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Remembering Rosemary By Ellary Allis

Remembering Rosemary  By Ellary Allis

“For you there’s rosemary and rue; these keep. Seeming and savour all the winter long: Grace and remembrance be to you both,. And welcome to our shearing!”

-William Shakespeare, Hamlet


Suffering from chronic exhaustion while tucked away in the Mojave desert community of Joshua Tree writing a thesis, I was desperate enough to reach for medicines I’d never given much consideration to- namely therapeutic grade essential oils. The entirety of my then general practitioner’s advice was summed up in the order to “eat more protein,” a suggestion that wasn’t helping. I experimented with various blends until one afternoon I noticed that, after applying rosemary essential oil directly onto the skin under my nose at frequent intervals, I’d stayed alert enough to write for the bulk of the day without wanting to nap. The oil produced a noticeable difference and I continued to medicate myself daily with the oil for the rest of the summer.


Rosemary is both a stimulant and a relaxant; it’s a vasodilator (widens blood vessels) that increases blood circulation while simultaneously lowering cortisol (stress hormone) levels, aiding in hormonal balance. Rosemary essential oil reduces free radicals in the body through increasing FRSA, or Free Radical Scavenging Activity, protecting the body from oxidative stress. Rosemary is useful for Alzheimer’s prevention; it contains phytochemical constituents found to prevent the breakdown of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which plays an important role in memory consolidation in the hippocampus.   The Ayurvedic system also recognizes rosemary for its ability to improve memory. High in vitamin A, B, and C, rosemary is beneficial for maintaining healthy mucus membranes, for collagen synthesis and immune boosting, and for the synthesis and repair of DNA and RNA. Applied externally, rosemary is an anti-inflammatory and treats muscle and joint pain; lore has it that Queen Elizabeth of Hungary was cured of semi-paralysis when a court alchemist concocted “Hungary water,” a distillate of rosemary oil in alcohol, which was then rubbed on her limbs.   Irrelevant of the accuracy of this story, the calcium provided by rosemary could prevent and treat paralysis, which in many cases is caused by calcium deficiency. Rosemary also works as a digestive aid, regulating the creation and release of bile, and as a carminative, relieving flatulence and stomach cramping. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, rosemary is prescribed for baldness, because it stimulates hair follicles into producing new hair growth. Rosemary is also an antibacterial and an antiseptic, which makes it valuable as a natural mouthwash.


The word rosemary is derived from the Latin word for “dew” (ros) and “sea” (marinus), perhaps because it’s frequently found growing near the ocean. A woody, perennial shrub native to the Mediterranean and Asia, the association of rosemary (Rosemary officianlis) with memory dates back toancient Greece, when students would wear rosemary while studying for exams, believing rosemary would improve recall. In ancient Rome, and Egypt, sprigs of rosemary were placed in tombs of the departed as a token of remembrance. Long after rosemary was brought to Britain by Roman armies, brides in Tudor England wore rosemary to symbolize that they would remember their families of origin. In Shakespeare’s magnum opus Hamlet, the suicidal Ophelia hands a sprig to her brother Laertes, telling him, “Rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Please remember, love.” The prolific ancient Roman poet Ovid describes the female centaur Hylonome’s grooming habits in The Metamorphosis, listing rosemary as one of the plants with which she’d adorn her hair. Greek legend says that Aphrodite, born of Uranus’s semen, rose from the sea draped in rosemary.


Rosemary prefers full, direct sunlight in light, well-drained soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.5. It’s especially guaranteed to thrive in areas that receive an ocean breeze. Because of its native to the dry hills of the Mediterranean, Rosemary is sensitive to overwatering. Spring and autumn are the best times to plant rosemary, and it should be pruned annually after the flowers have faded. To propagate rosemary, take cuttings from the firm shoots in late summer or early autumn. Remove leaves from the lower half of the cuttings, which should ideally be about 9 inches long, and insert the bare portion into the soil, about 1 foot apart. Alternatively, trimmings of the plant can be placed in water, provided you change the water every few days. The trimmings should grow roots within about four weeks.



Rosemary Mouthwash Recipe


To make your own rosemary mouthwash, add 1 ½ teaspoons of rosemary leaves

and 1 ½ teaspoons of anise seeds to 4 ½ cups of filtered water. Cool for 30 minutes

and strain.

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1 Comment

  1. kirsten

    What a beautiful article about Rosemary, thank you!


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