Family: Lamiaceae (Labiatae), Rosmarinus officinalis L.
Source: Simon, J.E., A.F. Chadwick and L.E. Craker. 1984.
Herbs: An Indexed Bibliography. 1971-1980. The Scientific Literature
on Selected Herbs, and Aromatic and Medicinal Plants of the Temperate
Zone. Archon Books, 770 pp., Hamden, CT.
Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis L., is an evergreen, perennial
shrub native to the chalky, calcareous hills along the Mediterranean
Sea. Reaching a height of up to 1.8 meters, the plant is characterized
by linear, narrow leaves whose undersides are matted with thick
hair. Leading areas of rosemary production are the Mediterranean
countries, the United States, and England.
The reported life zone for rosemary is 9 to 28 degrees centigrade
with an annual precipitation of 0.3 to 2.7 meters and a soil pH
of 4.5 to 8.7 (4.1-31). The drought tolerant plant grows
in rocky to sandy soils, as long as there is adequate drainage
and a minimum soil depth of about 0.2 meters. The pale-blue
flowers can develop throughout the growing season, although profuse
blooming occurs during late winter or early spring. Rosemary has
no serious pests or diseases. The plant is not cold hardy.
Commercial production is from both cultivated and wild plants.
Fields of rosemary are usually harvested once or twice each year,
depending upon the geographical area and whether the harvest is
for plant material or essential oil. A first cutting can be obtained
in the seeding year but is usually delayed until 18 months after
seeding. Leaves are dried in the shade directly after harvest
to maximize retention of color and aroma. There is some loss of
color when leaves are frozen.
The volatile or essential oil of rosemary includes 1,8-cineole,
- and -pinene, camphor, bornylacetate, camphene, linalool,
d-limonene, borneol, myrcene, -terpineol, and -caryophyllene
(3.1-85, 6.4-101 8.2-48, 14.1-8). The oil
is extracted from flowering tops, stems, and leaves by steam distillation
or the use of organic solvents. An oleoresin is also commercially
Dried rosemary leaves, whole or ground, are used as seasonings
for soups, stews, sausages, meat, fish, and poultry. The essential
oil is used in food products, perfumes, and cosmetics, such as
soaps, creams, deodorants, hair tonics, and shampoos. Rosemary
is also used in nonalcoholic beverages. The plant and extracts
have antibacterial and antioxidant activity and can be used to
extend the keeping quality of fats and meats (6.4-80, 6.4-104,
11.1-126). There are many varieties and forms of rosemary
available and the species is grown as an ornamental and hedgerow
plant. Often the plant is used as a ground cover along roads and
on embankments because of its beauty and deep root system, which
helps stabilize the soil and allows the plant to withstand hot,
dry periods. The plant is considered a good source of nectar for
bees, having blossoms that both attract bees and appear when few
other plants are blooming.
As a medicinal plant, rosemary has been used as an external stimulant
and as a relaxant for nervousness, muscle spasms, and headaches.
At one time it was used in wines as a carminative, and it is thought
to act as a stimulant to the kidneys. Rosemary has been used as
an expectorant and as a folk remedy against asthma, eczema, rheumatism,
and wounds. It has been used in the treatment of cancer, and is
categorized today as a therapeutic emmenagogue (14.1-16,
14.1-35). The plant is used as an insect repellent.
Rosmarinus officinalis L. var. prostratus is a creeping,
prostrate rosemary, often grown as a potted plant, in rock gardens,
or along walks as a ground cover. Bog rosemary, Andromeda
species, and wild or marsh rosemary, Ledum palustre L.,
are members of the Ericaceae family and not related to rosemary.
Rosemary is generally recognized as safe for human consumption
as both a natural flavoring/seasoning and as a plant extract/essential
oil (21 CFR sections 182.10, 182.20 [l982]).
[Note: References listed above in parentheses can be found in
full in the original reference].
Last modified 6-Dec-1997