Spice & Herbs: Rosemary

Rosemary, a fragrant herb native to the Mediterranean region, is known for the flavor and aroma it provides many foods.  Its leaves can be eaten fresh or dried.  It can be used in tea or as an essential oil or liquid extract.  A good source of iron, calcium and vitamins A, C, and B-6, rosemary is renowned for its many health benefits and has been used for its medicinal purposes for centuries.  Taken in small doses its possible health benefits include improved concentration, digestion, and brain aging.

This widely used herb is a rich source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, which are thought to help boost the immune system and improve blood circulation.

Carnosic and rosmarinic acids, two of rosemary’s active ingredients have powerful antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. Consuming rosemary regularly may help lower the risk of infection and help the immune system fight any infections that do occur.  Rosmarinic acid’s anti-inflammatory effects have been shown to suppress allergic responses and nasal congestion.

Rosemary is thought to enhance memory and concentration.  Research supports the belief that rosemary’s aroma can improve one’s concentration, performance, speed, and accuracy and, to a lesser extent, their mood.

Scientists have found that rosemary may be good for our brains.  One of this herb’s components, carnosic acid, can fight off damage by free radicals in the brain.  It is also believed that rosemary may be useful for people who have suffered a stroke.  This herb appears to have the ability to protect against brain damage and may improve recovery.

Some studies suggest that rosemary may be of significant help in the prevention of brain aging.   Although more studies are needed, rosemary’s therapeutic ability for prevention of Alzheimer’s shows promise.

Published research has found that rosemary may be useful in the treatment of cancer.  In one study, rosemary was found to slow the growth of cancer cells in the body.  Another concluded that rosemary might be useful as an anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor agent and may even lower the risk of developing tumors.

Research has revealed that carnosic acid can significantly promote eye health.  This could have clinical applications for diseases affecting the outer retina, such as age-related macular degeneration – the most common eye disease and leading cause of severe vision loss in adults over 60.

Rosemary is safe when taken in low doses.  Although rare, if consumed in very large doses it can lead to serious side effects, such as vomiting, spasms, or even pulmonary edema. It may also affect the activity of some medications.  Please consult with your doctor before incorporating rosemary into your diet. 

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