Rosemary is one of the oldest Mediterranean aromatic shrubs in cultivation. It is still regarded as an essential culinary and medicinal herb, with an invigorating spicy flavour.
The White Goddess Book Of Shadows

Rosemary - Herborium - The White Goddess

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Wednesday, 29 June 2022




(Rosemary Officinalis)

"There's rosemary, that's for remembrance." -- Shakespeare's Hamlet to Ophelia

Rosemary is one of the oldest Mediterranean aromatic shrubs in cultivation. It is still regarded as an essential culinary and medicinal herb, with an invigorating spicy flavour. As a specimen garden plant it is handsome and impressive at all times, especially when covered with its lovely flowers that attract bees and butterflies. Plant against a warm wall to help it to gain extra height, and preferably in a position where it is brushed in passing to release its lingering scent. To keep plants in shape, trim after flowering.

Common Name: Rosemary
Genus: Rosmarinus
Species: officinalis
Skill Level: Beginner
Exposure: Full sun
Hardiness: Hardy
Soil type: Well-drained/light, Dry, Sandy
Height: 150cm
Spread: 150cm


The evergreen leaves of this shrubby herb are about 1 inch long, linear, revolute, dark green above and paler and glandular beneath, with an odour pungently aromatic and somewhat camphoraceous. The flowers are small and pale blue. Much of the active volatile principle resides in their calyces. There are silver and gold-striped varieties, but the green-leaved variety is the kind used medicinally.

Natural Habitat: Dry scrub and rocky places, especially near the sea

Propagation: Rosemary can be propagated by seeds, cuttings, or by division of roots.
Seed - sow spring in a cold frame or greenhouse. Germination can be slow. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow on in a greenhouse or cold frame for their first winter. Plant out in late spring or early summer.

Cuttings: - half-ripe wood, 10 - 18 cm with a heel, July/August in a frame or shady border. Very easy, they usually root within 3 weeks. It is best to give the plants some protection for their first winter and then plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer. Cuttings of young shoots in spring to be cultivated in a cold frame; they usually root well within 3 weeks, prick them out into individual pots and plant them out during the summer. Can be grown in pots.


Prefers a hot sunny position and a slightly alkaline light dry soil. Dislikes very heavy soils. Intolerant of excessive winter wet. Likes a stony calcareous soil. Plants are smaller when grown on chalky soils, but are more fragrant. Fairly tolerant of maritime exposure and very tolerant of salt spray. Succeeds in a hot dry position. Hardy to between -10 and -15°c, but plants can be damaged or killed in severe winters; old plants are the most susceptible. On a chalk soil it grows smaller, but is more fragrant. Any trimming is best carried out after the plant has flowered.

Rosemary is a polymorphic species that is commonly grown in the ornamental and herb gardens; there are many named varieties. The whole plant is highly aromatic. Very tolerant of pruning, plants can regenerate from old wood. It is a good bee plant, producing pollen early in the year. A good companion for most plants, including cabbages, beans, carrots and sage. Grows badly with potatoes

Culinary Uses:

Condiment; Leaves; Tea. Young shoots, leaves and flowers - raw or cooked. The leaves have a very strong flavour that is bitter and somewhat resinous, the flowers are somewhat milder. They are used in small quantities as flavouring in soups and stews, with vegetables such as peas and spinach, and with sweet dishes such as biscuits cakes, jams and jellies. They can be used fresh or dried. The leaves have a tough texture and so should either be used very finely chopped, or in sprigs that can be removed after cooking. A fragrant tea is made from the fresh or dried leaves. It is said to be especially nice when mixed with tansy and of course it is wonderful with lamb.

Medicinal Uses:

Antiseptic; Antispasmodic; Aromatherapy; Aromatic; Astringent; Cardiac; Carminative; Cholagogue; Diaphoretic; Emmenagogue; Nervine; Ophthalmic; Stimulant; Stomachic; Tonic. Rosemary is commonly grown in the herb garden as a domestic remedy, used especially as a tonic and pick-me-up when feeling depressed, mentally tired, nervous etc. Research has shown that the plant is rich in volatile oils, flavanoids and phenolic acids, which are strongly antiseptic and antiinflammatory. Rosmarinic acid has potential in the treatment of toxic shock syndrome, whilst the flavanoid diosmin is reputedly more effective than rutin in reducing capillary fragility. Rosmarol, an extract from the leaves, has shown remarkably high antioxidant activity. The whole plant is antiseptic, antispasmodic, aromatic, astringent, cardiac, carminative, cholagogue, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, nervine, stimulant, stomachic and tonic. An infusion of the flowering stems made in a closed container to prevent the steam from escaping is effective in treating headaches, colic, colds and nervous diseases. Distilled water from the flowers can be used as an eyewash. The leaves can be harvested in the spring or summer and used fresh; they can also be dried for later use. This remedy should not be prescribed for pregnant women since in excess it can cause an abortion. An essential oil distilled from the stems and leaves is often used medicinally, that distilled from the flowering tops is superior but not often available. The oil is applied externally as a rubefacient, added to liniments, rubbed into the temples to treat headaches and used internally as a stomachic and nervine. The essential oil is used in aromatherapy. Its keyword is 'Stimulant'.

