(NaturalHealth365) With its needle-like, attractive green leaves and refreshing fragrance, rosemary is a popular choice for herb gardens. Long valued by chefs for its bracing, piney flavor, this versatile herb adds heartiness and interest to chicken, fish, meats, soups and salads.
But rosemary’s culinary contributions pale in comparison to its disease-fighting powers. Due to a combination of potent compounds, this easily available, inexpensive kitchen seasoning can reduce inflammation, protect your heart, promote good digestion and enhance circulation.
It can also help relieve asthma, soothe headaches, improve your mental clarity and help kill pathogens in food. Plus, as if this array of health benefits weren’t impressive enough, rosemary can condition hair and combat dandruff.
Why is rosemary so good for us?
Rosemary, botanically known as Rosmarinus officinalis, is rich in natural antioxidants, including rosmarinic acid. Antioxidants can reduce cell damage caused by destructive free radicals, along with alleviating the inflammation that contributes to heart disease.
According to University of Maryland Medical Center, some research has shown that long-term daily use of rosemary can prevent thrombosis, or blood clots. UMMC also credits the antioxidants in rosemary with inhibiting the growth of food-borne microbes such as S. aureus.
In addition, rosemary contains volatile oils, including 1.8 cineole. These oils contribute to rosemary’s anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antifungal abilities. They also provide mild tonic and stimulant properties, helping rosemary to promote healthy digestion, circulation and breathing.
The nutritional value of rosemary
Rosemary is low-calorie, high-fiber, virtually free of fat, sugar, sodium and cholesterol, and high in essential vitamins and minerals. In addition, you’ll find that rosemary is rich in B-complex vitamins such as pantothenic acid – essential for healthy skin and hair – and folate, which can help prevent neural tube defects in newborns. It is a good source of cancer-fighting vitamin A, also a potent antioxidant.
In addition, rosemary is a good source of potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure, and calcium, needed for healthy bones. And, finally, rosemary is an excellent source of iron, needed to produce healthy red blood cells.
The brain-boosting powers of rosemary
For thousands of years, rosemary has been perceived as having the power to improve concentration and memory. Students in ancient Greece customarily laced rosemary sprigs through their hair before studying; William Shakespeare praised its memory-enhancing powers.
Recent clinical evidence suggests that this folk wisdom has merit. In a British study published in Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology, volunteers performed cognitive tests with increased speed and accuracy after merely smelling the fragrance of rosemary essential oil. Researchers credited the improvement to rosemary’s content of 1.8 cineole, and noted that the more cineole the subjects had in their bloodstream, the better they performed.
Can you really treat dandruff with rosemary?
Yes! You can use rosemary’s antifungal powers to treat seborrheic dermatitis, also known as dandruff. For best results, use it in conjunction with sage, which contains salicylic acid and menthol.
Simply pour 2 cups of boiling water over an ounce each of dried sage and rosemary leaves. Let the mixture steep for 24 hours, and pour it through your hair.
Keep in mind – some precautions
Look for organic rosemary which has not been irradiated; this process destroys beneficial phytochemicals.
Rosemary is considered safe if eaten in quantities found in food. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding – avoid eating large quantities of rosemary, or taking it in supplement form.
As with any food, allergic reactions are possible. If you are allergic to any of rosemary’s cousins in the mint family, such as basil or oregano, you should avoid rosemary as well.
Rosemary can interact with prescription drugs and supplements. So, if you’re concerned, it’s best to consult a doctor before using rosemary.
Rosemary’s essential oil – not to be confused with fresh rosemary – should never be taken orally.
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