Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis, L., 1753) is a small aromatic perennial shrub used both in cooking and for its pharmaceutical properties.

Origins and History –
Rosemary is a plant native to an area between Europe, Asia and Africa, it is now spontaneous in the Mediterranean area in the coastal areas, garrigues, Mediterranean scrub, stony and sunny cliffs in the hinterland, where it grows from sea level to hilly area.
In ancient times, peoples considered rosemary a plant with exceptional qualities, both for its aromatic and therapeutic qualities.
In fact, until the second century. A.D. this plant was not used as cooking ingredients; it was then Galen identified its digestive virtue. Since then, rosemary began that gastronomic journey that led it to become that Italian aroma par excellence, which on hot summer days exudes its intense and pleasant aroma, carried by sea breezes.
Rosemary is a plant of choice in our peninsula and very appreciated also in southern France, although in the kitchens of the other Mediterranean countries it does not meet the same appreciation. Thanks to its intense taste, it adapts to accompany fish, meat and many vegetables. It cannot be missing with roasted potatoes and is often used to brush meat and fish cooked on the grill with oil. Fresh grass has a more delicate aroma than dry grass, and can also be used in cooking.
Rosemary, which in Italy is also known as “ramerino”, seems to derive its name from the Latin “ros” (dew) and “maris” (from the sea), but another thesis would make it come from the Greek “rops” ( shrub) and “myrinos” (odorous).
Among the Egyptians it was considered a magical element, the twigs of which were able to procure immortality because even if cut, they remained fresh over time. The Romans made rosemary the symbol of death and love. In honor of the gods, the twigs were burned to purify the air during the sacrifices, and Horace advised: “If you want to earn the esteem of the deceased, bring them rosemary and myrtle crowns”.
Rosemary was a plant dedicated to Venus, it was considered an aphrodisiac which if taken in massive doses could cause abortion. Its invigorating properties found application both in the “rosemary wine” and in the so-called “rosemary bath”, the latter indicated to stimulate blood circulation and make the skin very sensitive to touch.
In the seventeenth century. at the French court a particular preparation called “Water of the Queen of Hungary” became fashionable, made by distilling two parts of rosemary flowers and three of alcohol. This water was considered a panacea, King Louis XIV hired it to cure gout, while Madame de Sévigné carried it in her pocket to perfume her skin. From the nineteenth century, little by little, the Queen’s water was replaced by another preparation with rosemary: the Cologne water.
Furthermore, in folk medicine, rosemary is used for internal use to tone memory; for external use (essential oil) to combat muscle or rheumatic pain.

Description –
Rosemary is an evergreen perennial shrub that forms small bushes.
The leaves are characteristic, with a narrow and long shape, and are the most fragrant parts, so they are used as a spice.
The flowers of rosemary are white to purple in color and appear in spring and are edible like leaves.

Active principles –
Rosemary is a plant rich in essential oil, containing no less than 1.5% of it. The essential oil is composed of camphor (15 to 25%), 1-8 cineol (15 to 30%), alpha-pinene (25%), free and esterified borneol (3 to 10%) bornyl-acetate , camphene (10 to 20%), p-cymene and many other compounds present in small quantities.
Phenolic compounds are represented by a dozen flavonoids and numerous phenolic acids.
We also find tricyclic diterpenes and a certain amount of tannins and sterols.
There are also triterpenes.

Properties and Uses –
The medical properties of rosemary make this plant an exceptional source for a number of actions.
It is in fact traditionally used for its hepatoprotective properties, favoring the production of bile and facilitating digestive processes. Rosemary doubles the biliary secretion within 60 minutes of administration, with a duration of action of about two hours. Rosemary is a powerful lipoperoxidation inhibitor (a serious damage caused by free radicals) at the level of the hepatocytes, and this activity is very important in explaining the hepatoprotective action of this drug. Rosemary essential oil has spasmolytic activity on the smooth muscles of the gastrointestinal tract, with slightly less efficacy than mint.
It also has an antioxidant / anti-free radical action; in fact, the antioxidant activity of this plant is very interesting, essentially linked to the presence of rosmarinic acid and diterpene diphenols, in particular carnosolic acid, carnosol and rosmanol. A laboratory study has shown that carnosol, rosmanol and epirosmanol, all diterpene phenols present in the phytocomplex of rosemary, have an inhibitory action on lipoperoxidation and oxidation of LDL cholesterol particles (the so-called bad cholesterol).
In detail, the twigs and leaves collected from May to July and dried in the shade have aromatic properties, stimulating appetite and digestive, stomachic, carminative functions, useful in atonic and gastralgia dyspepsias, tonic and stimulating for the nervous system. , the liver and gallbladder. It is also recommended by some authors for generic conditions such as cough or asthma.
In addition to the medicinal uses illustrated below, rosemary is used:
– As an ornamental plant in gardens, for borders, flower beds and shrubs, or for growing in pots on terraces.
– In the cosmetic industry as a shampoo to revive hair color or as an astringent in lotions; in ointments and liniments for tonic properties. In perfumery, the essential oil obtained from the leaves is used for the preparation of colonies, such as Hungarian water.
– As insect repellent or deodorant in homes (dry twigs are burned).
– For the production of a monofloral honey as the flowers are particularly bottled by bees, because they are honey plants.
– In the food sector, in the form of an extract, it is used as an additive with antioxidant properties and labeled with the initials E392. 5 types are known, designated by acronyms: AR: extract obtained from an alcoholic extract of partially flavored rosemary; ARD: extract obtained from an alcoholic flavored rosemary extract; D74: extract obtained from dry rosemary leaves by extraction with supercritical carbon dioxide; F62: extract obtained from dry rosemary leaves by extraction with acetone; RES: extract obtained by extraction with hexane and acetone and then bleached and dearomatized.
Contraindications include:
– Hypersensitivity or allergies to one or more components. Pregnancy or breastfeeding (phytotherapy) since it reduces the zygote implant in the animal. Pre-operative period. Camphor essential oil is contraindicated in people suffering from epilepsy. In fact, it causes, especially in cases of overdose, irritation, convulsions, vomiting and principles of respiratory paralysis.
Among the side effects, it should be noted that: essential oil can give excitement phenomena with muscle fasciculations, for its excitatory activity at the level of the central nervous system. Internal use is not recommended.

