rosemary reduces chronic inflammation, even in the lungs.
Then, rosemary is a relaxant and counteracts muscle spasms of the respiratory tract, reduces histamine, is antifibrotic and antimicrobial, with a useful action in case of asthma, rhino sinusitis, bronchitis and allergy (Shiravi et al, Mediterranean Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, 2021).
Rosemary for the heart
Rosemary helps keep blood sugar and cholesterol under control. Not only that, rosemary contains substances capable of reducing blood pressure. These effects have a beneficial action for the cardiovascular system (Shiravi et al, Mediterranean Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, 2021).
Rosemary, uses in the kitchen, herbal teas and essential oil
Rosemary is a precious ally for health, as we have seen. And then it is versatile and this makes it practical to include in your daily diet. You can add a few rosemary needles to soup, sauces or gravies. You can chop it and use it as a salad dressing, perhaps together with turmeric, pepper and extra virgin olive oil, since turmeric and rosemary have been shown to work synergistically maximizing their ability to protect the liver (Mohamed et al, Molecules, 2022). But rosemary can also be used to prepare an herbal tea, useful, as indicated by scientific research, before going to sleep or against anxiety and depression (Li et al, J Ethnopharmacol, 2023 - Habtemariam et al, Evid Based Complement Alternat Med., 2016). Bring a cup of water to the boil, remove from the heat and add a teaspoon of rosemary leaves, let it rest for ten minutes, then filter and drink.
Alternatively, to stimulate memory, mood and concentration, you can diffuse a few drops of rosemary essential oil in the air.
Rosemary is therefore really beneficial and can be included in a healthy and balanced diet. However, it's important not to overdo it. In fact, rosemary can interfere with the absorption of iron introduced with food (Shiravi et al, Mediterranean Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, 2021). In addition, if in excess, rosemary can cause nausea and vomiting. Avoid rosemary in pregnancy. Ask your doctor for advice if you are taking medications as rosemary can interfere with some medicines, such as blood thinners, diuretics and antihypertensives.