The power and healing properties of essential oils may seem to clash with the advancements of modern pharmaceutical treatments. To most post-modern scientists, herbs and roots have little respect for their medicinal abilities. Recently, however, the non-imposing, nurturing, and gentle healing properties of many aromatic plants have garnered scientific attention due to increased awareness of antibiotic over-use, bacterial resistance, and high side-effect profiles of drugs. Rather than triggering a cascade of unpleasant side effects, these various oils and plants, work by gently reinstating balance and health to the diseased body or organ without creating imbalance elsewhere.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a native Mediterranean fragrant evergreen herb, from the mint family Lamiaceae. Its name is derived from Latin “ros maris,”meaning dew-of-the-sea. Besides its modern culinary use, rosemary has historically been the main ingredient in cosmetics, religious ceremonies, and medical tinctures, and oils.
Rosemary’s strong, fresh, camphor-like aroma, has coronated it with laurels in the medicinal arena. It was commonly found in apothecaries as a source of arthritic pain relief, headache cure, and antiseptic. In ancient Rome, rosemary was also known as the champion of memory enhancement. Greek scholars wore rosemary wreaths on their brows to help improve memory recall while taking exams.
Rosemary continues to garner modern-day attention. Several studies have supported the ancient uses of rosemary for memory and concentration as well as mood enhancement. Additionally, research with dementia patients revealed a decrease in deteriorating memory and increase in contentment with the use of rosemary.
Laboratory extractions have revealed the chemical compositions that make rosemary so unique. Both the woodsy plant and pink flowers contain many properties, some of which are rosmarinic acid, carnosic acid, 1,8-cineol, camphene, borneol, bornyl acetate, and α-pinene. It also contains many flavonoids, vitamins, and minerals. Its pharmacologic properties are antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-spasmodic, analgesic, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory.
There is molecular evidence that confirms the anti-inflammatory potential of rosemary through its famous compound rosmarinic acid. Rheumatoid arthritis is characterized by an inflammation of the synovial tissue caused by the inappropriate presence of white blood cells.
This condition, among others, such as osteoarthritis, can be improved by the use of rosmarinic acid due to its ability to stop white blood cells from accumulating in the joints. Another benefit of rosemary is its analgesic property through the presence of salicylic acid, which is the chemical component of commercial Aspirin. Studies show only small doses are required to achieve blockage of inflammation.
Though arthritis presents as localized pain and inflammation, it heralds the presence of inflammation throughout the body. Therefore in the treatment of arthritis, dietary sources of inflammation should be addressed in order to reduce intestinal permeability. Food allergies should be evaluated either through testing or through elimination diets. Furthermore, stress in any negative form should be avoided as it too contributes to inflammation and may contribute to arthritis symptoms. Topical use of rosemary over affected joints can be used alone or in combination with other anti-inflammatory essential oils. Start by adding 3-5 drops directly to the joint, 3-4 times daily. You may want to begin by diluting it with 1 tsp of a carrier oil to avoid skin irritation. For internal use and added anti-inflammatory benefits, drink 1 cup of rosemary tea 2-3 times daily. (See directions under use for gastritis).
Headaches come in different forms and have many different causes, including stress, fatigue, constipation, poor posture, low blood sugar, and drug side effect among many others. Over the counter analgesic (pain relieving) pills come with a host of unpleasant side effects, due to being metabolized by the kidney and liver. Additionally, painkillers do not address the root of the problem. Rosemary oil improves vitality and mood and reduces stress by lowering cortisol levels and thereby reducing anxiety induced headaches.
A balance between the physical and mental organs should be the aim when addressing all the potential causes of headaches. This will require physical training aimed at strengthening the muscle groups in the neck, shoulders, and back. It may also require increasing water intake and healthy intestinal digestion and evacuation. For other approaches using rosemary oil try these helpful hints: Diffuse 10-20 drops of essential oil for several hours per day and night using a diffuser. You may also add a drop to your hands and cup over your mouth and nose for up to a minute or apply 1-2 drops topically to the aching parts of your head. Add 20-30 drops of essential oil to a warm Epson salt bath and soak in the pleasant aromas, minerals, and salts for 15 minutes or as tolerated.
Short-term and long-term memory are formed by complex information processes. Fragrances are integrated into our memory and can have a direct impact on our memory through the olfactory system. Pleasant-smelling oils may lower cortisol levels and help reduce anxiety while unpleasant odors can stimulate discomfort, pain, and illness.
