Vitamin Expert

Rosemary Leaf Facts

Latin name; Rosmarinus officinalis

Pharmacopoeial name; Rosmarini folium

Other names; garden rosemary

About Rosemary Leaf

Rosemary is a powerful herb belonging to the family Lamiaceae that originates from the Mediterranean region. It is derived from the Latin word ros (dew) and marinus (sea) which means ‘dew of the sea’. It was introduced to Britain by the Romans and is still particularly loved today by the Italians and the British, who use it frequently in their cooking. In ancient Greece and Rome rosemary was believed to strengthen the memory, which accounts for its being known as the herb of remembrance and fidelity. Rosemary was an essential part of the apothecary’s repertoire during the Renaissance. Hippocrates, Galen, and Dioscorides prescribed rosemary for liver problems. There are more than 20 varieties of rosemary plant. In plants the main active constituents are volatile oil which is constituted with camphene, camphor, cineol, borneol, resin, bitters matter, rosemarinic acid and flavonoids

Rosemary leaves have many traditional uses based on their antibacterial and spasmolytic actions. Used orally for the treatment of dyspeptic complaints, and in external applications for supportive management of rheumatic complaints and circulatory disorders (1).

Uses of Rosemary Leaf

Rosemary has been used in Europe since ancient times as a tonic, stimulant and carminative to treat dyspepsia, headaches and nervous tension (2). The ancient Greeks also used it to strengthen memory function and concentration (3,4) . In China Rosemary preparations have been used for centuries for the same purposes as in traditional Greek medicine especially to treat headaches.

In Germany, Rosemary leaf is licensed as a standard medicinal tea for internal and external use. Rosemary is taken internally as a carminative or as a component of gastrointestinal medicines in aqueous infusions, alcoholic fluid extracts, tinctures and medicinal wine. The aqueous infusion and essentials oil are also used in external preparations for rheumatic diseases and circulatory problems. (5)

Pharmacopoeial grade rosemary leaf must contain not less than 1.2% volatile oil, not more than 10% brown woody stems, and not less than 15% water-soluble extractive.

The commission E approved internal use Rosemary leaf for dyspeptic complaints and external use as supportive therapy for rheumatic diseases and circulatory problems.

ESCOP lists it internal uses for improvement of hepatic and biliary function and in dyspeptic complaints and its external use as an adjuvant therapy in rheumatic conditions, peripheral circulatory disorders, promotion of wound healing and is a mild antiseptic.

Cognitive performance

Two positive clinical studies to assess the olfactory impact of the essential oils of lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and rosemary (Rosmarinus offi cinalis) on cognitive performance and mood in healthy volunteers have been performed [6,7).

Park et al. reported R. offi cinalis might potentially serve as an agent for prevention of several human neurodegenerative diseases caused by oxidative stress and apoptosis (8).

Insulin control

Al-Hader et al. reviewed the hyperglycemic and insulin release inhibitory effects of Rosmarinus offi cinalis. The treatment resulted in a 30% (P < 0.002) decrease in serum insulin level, in comparison with that of control (9).

Antioxidant effect

Yen et al. worked on measuring the antioxidative activity in metal ion-induced lipid peroxidation systems. They found that the antioxidant activity of α-tocopherol is less than that of rosemary extracts in the iron ion-induced peroxidation systems (10).

Samman et al. reported that “Green tea or rosemary extract added to foods reduces non-haem iron absorption”. The presence of the phenolic-rich extracts resulted in decreased non heme-iron absorption (11).

Aziza Kamal et al. reported a study of the composition, antioxidant and antimicrobial activities of extracts obtained with supercritical carbon dioxide (12). Rosemary leaf extracts were obtained by supercritical fluid extraction (SFE) and Soxhlet extraction. Their chemical compositions were evaluated by GC-MS. Antioxidant, antibacterial and antifungal activities of the extracts were confirmed.

Galobart et al. examined the effect of dietary supplementation with rosemary extract and α-tocopheryl acetate on lipid oxidation in eggs enriched with ω3-fatty acids. The antioxidant effect of dietary supplementation with 500 or 1,000 mg/kg of a commercial rosemary extract vs. 200 mg/kg of α-tocopheryl acetate (α-TA) on the lipid oxidative stability of ω3-fatty acid (FA) – enriched eggs was compared, and rosemary identified as an effective antioxidant (13).

Malo identified the anti-oxidant supplementation effect of rosemary improves sperm characteristics and fertility after cryopreservation (14): Comparison between cysteine and rosemary (Rosmarinus offi cinalis) demonstrated the addition of exogenous rosemary or cysteine positively affected post-thawed viability and integrity. Only rosemary supplementation improved total motility at 3 h and progressive motility at any time.


Dias evaluated an ethanol (70%) extract for antiulcerogenic activity in- -vivo. Intragastric administration of the extract decreased the ulcerative lesion index (15)

Kidney function

Haloui studied the effects of aqueous extracts of the crude drug on the treatment of kidney function using an 8% or 16% extract in distilled water for 1 week. They found significantly enhanced diuresis compared to the control group from the fifth day of treatment (p < 0.001) (16).

Wound healing

Abu-Al-Basal examined the healing potential of Rosmarinus offi cinalis L. on full-thickness excision cutaneous wounds (17). The essential oil of Rosmarinus offi cinalis was the most active in healing diabetic wounds and provided a scientific evidence for the traditional use of this herb in wound treatment

Hair Growth

Murata et al investigated promotion of hair growth by Rosmarinus offi cinalis leaf extract (18). Topical administration of Rosmarinus offi cinalis leaf extract improved hair regrowth due to interruption induced by testosterone treatment. The inhibition of testosterone 5α-reductase is well recognized as one of the most effective strategies for the treatment of androgenic alopecia.


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