Last modified on 7 October 2014, at 19:24


For other uses, see Rosemary (disambiguation).
Rosmarinus officinalis
Rosemary bush.jpg
Rosemary in flower
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Lamiales
Family: Lamiaceae
Genus: Rosmarinus
Species: R. officinalis
Binomial name
Rosmarinus officinalis

Rosmarinus officinalis, commonly known as rosemary, is a woody, perennial herb with fragrant, evergreen, needle-like leaves and white, pink, purple, or blue flowers, native to the Mediterranean region. It is a member of the mint family Lamiaceae, which includes many other herbs. The name "rosemary" derives from the Latin for "dew" (ros) and "sea" (marinus), or "dew of the sea".[2] The plant is also sometimes called anthos, from the ancient Greek word ἄνθος, meaning "flower".[3] Rosemary has a fibrous root system.


Rosmarinus officinalis is one of 2–4 species in the genus Rosmarinus'.[4] The other species most often recognized is the closely related, Rosmarinus eriocalyx, of the Maghreb of Africa and Iberia. The genus was named by the 18th-century naturalist and founding taxonomist Carolus Linnaeus.


Illustration from Köhler's Medicinal Plants
Flowering rosemary
Rosmarinus officinalis prostratus
Rosmarinus officinalisMHNT

Rosemary is an aromatic evergreen shrub that has leaves similar to hemlock needles. The leaves are used as a flavoring in foods such as stuffings and roast lamb, pork, chicken and turkey. It is native to the Mediterranean and Asia, but is reasonably hardy in cool climates. It can withstand droughts, surviving a severe lack of water for lengthy periods.[5] Forms range from upright to trailing; the upright forms can reach 1.5 m (5 ft) tall, rarely 2 m (6 ft 7 in). The leaves are evergreen, 2–4 cm (0.8–1.6 in) long and 2–5 mm broad, green above, and white below, with dense, short, woolly hair. The plant flowers in spring and summer in temperate climates, but the plants can be in constant bloom in warm climates; flowers are white, pink, purple or deep blue.[6]


According to legend, it was draped around the Greek goddess Aphrodite when she rose from the sea, born of Uranus's semen. The Virgin Mary is said to have spread her blue cloak over a white-blossomed rosemary bush when she was resting, and the flowers turned blue. The shrub then became known as the 'Rose of Mary'.[7]


Rosemary is used as a decorative plant in gardens and has many culinary and medicinal uses. The plant is said to improve the memory. The leaves are used to flavor various foods, such as stuffings and roast meats.


Since it is attractive and drought tolerant, rosemary is used as an ornamental plant in gardens and for xeriscape landscaping, especially in regions of Mediterranean climate. It is considered easy to grow and pest-resistant. Rosemary can grow quite large and retain attractiveness for many years, can be pruned into formal shapes and low hedges, and has been used for topiary. It is easily grown in pots. The groundcover cultivars spread widely, with a dense and durable texture.

Rosemary grows on friable loam soil with good drainage in an open, sunny position. It will not withstand waterlogging and some varieties are susceptible to frost. It grows best in neutral to alkaline conditions (pH 7–7.8) with average fertility. It can be propagated from an existing plant by clipping a shoot (from a soft new growth) 10–15 cm (4–6 in) long, stripping a few leaves from the bottom, and planting it directly into soil.


Numerous cultivars have been selected for garden use. The following are frequently sold:

  • 'Albus' – white flowers
  • 'Arp' – leaves light green, lemon-scented
  • 'Aureus' – leaves speckled yellow
  • 'Benenden Blue' – leaves narrow, dark green
  • 'Blue Boy' – dwarf, small leaves
  • 'Golden Rain' – leaves green, with yellow streaks
  • 'Gold Dust' -dark green leaves, with golden streaks but stronger than 'Golden Rain'
  • 'Irene' – low and lax, trailing, intense blue flowers
  • 'Lockwood de Forest' – procumbent selection from 'Tuscan Blue'
  • 'Ken Taylor' – shrubby
  • 'Majorica Pink' – pink flowers
  • 'Miss Jessop's Upright' – distinctive tall fastigiate form, with wider leaves.
  • 'Pinkie' – pink flowers
  • 'Prostratus' – lower groundcover
  • 'Pyramidalis' (or 'Erectus') – fastigate form, pale blue flowers
  • 'Remembrance' (or 'Gallipoli') – taken from the Gallipoli Peninsula[8]
  • 'Roseus' – pink flowers
  • 'Salem' – pale blue flowers, cold hardy similar to 'Arp'
  • 'Severn Sea' – spreading, low-growing, with arching branches, flowers deep violet
  • 'Tuscan Blue' – traditional robust upright form
  • 'Wilma's Gold' – yellow leaves