A rather impactful study done with Alzheimer’s patients showed a significant reduction in memory decompensation. This benefit is thought to be induced by carnosic acid that wards off free-radical damage and protects the brain from strokes and degeneration. Of course, to restore mental clarity takes more than just a few drops of essential oil. It requires a balance of all vital forces. The mind should not be overtaxed without adequate physical activity which stimulates blood flow to the brain, adequate oxygen exchange, and vasodilation, which improves nutritional and hormonal transportation. Likewise, the mind requires 7-8 hours of sleep, during which information is processed and compartmentalized as useful and not useful. This rest period is also helpful to reduce stress in the form of psychological and oxidative stress.
Add 1-2 drops of rosemary oil to your hands, rub together, and cup over your mouth and nose for up to a minute several times per day as needed. Add 10-20 drops to a diffuser nearby. Rub 1-3 drops topically over your temples, or apply to your toes 3-4 times per day.
Dyspepsia/ Gastric ulcer
In Europe, rosemary has been approved by the German Commission E (the German FDA) for dyspepsia, indigestion, and gastric ulcers. The antioxidant chemical "diterpene" protects the gastrointestinal lining while also aiding the liver detoxification and bile production. By inhibiting inflammatory response in the intestinal lining and other pro-inflammatory mediators, gastric reflux or reflux of acidic matter from the stomach into the esophagus may be relieved. Intestinal inflammation is a harbinger that there may be nutritional deficiencies, food allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, or leaky gut syndrome. Rosemary tea can be used by steeping 1 teaspoon of minutely chopped fresh leaves or 2 tsp of minutely chopped dried leaves in 250 ml of boiled water for 15 minutes. Drink 1 cup 30 minutes before meals for 6-8 weeks to help with digestion.
There are over 40 different compounds that make the woodsy herb, rosemary, palatable, aromatic, healing, and beautiful. I can’t help but reflect on Christ’s desire to see the healing fruits of the Spirit diffused through us into this sick and degenerate world. I pray we infuse heaven with our ardent petitions for power and wisdom to effectively spread the aromas of His Character into the world in the form of fragrant service and sacrifice.
“When the love of Christ is enshrined in the heart, like sweet fragrance it cannot be hidden," (Steps to Christ, p. 77).
Note: While the use of herbs to treat common complaints has long historical roots, it is best to discuss their use with your medical provider or physician. Herbs can interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. Rosemary can further increase the risk of bleeding when taken with drugs that increase the risk of bleeding. Some examples include aspirin, warfarin, heparin, Plavix, ibuprofen or naproxen. There have been occasional reports of allergic reactions. Prior to using rosemary topically try it on a small patch of skin. If you are pregnant, feel free to enjoy rosemary flavored bread and dishes but avoid ingestion of rosemary tea, oil or large quantities of rosemary leaves as it can cause a miscarriage. If you have other health problems please discuss the use of rosemary with your provider prior to intake.
Amaral G. P., de Carvalho N. R., Barcelos R. P., et al. Protective action of ethanolic extract of Rosmarinus officinalis L. in gastric ulcer prevention induced by ethanol in rats. Food and Chemical Toxicology. 2013;55:48–55. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2012.12.038.
A.M.T.M. Cordeiro, M.L. Medeiros, N.A. Santos, L.E.B. Soledade, L.F.B.L. Pontes, A.L. Souza, N. Queiroz, A.G. Souza Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L.) extract J. Therm. Anal. Calorim., 113 (2013), pp. 889-895
M.G. Gallego, M. Gordon, F. Segovia, M. Skowyra, M. AlmajanoAntioxidant properties of three aromatic herbs (rosemary, thyme and lavender) in oil-in-water emulsions J. Am. Oil Chem. Soc., 90 (2013), pp. 1559-1568
Mona Ghasemian, Sina Owlia, and Mohammad Bagher Owlia. Review of Anti-Inflammatory Herbal Medicines. Adv Pharmacol Sci. 2016; 2016: 9130979. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4877453/
Pharmacology of rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis Linn.) and its therapeutic potentials. al-Sereiti MR, Abu-Amer KM, Sen P. Indian J Exp Biol. 1999 Feb; 37(2):124-30.