Preparations –
For its optimal use, if you don’t have it on hand, grown in a pot or in the vegetable garden, the first thing to do is to buy rosemary in perfect condition.
It is advisable to choose the twigs that do not have blackened areas or of a soft consistency, with well-attached needle-like leaves, of gray-green color, without yellowish or brown areas. The perfume must be intense, warm, pungent and resinous.
The ideal is then to use it as soon as it is purchased or picked from the garden, if it is not possible, wrap the sprig of rosemary in a slightly damp sheet of kitchen paper and keep it in the refrigerator, for 4-5 days it will remain perfect. Wash it just before using it.
The rosemary, however, is kept for a long time if dried, to make it hang with the twig of the sprigs of rosemary upside down in dry places, moderately warm and protected from light. The leaves as they become dry will tend to come off, so put containers under the twigs to collect them. When they are all dry, also remove those that have remained attached to the twigs, finally store them (whole or crumbled) in a glass jar with an airtight seal, away from light, humidity and heat. With dried rosemary you can make an excellent flavored oil, to make it finely chop the dried rosemary leaves and let them macerate in extra virgin olive oil for about 10 days. At the end of this period, filter the oil in order to remove the rosemary, taking care to squeeze it well.
When used in the kitchen, the aromatic flavor of rosemary goes perfectly with fish, lamb, pork and poultry, so do not hesitate to sprinkle the leaves of rosemary (even chopped if desired) meat and fish if you cook them in the oven, grilled or in a pan. You can also use it for marinating. In this regard, it is good to know that grilled meat should only be put on the barbecue after marinating it with rosemary and possibly other spices, since according to research by Kansas State University, rosemary contains substances that can reduce the level of elements. carcinogens that develop with this type of cooking. Also use it on homemade porridge and focaccia.
With rosemary you can also prepare drinks, infusions and herbal teas.
Serve your cocktails with sprigs of rosemary, the freshness will increase. In addition, rosemary goes well with some spirits; it is excellent with vodka and gin; among non-alcoholic drinks and fruit-based juices, in particular it is perfect served with lemonade or lemon drinks. But with rosemary you can also make infusions and herbal teas: just leave the leaves to infuse for 5-6 minutes in boiling water.
In therapeutic uses, some uses can be made:
– For external use, the locally macerated wine is anti-rheumatic; while the alcoholic macerate, revulsive, is also used for friction of the scalp; it has analgesic qualities and is therefore applied for rheumatic pain, arthritis.
– For external use, its infusion is used for gargling, washing and healing irrigation; o for antinevralgic and antirheumatic poultices; added to bath water it serves as an invigorating, purifying and to tone the skin.
– The flowers collected from May to August, have properties similar to the leaves; infused for external use they are vulnerable, stimulant, curative of leucorrhea and for the fight against pubic lice.
– Pharmacologically, an essence and water are prepared against alopecia or ointments for eczema.
– As mentioned, the essential oil of rosemary is extracted from the leaves in a stream of steam, for 1% by weight, colorless or yellowish liquid, containing pinene, camphene, cineole, eucalyptol, camphor and borneol. Different essential oils are obtained according to the plant chemotype:
• a chemotype produces an oil rich in eucalyptol, which stimulates the secretion of the gastric glands of the digestive and respiratory systems, responsible for the effects on digestion and mucolytic activity.
• A chemotype produces an oil rich in camphor, a ketone that can instead be used as an antirheumatic for local use, but responsible for toxic effects on the CNS, when used orally. A chemotype, on the other hand, produces oil rich in borneoloe derivatives, as required by the pharmacopoeia, better indicated in the spastic pathology of the biliary tract. and finally one in which borneol and its derivatives abound.

Guido Bissanti

Warning: The information shown is not medical advice and may not be accurate. The contents are for illustrative purposes only and do not replace medical advice.

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