Rosemary: Health benefits

By: Nutrition expert- Vidula Kozarekar, Mumbai.

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Rosmarinus officinalis L. (family, Lamiaceae), commonly known as rosemary, is one of the most popular perennial culinary herbs cultivated all over the world. Both fresh and dried leaves of rosemary have been used for their characteristic aroma in food cooking or consumed in small amount as herbal tea, while rosemary extracts are routinely employed as natural antioxidant to improve the shelf life of perishable foods. In the latter case, the European Union has approved rosemary extract (E392) as a safe and effective natural antioxidant for food preservation (1).

The plant is also known to be employed in traditional medicines in many countries even far beyond its native Mediterranean region where it grows wild. Among the pharmacologically validated medicinal uses of rosemary are antibacterial, anticancer, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive, antioxidant, anti-thrombotic, anti-ulcerogenic, improving cognitive deficits, anti-diuretic, and hepatoprotective effects. The other major use of rosemary is in the perfumery industry where the essential oils are employed as natural ingredients of fragrances.

Nutritional value:

The culinary, medicinal, and fragrance uses of rosemary are attributed to the vast arrays of chemical constituents collectively known as plant secondary metabolites.

  • Essential Oil

Essential oils, play vital role in the fragrance and culinary properties of the plant. Essential oils of rosemary dominated by 1,8-cineole, α-pinene, camphene, α-terpineol, and borneol as principal constituents are also responsible for various pharmacological effects of the general antioxidant and antimicrobial properties known for many essential oils, as well as other effects including anticarcinogenic activities (2), (3).

  • Polyphenolic Compounds

The other group of secondary metabolites of rosemary are polyphenolic compounds including the flavonoids and phenolic acid derivatives (e.g., rosmarinic acid) (4), (5), (6).

Pharmacological evidences of Rosemary supplementation:

  • Heart health

Molecular and cellular changes in the heart are responsible for the clinical problems. Thus, metabolic pathways and antioxidants could be the interaction forms of R. officinalis L. (Rosemary) with living tissue (7), (8).

Oxidative stress, caused by the action of reactive oxygen species (ROS), can be controlled by antioxidant enzymes such as superoxide dismutase and catalase [50]. The enzyme superoxide dismutase is the first to protect the mitochondria against harmful effects of ROS during cardiac remodelling. According to Chohan et al., Rosemary can function as an antioxidant enzyme and remove superoxide radicals from the tissue (9).

  • Control of body weight and dyslipidaemia

Hyperlipidaemia can favour the emergence of heart disease and contribute for an increase of body weight. Rosemary is rich in phytocompounds, such as catechins, coumarins, and cinnamic acid. These molecules are responsible for exerting significant antioxidant activity. Thus, R. officinalis L. or Rosemary can protect the organism against hyperlipidemic and hepatotoxic effects promoted by some products, as gentamicin (10), (11), (12).

  • Neuroprotective effect on cerebral ischemia

In ischemia pathogenesis, the oxidative stress is remarkable and can lead to the rupture of the blood-brain barrier and neurons death. According to Huang et al. , Rosemary can promote reduction of lipid peroxidation, hydroxyl radical, and hydrogen peroxide action in some tissues, such as cerebral, renal, cardiac, and serum. This fact shows that the plant can control the release of oxidative stress promoting molecules which are harmful to brain health (13), (14).

  • Improving memory and cognition

One study that involved 28 older adults found that a consumption of a low dose, but not a higher dose, of dried rosemary powder, was associated with statistically significantly improved memory speed (15).

Some research looked at how the smell of rosemary affects cognition. Participants were exposed to the aroma of rosemary while performing visual processing tasks and serial subtraction tasks. With higher amounts of the rosemary aroma, both speed and accuracy in the tasks increased (16).

  • Inflammation and pain

Studies have showed that; products from R. officinalis L. did not affect the efficiency of an allopathic drug; in contrast, they potentialized the pain control, in a complementary manner (17).

Rosemary is safe when taken in low doses, but if consumed in very large doses if can lead to serious side effects, such as vomiting, spasms, or even pulmonary oedema. Please consult with your doctor before incorporating rosemary into your diet.


  1. Food Standards Agency. Current EU approved additives and their E Numbers.

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