One of my fondest childhood memories is the smell of my grandmother’s chicken soup. Brimming with rosemary, her secret herb, it felt like the aroma alone could make me well.
My gram was sharp as tack and knowing what I now about the secrets of rosemary, I understand why.
The Magic of Rosemary
Rosemary’s humble life begins as a horticultural delight. Cultivated around the world, it is prized by landscapers as an enchanting ornamental shrub whose prowess in the kitchen and medicine cabinet prove its beauty isn’t just skin deep.
Derived from the Latin “Rosemarinus officinalis," rosemary means “dew of the sea” and it is aptly named for its native habitat in the Mediterranean.
This bushy evergreen takes several forms from a low-growing bush that makes a sumptuous ground cover to trailing vines that form flowing curtains over the top of garden walls and fences.
My Top 5 Best Rosemary Oil Brands In 2018
*The companies chosen above are based upon my personal opinion based upon me giving them a try and testing their quality.
What is Rosemary Oil?
Rosemary belongs to the aromatic herb family Laminaceae, which includes other popular herbs such as mint, oregano, marjoram, thyme, sage, savory and lemon balm.
Both the leaves and flowers have medicinal properties, but it is the leaves that are most commonly used to create essential oil.
Historically, rosemary has been used as an anointing herb at funerals, as a symbol of fidelity and love at weddings and medicinally, as far back as ancient Greece where Dioscorides, author of De Materia Medica, a work on the use and identification of medical herbs, recommended rosemary for its “warming faculty.”
As a part of traditional Chinese medicine, rosemary is touted even today for its beneficial effects on mood and memory as well as a powerful tonic for hair growth.
Rosemary essential oil has three different chemotypes, or chemovars. Each is derived from a plant that has the same appearance and characteristics, but with differences in chemical composition leading to differences in therapeutic properties.
Plants produce different chemotypes due to the soil and moisture conditions under which they are grown, as well the effects of cross-pollination with local species.
To identify a chemotype of rosemary, the abbreviation ct. is used, followed by the unique chemical components within the oil.
Rosemary chemotypes include:
When choosing an oil, it is important to understand that each elements acts synergistically within the compound to enhance specific beneficial effects.
My grandmother, for example, made mesh pouches with squares of camphor for her grandchildren to ward away respiratory illness during the winter months.
Perhaps it is no surprise that I always felt a deep sense of well-being in a home bearing the scents of both rosemary and camphor.
A good essential oil begins with high-quality carrier oil. Carrier oils are plant-based oils used to dilute essential oils, making them safe to apply to the skin.
The best carrier oils are organic, additive-free and cold-pressed instead of heat processed.
Excellent choices include:
Most essential oils are made commercially with a distillation process that takes raw plant material such as flowers, bark, or leaves and subjects it to steam which passes through the material, vaporizing it's volatile compounds.
The vapors then pass through a cooling coil and are collected as essential oil as they condense back into liquid form. This creates pure, potent oil that offers the maximum therapeutic benefit.
For the beginner, a very simple type of essential oil, more accurately called an infusion, can be made at home by gently warming a tablespoon of dried or a few sprigs of fresh rosemary in your choice of carrier oil.
Use caution however, boiling will destroy valuable therapeutic compounds. Homemade oils are best stored in a cool, dry place, away from direct light and should be used within six months for freshness.
Rosemary Essential Oil Uses for Health, Beauty and a Natural Home
Rosemary essential oil has an illustrious history of medicinal use. Though research in humans is limited even today, anecdotally, it has been used for centuries to treat ailments from hair loss and acne to memory loss and pain caused by inflammation.
It's uses, however, are not only strictly medicinal. Rosemary is a boon for a healthy home and garden.
As a natural insecticide, at least one study show rosemary essential oil helps keeps an organic garden pesticide-free. (source)
To rid plants of spider mites:
To keep ants at bay:
As both an insecticide and an anti-fungal treatment for plants:
Rosemary oil is also an effective home disinfectant. To make an anti-fungal, antibacterial and antiviral spray cleaner, mix:
Shake and add to a spray bottle to naturally disinfect kitchen and bathroom surfaces. As a member of the mint family, rosemary oil blends well with other mints.
For a solution that both cleans and serves as an air freshener, add peppermint oil or eucalyptus.
For regular air freshening, rosemary essential oil can be tucked in closets, drawers, laundry rooms, or anywhere the fragrance would be welcomed.
Sprinkle a few drops on a pretty sachet or use any absorbent material to hold the oil.
Oil does stain if it gets in direct contact with fabric, so when looking for ways to use rosemary oil as an air freshener, it is important to put the oil in a medium that keeps it safely contained while allowing the fragrance to breathe.
Essential Oil Recipes That Include Rosemary Oil
Sachets were my grandmother’s choice, but it can be as simple as putting a few drops of essential oil in a bowl.
Because I am not the most graceful person, I prefer to use non-breakable absorbent material such as a cotton ball to hold the oil, but my favorite is a handmade yarn ball.
Just choose a color and twist it into the size ball of your choice — the size of a small cat toy is convenient.
Sneak the dropper through the first few layers of yarn and deposit the oil inside. This allows the vibrant aroma to escape, while keeping the oil away from sensitive surfaces.
Artfully concealed in a windowsill, the oil does double duty as an insect repellant and an air freshener as the incoming breeze diffuses the scent. When using an air conditioner, put a drop or two of oil on the filter.
To make a portable air freshener, a few drops of rosemary essential oil in neutral carrier oil can be put in a small, portable spray bottle — 15 milliliters is a good size — or a perfume atomizer.
