Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Historical note Since ancient times rosemary has been used as a tonic and

stimulant. The ancient Greeks used it to strengthen memory function and

scholars wore garlands of rosemary during examinations in order to improve

their memory and concentration (Blumenthal et al 2000). It is widely used as a

food spice and as an antioxidant to preserve foods.




Compass plant, compass-weed, garden rosemary, old man, polar plant, Rosmarini



Rosmarinus officinalis (family Labiatae or Lamiaceae)


Fresh or dried leaf


Phenolic acids and diterpenoid bitter substances, including carnosic acid and carnosol

(Aruoma et al 1992, Bicchi et al 2000, Wei & Ho 2006), triterpenoid acids, flavonoids,

tannins and volatile oils (0.5–2.5%) that consist of cineole, pinene, terpineol,

camphor, camphene, borneol and bornyl acetate (Blumenthal et al 2000). Rosemary

has also been found to contain high amounts of salicylates (Swain et al 1985).



Rosemary has strong antioxidant activity and is widely used to preserve food and

cosmetics (Etter 2004). Rosemary leaf extract has been shown to enhance superoxide

dismutase activity (Kim et al 1995) and to have an effect stronger than vitamin E in

scavenging oxygen radicals (Zhao et al 1989). It is suggested that carnosol and

carnosic acid account for over 90% of its antioxidant properties (Aruoma et al 1992,

1996). Carnosic acid has been shown to have a photoprotective action on human

dermal fibroblasts exposed to UVA light in vitro (Offord et al 2002) and rosemary

extract inhibits oxidative alterations to skin surface lipids, both in vitro and in vivo

(Calabrese et al 2000), as well as enhancing cell-mediated immunity in rats under

oxidative stress (Babu et al 1999). In a study of 150 patients with bronchitis exposed

to essential oils of rosemary, basil, fir and eucalyptus, an antioxidant effect was

observed (Siurin 1997).

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