The following cultivars have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit:-

Culinary useEdit

The leaves, both fresh and dried, are used in traditional Italian cuisine. They have a bitter, astringent taste and are highly aromatic, which complements a wide variety of foods. Herbal tea can be made from the leaves. When burnt, they give off a mustard-like smell and a smell similar to burning wood, which can be used to flavor foods while barbecuing. Rosemary is high in iron, calcium and vitamin B6,[13] 317 mg, 6.65 mg and 0.336 mg per 100 g, respectively.[14] Rosemary extract has been shown to improve the shelf life and heat stability of omega 3-rich oils, which are prone to rancidity.[15]

Rosemary illustration from an Italian herbal, circa 1500


Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) essential oil

Rosemary oil is used for purposes of fragrant bodily perfumes or to emit an aroma into a room. It is also burnt as incense, and used in shampoos and cleaning products.[16]

Traditional medicineEdit

Hungary water was first prepared for the Queen of Hungary Elisabeth of Poland to " ... renovate vitality of paralyzed limbs ... " and to treat gout. It was used externally and prepared by mixing fresh rosemary tops into spirits of wine.[17] Don Quixote (Part One, Chapter XVII) mixes it in his recipe of the miraculous balm of Fierabras.[18]

Rosemary has a very old reputation for improving memory and has been used as a symbol for remembrance during weddings, war commemorations and funerals in Europe and Australia.[19] Mourners would throw it into graves as a symbol of remembrance for the dead. In Shakespeare's Hamlet, Ophelia says, "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance." (Hamlet, iv. 5.)

In traditional medicine of India essential oil from flowers and leaves is used as anti-inflammatory agent, astringent, antiseptic, stomachic, carminative, and externally in circulatory disorders, in addition flowering tops and leaves are used as carminative and diuretic.[20]

Rosemary contains a number of potentially biologically active compounds, including antioxidants[21][22][23][24][25] carnosic acid[26][27] and rosmarinic acid. Other chemical compounds include camphor, caffeic acid, ursolic acid, betulinic acid, rosmaridiphenol and rosmanol. Rosemary antioxidants levels are closely related to soil moisture content.[28]

Folklore and customsEdit

In the Middle Ages, rosemary was associated with wedding ceremonies. The bride would wear a rosemary headpiece and the groom and wedding guests would all wear a sprig of rosemary, and from this association with weddings, rosemary evolved into a love charm. Newlywed couples would plant a branch of rosemary on their wedding day. If the branch grew, it was a good omen for the union and family. In ‘A Modern Herbal’, Mrs Grieves says, “A rosemary branch, richly gilded and tied with silken ribands of all colours, was also presented to wedding guests, as a symbol of love and loyalty.” If a young person would tap another with a rosemary sprig and if the sprig contained an open flower, it was said that the couple would fall in love.

Rosemary was used as a divinatory herb. Several herbs were grown in pots and assigned the name of a potential lover. They were left to grow and the plant that grew the strongest and fastest gave the answer. Rosemary was stuffed into poppets (cloth dolls) to attract a lover or attract curative vibrations for illness. It was believed that placing a sprig of rosemary under a pillow before sleep would repel nightmares, and if placed outside the home it would repel witches. Somehow, the use of rosemary in the garden to repel witches turned into signification that the woman ruled the household in homes and gardens where rosemary grew abundantly. By the 16th century, men were known to rip up rosemary bushes to show that they, not their wives, ruled the roost.[29]

In Australia, sprigs of rosemary are worn on ANZAC Day and sometimes Remembrance Day to signify remembrance; the herb grows wild on the Gallipoli Peninsula.[19]

