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Rosemary as an Herb

Rosemary as an Herb

Rosmarinus officinalis

Other Names: Polar Plant, Compass-Weed, Compass Plant

It has been said that if a rosemary bush grows vigorously in a family's garden, it means that the woman heads the household.

Religion

For centuries people thought that a rosemary plant would grow no higher than 6 feet in 33 years so as not to stand taller than Christ. Another story tells that the flowers were originally white but changed to blue when the Virgin Mary hung her cloak on a bush while fleeing from Herod's soldiers with the Christ child.

Rosemary as an Herb for Medicinal Uses

The medicinal parts are the rosemary essential oil extracted from the leaves and the leafy stems, the flowering, dried twig tips, the dried leaves, the fresh leaves, the fresh aerial partscollected during flowering and the flowering branches. The plant has a very pungent aroma.

During the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, rosemary branches were burned in homes to keep away the black death.

More recently during World War II, a mixture of rosemary leaves and juniper berries was burned in the hospitals of France to kill germs.

It was an old custom to burn Rosemary in sick chambers, and in French hospitals it is customary to burn Rosemary with Juniper Berries to purify the air and prevent infection. Like Rue, it was placed in the dock of courts of justice, as a preventative from the contagion of gaol-fever.

These practices may not be as strange as they seem. Research has found that rosemary oil does indeed have some antibacterial effects.

Rosemary is a stimulant of the circulatory system. Externally it is used to treat bites and stings. Internally it is used to treat migraines, bad breath, and to stimulate the sexual organs. It is also used to treat nervous disorders, upset stomachs, and is used to regulate the menstrual cycle and to ease cramps.

The constituents of Rosemary act as a stimulant to both the hair follicles and circulation in the scalp, and thus may be helpful in treating premature baldness - the oil is most effective in this case.

As a medicinal herb, rosemary should he used carefully. Larger quantities of the pure oil used therapeutically can irritate the stomach, intestines, and kidneys. However, don't let this worry those of you who cook with rosemary. As a seasoning, it is perfectly safe to use.

Rosemary is Approved by Commission E for:

  • Blood pressure problems
  • Dyspeptic complaints
  • Loss of appetite
  • Rheumatism

Hungary water, for outward application to paralysed limbs, was first invented for a Queen of Hungary, who was said to have been completely cured by its continued use. It was prepared by putting 1-1/2 pounds of fresh Rosemary tops in full flower into 1 gallon of spirits of wine. This was allowed to stand for four days and then distilled. Hungary water was also considered very efficacious against gout in the hands and feet, being rubbed into them vigorously. A formula dated 1235, said to be in the handwriting of Elizabeth, Queen of Hungary, is said to be preserved in Vienna.

The young tops, leaves and flowers can be made into an infusion, called rosemary leaf tea, which, taken warm, is a good remedy for removing headache, colic, colds and nervous diseases, care being taken to prevent the escape of steam during its preparation. It will relieve nervous depression. A conserve, made by beating up the freshly gathered tops with three times their weight of sugar, is said to have the same effect.

A spirit of Rosemary may be used, in doses of 30 drops in water or on sugar, as an antispasmodic. The essential oil is used in aromatherapy as an inhalant and decongestant, and to enhance memory and clear concentration. It is also used in lotions to ease arthritis.

Rosemary diluted in coconut oil is a great treatment for eczema.

In February, in the New of the Moon, sow Borage, Coriander, Marjoram, Radish, Rosemary and Sorrel." - Gervase Markham, The English Housewife, 1683

Rosemary and the Queen of Hungary

In the 14th century, the Queen of Hungary began using rosemary. She was past the age of 70, but she found that rosemary helped to relieve her crippling arthritis and gout. At the same time, it seemed to rejuvenate her. In faact, it wasn't long before the Queen had a marriage proposal - from the King of Poland. The rejuvenation that the Queen claimed may have been due to rosemary's reported antioxidant properties.

Rosemary Steam Facial: Make an infusion and allow steam to wash over the face to perk up a dull complexion. Use caution around steaming hot water.

Rosemary Foot Bath: 1 tablespoon rosemary to 4 pints boiling water for an infusion; let stand 15 minutes; strain; use while warm; soak feet 20 minutes. Also used in hair conditioners:

Rosemary Jojoba Conditioner Recipe

1 cup rose water
1 tablespoon Jojoba oil
10 drops vitamin E oil
4 to 5 drops essential oil of rosemary

In a non-reactive pan, over low heat, warm the rose water. Add jojoba oil. Pour into a blender and add vitamin E oil and rosemary oil. Blend for 1 to 2 minutes. To use: Before shampooing, wet your hair and pour the conditioner onto your hair and scalp. Massage it in. For extra conditioning, wrap your head in a warm, damp towel and leave it on for 20-30 minutes. Rinse thoroughly with warm water and shampoo.

Rosemary Egg Conditioner Recipe

1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons jojoba or almond oil
4-5 drops essential oil of rosemary
1 cup water

Beat the egg yolk until frothy. Mix the oil and rosemary oil. Still beating, gradually add the oils, thoroughly incorporating. Add this mixture to the water, stirring to blend. Massage into scalp and hair. Rinse and shampoo gently.

Culinary Uses of Rosemary

Rosemary was used by several cultures to preserve meats. A study done at Rutgers State University found that Rosemary had preservative qualities more powerful and safer than the common food additives BHA and BHT - it helps prevent food poisoning. Topical applications of this herbs oil are many.

Rosemary has a distinctive, strong flavor. It's woodsy, somewhat piny, mintlike only sweeter with a slight ginger overtone. This strongly flavored herb should be used sparingly for cooking.

Rosemary pairs well with poultry, fish, lamb, beef, veal, pork, and game, particularly in their roasted forms. Rosemary enhances tomatoes spinach, peas, mushrooms, squash, cheese, eggs and lentils. It complements the herbs chives, thyme, chervil, parsley, and bay in recipes. Gentle soups like potato and eggplant benefit from rosemary's robust character, as do marinades, salad dressings, bouquet garnis, and cream sauces.

Mix the crushed leaves generously into meats, fish, potato salads, etc. at your next picnic to prevent food poisoning.

Store rosemary by stripping the leaves from the branches and placing them in the freezer in a Ziploc freezer bag.

Rosemary Water: 4 tablespoons rosemary flowers, 1 nutmeg (grated), 2 tablespoons grated cinnamon, 1 quart alcohol spirit; stand and steep 10 days; strain.

Hungary Water - Used for Queen Elizabeth of Hungary to cure her paralysis by being rubbed with it.: 1 gallon brandy or other clean spirit, 1 handful rosemary, 1 handful lavender; infuse in brandy along with 1 handful myrtle; let stand 3 days; strain. (The Country Housewife and Lady's Director - 1732)

English Rose Tea

Rose Petals 1/2 cup dried Red Rose petals
2 tablespoons dried Lemon Balm
1 tablespoon dried Rosemary

Mix well. Use 1 teaspoon for each cup.

Rosemary Shortbread

1 cup unsalted butter - room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup chopped pistachios
3 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves - minced fine
Additional confectioners sugar for garnish

In a large bowl cream the sugar into the softened butter using a large mixing spoon. Add the flour 3/4 cup at a time. Add the vanilla extract, pistachios and rosemary and mix until well blended. Roll the dough into large marble sized pieces using 1 level tablespoon of the dough and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 17 to 20 minutes until light brown. After the cookies have been removed from the oven and have cooled off slightly roll each one in confectioners sugar. This recipe makes approximately 30 cookies.

Folklore & Legend

Rosemary possessed powers of protection against evil spirits, or so people thought. In the Middle Ages, men and women would place sprigs under their pillows to ward off demons and prevent bad dreams.

In ancient Greece, students wore rosemary garlands while studying for exams believing it improved their memory.

Besides the legends and superstitions, rosemary is best known as a symbol of remembrance, friendship, and love.

At one time rosemary was used in almost every wedding ceremony. Brides wore wreaths woven with sprigs of rosemary dipped in scented waters, or they carried rosemary in their bouquets.

At funerals mourners tossed fresh sprigs into the grave as a sign that the life of the departed would not be forgotten. Tapping a fresh sprig of rosemary against the finger of a loved one was supposed to secure his or her affection. Even today, an offering of rosemary signifies love, friendship, and remembrance.

Cautions

No health hazards or side effects are known in conjunction with the proper administration of designated therapeutic dosages. Contact allergies have been observed on occasion.

Not to be used during pregnancy.

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