Unexpected Health Benefits Of Rosemary

Native to the dry and rocky coastline of the Mediterranean, rosemary was given the Latin name Rosmarinus officinalis, which translates to "dew of the sea" (per The Herb Society of America). Being named with such care and poetry, it's not terribly surprising that the herb was held in high regard by the early Greeks and Romans, who credited rosemary with great influence. There was a time when Greek scholars wore garlands made of rosemary on their heads during examinations, believing it helped to improve memory. Italian brides wore the herb on their wedding day as a symbol of happiness, love, and loyalty.

While at first glance these may appear to be examples of ancient folklore, there might be something more to it than that. Rosemary is commonly used today for its flavor and aromatics, but it also has some health benefits you may have never expected. Let's take a closer look.

Rosemary may fight cancer and infections

In order to function properly, our bodies need to maintain a certain degree of balance between free radicals and antioxidants (per Healthline). Free radicals are compounds in the body that — when left unchecked by neutralizing antioxidants — are linked to illnesses like cancer. While our bodies make their own little antioxidant armies, we can also get them from the foods we eat. According to a 2018 review published in Future Science OA, multiple studies have suggested that carnosol and carnosic acid (two potent antioxidants in rosemary) are effective in decreasing the viability of cancer cells. In other words, rosemary may inhibit the growth of tumors by stopping cancer cells from replicating.

The same review also makes note of rosemary's antimicrobial properties, citing that rosemary essential oil is used in traditional medicine to protect minor wounds and rashes from infection. The review referenced multiple studies that tested carnosic acid and carsonal (among other antimicrobial compounds) against bacterias like Staphylococcus aureus and E. coli, as well as fungi like Candida. All reported significant antibacterial and antifungal activity.

Rosemary's effect on memory, mood, and the brain

The early Greeks and Romans used rosemary for improved memory and happiness, and as it turns out, they were way ahead of the curve. A 2018 study reported that college students taking 500 mg of rosemary twice a day for one month experienced improved memory and sleep quality, as well as a decrease in anxiety.

A 2012 study published in Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology found that 20 young adults simply smelling rosemary for 4 to 10 minutes before an exam displayed improved concentration, performance, and mood. Another 2013 study published in Scientia Pharmaceutica reported that 20 different participants inhaled rosemary oil and experienced stimulated brain activity and improved mood. Those participating in the latter study exhibited higher activity levels, as well as an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate after inhaling the scent.

Frontiers in Pharmacology published a study in 2018 that suggests rosemary is able to promote improved mood and brain function. The researchers link this to its ability to support a healthy gut microbiome and reduce inflammation in the part of the brain that controls emotions, learning, and memories.

Apart from the early Greeks and Romans ... who knew that rosemary oil had so many benefits?