8 Health Benefits of Rosemary

The leaves and the stems of this popular herb have been used for centuries to combat all sorts of ailments. Dream79/Shutterstock

In the remote village of Acciaroli in southwest Italy, about one in every 10 people is over 100 years old. Did they discover the Fountain of Youth? Not likely. It's probably not something in the water that's leading to the incredibly longevity of the residents. But it may be something in the rosemary.

Researchers from the University of California, San Diego and Rome's Sapienza University studied the town's incredibly healthy, long-living population and found that one thing they did was cook with lots and lots of rosemary. The local version of the herb is especially pungent and reportedly smells 10 times stronger than the one most people are familiar with, reports the New York Times.

So could this aromatic herb do more than add tasty benefits to a variety of culinary creations? Quite possibly.

Officially Rosmarinus officinalis, rosemary is a perennial evergreen shrub native to the Mediterranean that now grows widely in much of the world, particularly in warm, sunny climates. The plant has long, spiky needles that are green on top and silvery underneath, as well as small, blue flowers. In addition to being available as a fresh herb, rosemary is sold as a dried whole herb, dried in capsules and as an oil.

Dried rosemary
Dried rosemary has been used for cooking and for medicinal purposes for ages. phloen/Shutterstock

Both the leaves and the stems of the plant have been used for cooking and for medicinal purposes for centuries. Here's a look at some of the ways rosemary might help your health:

Memory and Concentration

Rosemary has long been linked in folk medicine to better memory. Reportedly in ancient Greece, students would place rosemary sprigs in their hair while they studied for tests. It is used in aromatherapy to help with concentration and age-related cognitive decline. According to researchers from the University of Northumbria, the scent of rosemary was associated with improved long-term memory, relative to that of control subjects. Early evidence in another study suggests that taking just 750 mg of powdered rosemary leaves in tomato juice might improve memory speed in healthy, older adults. However, taking higher doses may make memory worse.

Stress

Rosemary is also used in aromatherapy to ease stress. One study suggests that the combination of rosemary with other oils could possibly lower cortisol levels and thereby lower anxiety. A similar study found that using essential oil sachets made of rosemary and lavender helped ease test-taking stress for nursing students.

Hair Loss

For ages, rosemary has been linked with hair growth in many cultures. In a 2015 study, researchers found that rosemary oil may be as effective as minoxidil for increasing hair growth in individuals with androgenetic alopecia (male-pattern baldness). Previous research demonstrated that applying a combination of rosemary oil, lavender, thyme and cedarwood oil to the scalp can help improve hair growth.

Indigestion and Other Gastric Issues

There isn't a lot of scientific evidence that rosemary helps with problems like stomach upset, gas or indigestion. However, rosemary leaf is reportedly used in Europe for indigestion and has been approved by the German Commission E, which examines the safety and efficacy of herbs.

Muscle Pains and Aches

Some early studies show that taking a combination of rosemary, hops and oleanolic acid may help ease the pain associated with arthritis. Rosemary oil is also approved by the German Commission E as a topic treatment to treat muscle and arthritis-related pain and to improve circulation.

Rosemary oil
A whiff of rosemary oil can relieve feelings of boredom and provide fresh mental energy, according to one study. Larisa Blinova/Shutterstock

Mental Energy

Rosemary's smell is unmistakable. And if you're bored or a little uninspired, maybe a whiff of the pungent herb can help. A 2013 study looked at the effects of inhaled rosemary oil on the nervous system and found that participants who inhaled rosemary reported having more energy and feeling refreshed.

Cancer

A number of studies suggest that rosemary extract may prevent cancer cells from replicating, thereby stopping tumors from growing. One study found that rosemary (alone, and with curcumin) helped prevent breast cancer; another study found similar effects with rosemary on colon cancer cell replication.

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