References in popular cultureEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Rosmarinus officinalis information from NPGS/GRIN". Retrieved 2008-03-03. 
  2. ^ Room, Adrian (1988). A Dictionary of True Etymologies. Taylor & Francis. p. 150. ISBN 978-0-415-03060-1. 
  3. ^ "The month." The Pharmaceutical Journal and Transactions: A Weekly Record of Pharmacy and Allied Sciences. Published by the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain. April 1887. 804–804
  4. ^ Rosselló, J. A.; Cosín, R.; Boscaiu, M.; Vicente, O.; Martínez, I.; Soriano, P. (2006). "Intragenomic diversity and phylogenetic systematics of wild rosemaries (Rosmarinus officinalis L. S.l., Lamiaceae) assessed by nuclear ribosomal DNA sequences (ITS)". Plant Systematics and Evolution 262: 1. doi:10.1007/s00606-006-0454-5.  edit
  5. ^ "How to grow the herb rosemary". GardenAction. Retrieved 10 November 2011. 
  6. ^ Rosemary. Retrieved on 2014-06-03.
  7. ^ "Rosemary". ANZAC Day Commemoration Committee (Qld) Incorporated. 1988. Retrieved 10 November 2011. 
  8. ^ Rosemary. Retrieved on 2014-06-03.
  9. ^ ''Rosmarinus officinalis'' 'Miss Jessop's Upright' AGM. Retrieved on 2014-06-03.
  10. ^ ''Rosmarinus officinalis'' 'Severn Sea' AGM. Retrieved on 2014-06-03.
  11. ^ ''Rosmarinus officinalis'' 'Sissinghurst Blue' AGM. Retrieved on 2014-06-03.
  12. ^ ''Rosmarinus officinalis'' var. ''angustissimus'' 'Benenden Blue' AGM. Retrieved on 2014-06-03.
  13. ^ "Nutrition Facts – Rosemary". 
  14. ^ USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. Retrieved on 2014-06-03.
  15. ^ "Oregano, rosemary extracts promise omega-3 preservation". 2007-11-20. 
  16. ^ "Health Benefits Of Rosemary Oil". 
  17. ^ "Rosemary". 
  18. ^ Capuano, Thomas (2005). "Las huellas de otro texto médico en Don Quijote: Las virtudes del romero". Romance Notes 45 (3): 303–310. 
  19. ^ a b "Rosemary". Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 10 November 2011. 
  20. ^ Wang L, Waltenberger B, Pferschy-Wenzig EM, Blunder M, Liu X, Malainer C, Blazevic T, Schwaiger S, Rollinger JM, Heiss EH, Schuster D, Kopp B, Bauer R, Stuppner H, Dirsch VM, Atanasov AG. Natural product agonists of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARγ): a review. Biochem Pharmacol. 2014 Jul 29. pii: S0006-2952(14)00424-9. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2014.07.018. PubMed PMID: 25083916.
  21. ^ Barbut, S.; Josephson, D. B.; Maurer, A. J. (1985). "Antioxidant Properties of Rosemary Oleoresin in Turkey Sausage". Journal of Food Science 50 (5): 1356. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2621.1985.tb10476.x.  edit
  22. ^ Inatani R, Nakatani N, Fuwa H. (1983). "Antioxidative effect of the constituents of rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and their derivatives". Agric Biol Chem. 47: 521–528. doi:10.1271/bbb1961.47.521. 
  23. ^ Kim, SJ; Han, D; Moon, KD; Rhee, JS (May 1995). "Measurement of superoxide dismutase-like activity of natural antioxidants". Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry 59 (5): 822–6. doi:10.1271/bbb.59.822. PMID 7787296. 
  24. ^ Nakatani, N (2000). "Phenolic antioxidants from herbs and spices". BioFactors 13 (1–4): 141–6. doi:10.1002/biof.5520130123. PMID 11237173. 
  25. ^ Ho, C. T.; Ferraro, T.; Chen, Q.; Rosen, R. T.; Huang, M. T. (1994). "Phytochemicals in Teas and Rosemary and Their Cancer-Preventive Properties". "Food Phytochemicals for Cancer Prevention II". ACS Symposium Series 547. p. 2. doi:10.1021/bk-1994-0547.ch001. ISBN 0-8412-2769-1.  edit
  26. ^ Munné-Bosch, S; Alegre, L (Feb 2001). "Subcellular compartmentation of the diterpene carnosic acid and its derivatives in the leaves of rosemary.". Plant physiology 125 (2): 1094–102. doi:10.1104/pp.125.2.1094. PMID 11161064. 
  27. ^ Aruoma, OI; Spencer, JP; Rossi, R; Aeschbach, R; Khan, A; Mahmood, N; Munoz, A; Murcia, A; Butler, J; Halliwell, B (1996). "An evaluation of the antioxidant and antiviral action of extracts of rosemary and Provençal herbs". Food and chemical toxicology : an international journal published for the British Industrial Biological Research Association 34 (5): 449–56. doi:10.1016/0278-6915(96)00004-x. PMID 8655093. 
  28. ^ National Non-Food Crops Centre. NNFCC Project Factsheet: Assessment and Development of the Supply Chain to Deliver Rosemary Antioxidants to the Food and Pharmaceutical Industries (Defra), NF0609
  29. ^ "History, Myths and Legends of Aromatherapy – Rosemary". 

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit