By Michael Russell
Rosemary is a popular herb for cooking and aromatherapy. It is actually a member of the mint family and is grown predominantly in Morocco and Spain. Rosemary likes a dry, hot soil. The rosemary plant is an evergreen shrub in its native regions. It can grow very tall, given the right conditions (over six feet), but in its native areas, high winds tend to keep the bush under control. In parts of the world with harsher winters (zones 5 and lower), rosemary is grown as an annual. Rosemary grows long stems covered with green needlelike leaves. Clusters of blue, pink or white flowers bloom on the ends of the stems in springtime. All of the plant parts can be used to extract the essential oil, although the highest quality oil comes from the flowers only. The essential oil is extracted by steam distillation. This process involves using pressurized steam to remove the essential oils from the plant matter.
Rosemary has a bit of an old fashioned appeal to it. It is called the 'remembrance' flower and brides often carry a sprig or two in their bouquets. It is also sometimes incorporated into funeral floral arrangements.
Rosemary has a very pungent, almost medicinal odor to it with woody undertones. Very similar to eucalyptus. It was also used as a substitute for myrrh in incense, since it was much more prevalent and cheaper than myrrh. This incense would be burned as a disinfectant in hospitals.
Aromatherapy benefits of rosemary essential oil include: antiseptic, astringent, stimulant, anti-fatigue and memory enhancer. Like eucalyptus, rosemary can be used in cream rubs or vaporizers to help clear out mucus when you have a chest cold.
Rosemary home remedies
For sore muscles: Take several stems of fresh rosemary and boil them for 5 minutes. Remove from the water (being careful not to burn yourself) and wrap in several layers of gauze. Use this moist compress on sore and aching muscles.
To clear a stuffy head: Crush several stems of fresh rosemary. Place the stems into a small bowl filled with 2 cups of boiling water. Place a towel over your head and lean over the bowl, inhaling the fragrant steam. Do this for 5 minutes.
Skin toner: Crush a palm full of rosemary leaves and place into a bottle. Fill the bottle with witch hazel. To use: wet a cotton ball with the toner and apply to clean skin. Use daily.
Cautions for rosemary. Rosemary should be avoided by pregnant women, people with high blood pressure or anyone suffering from epilepsy - due to its ability to stimulate the brain. Some people may also find rosemary oil to be a skin irritant, so always dilute the rosemary in a carrier oil or do a skin test patch. Next time you use rosemary for cooking, take a moment and enjoy the crisp smell of the leaves. Just doing this can give you the aromatherapy benefits of this wonderful herb as well as the great taste! Keep a few fresh sprigs in a small vase by your desk, to invigorate you all day long.