Aromatherapy Uses:

The oil has a positive effect on the digestive system, helpful for indigestion, colitis and constipation. It is also good or hepatic disorders being a liver and gall-bladder tonic.

The circulatory system also benefits from the oil. The oil can normalize blood pressure and help combat hardening of the arteries.

Rosemary is good for rheumatic and muscular pain, especially tired and over worked muscles. It has a warming effect on cold limbs and is helpful in the winter for rheumatism aggravated by cold.

Rosemary has a stimulating effect on the nerves and is beneficial for all nervous disorders including hysteria, and paralysis.

The other benefits of rosemary include a positive effect on menstrual cramps, an excellent skin tonic property, a stimulant for the scalp encouraging hair growth and providing treatment for dandruff and greasy hair.

The emotional benefits of Rosemary include its ability to clear the mind and the emotions promoting mental clarity, it also provides an uplifting boost to confidence.

Safety points:

Although non-toxic and non-irritant (in dilution) non-sensitising, Rosemary should not be used during pregnancy or by epileptics. The oil should be used with caution if suffering from high blood pressure, hypertension or insomnia. Skin irritation may occur with sensitive individuals.

Other Uses: Dye; Essential; Ground cover; Hair; Hedge; Incense; Repellent. The growing plant is said to repel insects from neighbouring plants. Branches or sachets of the leaves are often placed in clothes cupboards to keep moths away. An infusion of the dried plant (both leaves and flowers) is used in shampoos. When combined with borax and used cold, it is one of the best hair washes known and is effective against dandruff. The essential oil is used in perfumery, soaps, medicinally etc. It is often added to hair lotions and is said to prevent premature baldness. The leaves are burnt as an incense, fumigant and disinfectant. A yellow-green dye is obtained from the leaves and flowers. A hand full of dried rosemary infused in a bucket of hot water and allowed to cool makes a very refreshing footbath for weary feet.

History / Traditions:

The plant was considered sacred by the Romans, being used as a decoration for statues and paintings of the gods. The Greeks also decorated statues with rosemary wreaths. The Egyptians used the plant for incense in ritual cleansing and healing and there is evidence that it was used from the earliest times.

Philosopher healers such as Dioscorides, Theophanus and Conrad Gesner all recognized the beneficial effects of Rosemary in the treatment of liver, heart, brain and eye problems.

During the plagues of the Middle Ages Rosemary was burnt to drive away evil spirits and protect against infection.

Rosemary was used as a symbol of fidelity and remembrance in wedding and funerary ceremonies.

It was also used in sachet for safe passage over water.

It has also been used as incense along with juniper for aiding in recuperation.

It is also said that rosemary will only thrive if the woman is in charge of the household.

Magickal Uses:

Properties: Sun, Masculine, Fire

Powers: Protection, Love, Lust, Mental Powers, Exorcism, Purification, Healing, Sleep, Youth

Rosemary, when burned, emits powerful cleansing and purifying vibrations, and so is smouldered to rid a place of negativity, especially prior to performing magick. It is one of the oldest incenses.

When placed beneath the pillow rosemary ensures a good sleep and drives away nightmares. Laid under the bed it protects the sleeper from all harm. Rosemary is also hung on the porch and doorposts to keep thieves from the house and is carried to remain healthy. Placed in the bath it purifies.

A chaplet of rosemary, worn, aids the memory, while the wood, smelled often, preserves youthfulness. To ensure the latter add a rosemary infusion to the bath water.

Rosemary has long been used in love and lust incenses and other mixtures, and healing poppets are stuffed with rosemary to take advantage of its curative vibrations. Rosemary infusion is used to wash the hands before healing work, and the leaves mixed with juniper berries are burned in sick rooms to promote healing.

If you wish to receive knowledge or the answer to a question, burn rosemary on charcoal and smell its smoke. Rosemary is also grown to attract elves, and the powdered leaves wrapped in linen cloth and bound to the right arm dispel depression and make the emotions light and merry.

Rosemary is generally used as a substitute for frankincense.

(Photograph taken 12/04/2003 ©2003 Ryewolf)

Please be aware that this information is provided solely for informational purposes only. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to using any herbs or treatments made from herbs.

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