Do you ever wonder what all the fuss is about herbs? Does it really make a difference if I season my salmon, chicken or vegetables? Absolutely it does! And there is abundant science to back that up. We have a love of ROSEMARY for its many health benefits: with small amounts you can reap not only epigenetic (gene balancing) benefits but also improve your memory, support your nervous and immune systems and even help fight cancer. Rosemary is a wonderful member of your functional nutrition kitchen toolkit.
A Brief History
Rosemary, or Rosmarinus officinalis L., is a perennial herb native to the Mediterranean region. It is a member of the mint family and grows on a small evergreen shrub. It has a woody smell and a pungent flavor that pairs well with many dishes.
Dr. Maisel, a cardiologist at UC San Diego, and the Sapienza University of Rome have initiated a study to look at the potential role of rosemary in the village of Acciaroli, home to an exceptional number of centenarians.
The inhabitants of Acciaroli, a small Italian village on the Amalfi Coast, studied for their longevity, use rosemary often.
Rosemary has long been used in traditional medicine to improve digestion and memory, to stimulate hair growth and to support the circulatory and nervous systems.
A Potent Herb with Powerful Properties
Balanced Gene Expression (Out-Smarting Your Genes!)
Rosmarinic acid, thought to be a real rock star component of rosemary, is a natural phenolic compound that has adaptogenic properties which support balanced methylation. In other words, rosmarinic acid can aid in healthy cellular regeneration and optimal gene expression. It’s one of the epigenetic adaptogens that we recommend in the Methylation Diet and Lifestyle eBook.
So, if you thought you were stuck with the genes you were born with, think again! Your genetic expression is a product of your genes AND your environment, including dietary factors such as herbs.
Rosemary is a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory which can be attributed to its concentrations of phenolic acids and major diterpenes such as carnosol, carnosic acid, ursolic acid, rosmarinic acid, and caffeic acid.
Memory, Mood and the Brain
Rosemary extract and rosemary aromatherapy have both showed promise in scientific trials involving memory, concentration and cognition. Most excitingly, a study on elderly patients revealed that doses closest to culinary consumption showed most effective in cognitive improvement! Additional studies demonstrated improved memory, alertness and contented feelings with Rosemary aromatherapy. We love to use rosemary aromatherapy when we’re working on research and writing projects, attending lectures, reading books, and more.
More studies have found that carnosic acid found in rosemary provides neurological protection to the brain and can help prevent beta amyloid-induced neurodegeneration such as that found in Alzheimer’s Disease.
Allergies and Asthma
A double-blind clinical trial studied the effects of rosmarinic acid supplementation on mild seasonal allergy symptoms. The patients receiving rosmarinic acid reported significantly reduced symptoms such as itchy nose and watery, itchy eyes as well as significantly decreased numbers of nasal inflammatory markers. Another trial studied the effects of a rosemary extract on allergic airway inflammation caused by dust mites. The rosemary extract, high in rosmarinic acid, inhibited the number of inflammatory eosinophils, neutrophils, and mononuclear cells (these are pro-inflammatory immune cells) in the airways and bronchial fluid. It also significantly suppressed the expression of interleukin-13, a central mediator in the induction of allergic airway disease.
The German Commission E Monographs approved rosemary for this use back in 1985 with recommended doses of 10-20 drops of rosemary essential oil or 4-6g of dried herb. While there are no clinical trials to support the use of rosemary to help relieve dyspepsia, or indigestion, Europeans have been using it this way for some time.
The German Commission E Monographs also approve rosemary oil as a topical agent used for muscle pain, arthritis and improved circulation. A 2014 clinical trial found that twice daily consumption of a tea high in rosmarinic acid for 16 weeks reduced osteoarthritic knee pain and stiffness.
Alopecia and Hair Growth
A recent clinical trial compared the effects of rosemary oil versus minoxidil (a hair regrowth medication) in treating androgenetic alopecia (AKA male pattern baldness). The study showed that both were equally effective! In fact, the group using rosemary oil had decreased symptoms of scalp itching.
There is quite a body of scientific literature mounting related to rosemary and its anti-cancer activity. In addition to its protective antioxidant action, rosemary has demonstrated anti-mutagenic, anti-tumor and chemoprevention properties in lung, breast, colon and pancreatic cancers just to name a few. The star constituents at play here are carnosic acid, carnosol and rosmarinic acid which act to modulate cancer signaling pathways and down-regulate tumor progression. Studies have found exciting effects of rosemary including preferential targeting of prostate cancer cells and enhancement of breast cancer chemotherapy. It will be exciting to watch as this scientific evidence continues to develop!
So now you see the Wonderment of Rosemary, let’s look at some easy ways to incorporate it into your diet.
Tips for Incorporating Rosemary in your Diet and Environment
- Whole or Dried Rosemary
- Rosemary makes a wonderful marinade or seasoning for chicken, beef, salmon, potatoes or vegetables.It’s a welcome addition to just about any soup or stew and it pairs particularly well with citrus, garlic, butter and olive oil.
- Try mixing it with some butter or even Greek yogurt for an interesting spread.
- Make your own rosemary-infused olive oil, mix it into your bread dough or add a spring to your lemon water to really spice things up!
- Rosemary tea is a delightful way to reap the benefits of this herb. Simply steep fresh or dried rosemary in boiling water and enjoy!Add some lemon zest/rind and a touch of honey for a special treat. This is a simple and delicious tea recipe, from our nutritionist Romilly Hodges MS CNS.
- Rosemary Essential oil
- Can be diffused as a mood and brain booster or can be a nice addition to your culinary creations. A drop or too will add a potent flavor to any dish or beverage, just be certain to purchase food grade essential oil.
This article was written with Karen L. Herb, MS. Karen earned her master’s degree in Functional Nutrition from the University of Bridgeport, CT. Karen’s passion for nutrition sprouted after she began educating herself about food policy and practices. Her background in the legal field gave her a unique perspective on the interplay of scientific evidence and nutritional policies and recommendations. The deeper she delved into evidence based nutrition, the more passionate she became about promoting a whole food, mind-body approach to nutrition and wellness. Seeking to specialize in functional nutrition she joined Dr. Kara Fitzgerald as a nutrition resident in January 2017 and is working towards her Certified Nutrition Specialist Certification.