By Stephanie McCann
Many of the herbs we use as medicine today have long traditions spanning back thousands of years, but sometimes their uses seem a bit superstitious and outdated. Although folklore has provided us with great direction in understanding the benefits of various plants, modern science is beginning to confirm the merits of these historical uses. Often what seemed like mere symbolic use had very real physical implications as well. Rosemary is one such herb whose historical reputation has held up against scientific scrutiny for its wide range of uses.
“…Rosemary, that’s for remembrance,” is a famous line that many of us hear in English class. But even long before Shakespeare’s time, rosemary was used as a memory aid to enliven the mind. The ancients inhaled the smoke to guard against “weakness of the brain”, and people carried it at weddings and funerals to symbolize the remembrance of loved ones. Rosemary has even sparked the curiosity of scientists who have studied its applications in memory care. As a circulatory stimulant, it certainly encourages blood flow to the brain! Students and anyone wishing to stay focused can inhale this treasured aroma for a clarifying and energizing boost.
Another time-tested holistic use for rosemary is purification. While very effective in purifying on a material level, rosemary’s purification properties extend beyond the physical into the emotional and spiritual realms. A less expensive alternative to frankincense, it was burned as an incense in religious ceremonies throughout the ages to bring worshippers to a holier state of mind. In working through trauma, rosemary has lived up to its reputation to clear out negative thoughts and prevent nightmares. Even on a more physical level, its sharp aroma powerfully cuts through sinus and lung congestion, whether in a diffuser or homemade vapor rub.
Similarly, another long-held belief about rosemary is its ability to usher in good luck and protect us from all types of evils, from sorcery to illness. Many are familiar with the Four Thieves legend about the plague, but there are many other traditions that affirm rosemary’s protective qualities. French hospitals burned the leaves to fight the spread of illness and courtrooms spread the branches on the ground to combat maladies afflicting the prisoners. We know today that rosemary has strong antimicrobial qualities that explain why these practices were so effective. Homemade house cleaners featuring rosemary are a wonderful way to bring rosemary’s protective properties into your life.
For many of our most beloved plants, we can find links between old wives’ tales and proven remedies that help to validate their use. A bit of skepticism can be healthy, since herblore is not always accurate and it is ideal when historical and scientific sources come to the same conclusions. Luckily, rosemary has proven to be every bit as wonderful as history would lead us to believe!
For more information, please browse our Rosemary essential oils and blends
By Stephanie McCann, Herbalist & Photographer. Golden State Botanicals