For the car, blank air freshener cards can be purchased in a variety of shapes and they hold the fragrance well. Alternatively, an oil-treated cotton or yarn ball under the seat will never be noticed.
Rosemary and its essential oil remains a modern culinary favorite. A handful of fresh rosemary is a must for seasoning Mediterranean chicken and lamb dishes, but when using pure oil, only a drop or two of edible oil is needed.
Add a drop to a large bottle of extra virgin olive oil to make flavorful oil that is ready to use atop salads, or for dipping crusty French or Italian bread.
As a beauty aid, rosemary essential oil is a natural alternative to harsh chemical skin treatments. It's astringent properties help control the skin oils that cause blackheads, while it's plentiful antioxidants fight the signs of aging and blemishes due to inflammation.
For a fragrant, homemade scrub that rivals any loofah, combine these ingredients:
Mix together until well-blended and store in a covered jar at room temperature. The sugar provides gentle abrasion, while the Epsom salt draws out skin impurities.
The rosemary essential oil is gentle, but along with lemongrass oil, has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. Increase the lemongrass oil to 10 drops when showering before a trip outdoors and it will aid as an insect repellant.
For skin that needs gentle exfoliation with a touch of smoothness, try this facial mask:
Combine the mixture with just enough water to moisten and apply as a paste over the face and neck.
Gently work into skin with the fingertips using a circular motion and let sit for 15-20 minutes or until it feels almost dry.
Rinse well with warm water followed by a splash of cold to shrink pores. For dry skin, add a drop or two of olive or almond oil to the mix.
For hair, rosemary oil adds softness and luster, but also controls dandruff, scalp itch and fights hair loss. In fact, a 2015 study showed rosemary oil is as effective as the leading nonprescription hair growth treatment. (source)
For daily dandruff control or itch, mix it a few drops of essential oil with a gentle shampoo. Once monthly, use a few drops in warm carrier oil as an overnight hot oil treatment. Rinse well the following morning.
To encourage new hair growth, try this recipe:
Combine and store in a covered jar. Apply 2-3 times weekly for about 15 minutes, then shampoo and condition as usual.
This recipe can also be used as an overnight treatment, but a head covering is advised to avoid staining or imparting a permanent odor to bed linens.
The Science Behind the Benefits of Rosemary Essential Oil
The most profound benefits of rosemary essential oil are for human health and well-being.
Nature’s medicine cabinet offers a plethora of natural, wholesome remedies for what ails us and rosemary oil is scientifically proven to be among the most beneficial.
Consider the many ways to use this oil to complement modern medicine.
Increasing prospective memory, a form of memory that involves remembering scheduled activities such as taking medicine or remembering safety precautions is a proven benefit of rosemary oil.
To test the effects of this essential oil on memory, researchers at Northumbria University in England recruited 150 seniors over the age of 65.
Subjects were divided among three rooms — one scented with lavender, known to have mild sedative properties, one scented with rosemary, thought to have memory-enhancing properties and an unscented control room.
Subjects in rosemary-scented room displayed improved prospective memory with test scores 15% higher than those who had been in the room with no scent.
In contrast, those who were exposed to the lavender scent demonstrated increased quiet and calm, but showed a decrease in their ability to remember to complete scheduled tasks.
This study represents a new way to treat age-related memory loss in seniors. For maximum effect, scenting the whole home is advised. Consider the use of diffusers. (source)
Simple reed diffusers are long-lasting, but nebulizing diffusers may be more effective. Considered the most powerful type of diffuser, they use an interior atomizer to create fine, airborne particles of essential oils and blow them in to the air in a steady stream.
Rosemary is an effective therapy for respiratory disease, especially for conditions such as persistent nasal or chest congestion.
In a diffuser or facial steamer, rosemary oil alone or in combination with eucalyptus menthol oil, it clears stuffy nasal passages due to colds and allergies.
To make a natural aromatherapy inhaler at home, buy blank inhaler tubes and treat cotton batting with these special recipes.
For stubborn nasal congestion, combine:
Put the treated batting in the inhaler tube as use as needed. Keep tightly capped when not in use to prevent the oils from evaporating prematurely.
For sinusitis due to allergies, try:
When showering, a few drops of either recipe generates aromatic steam and at bedtime, it can be added to a diffuser or room humidifier.
As a natural disinfectant, rosemary oil will inhibit the growth of mold inside moist humidifiers.
Rosemary essential oil has known anti-inflammatory properties that can help relieve minor aches and pains from arthritis or injuries.
Known to stimulate circulation, it helps the body help itself the way any good natural remedy should.
Rosemary oil can be incorporated into simple massage oil or made into a balm or liniment. Try these recipes:
Simple Massage Oil
Relaxing Rosemary Pain Relief Balm
Mix well and store covered. The butter helps keep this mixture shelf stable, so a double batch can be made for more frequent use.
Massage oils and greasy balms may not appeal to everyone. For a light liniment that absorbs quickly without leaving an oily residue, try this recipe I found tucked into in my great-grandmother’s cookbook.
She affectionately dubbed it a cure for “Granddad’s sore back.”
Combine in a glass jar and allow the spearmint to soak for a few days, then use as needed over sore joints and muscles.
Due to the high alcohol content, it will evaporate quickly if left open to air.
My great mother used to grow spearmint in her garden, but if you don’t a few drops of spearmint oil works as a substitute.
The same 2003 Northumbria University study that found rosemary improves memory also supports its use as a mood booster.
Mood assessments were an integral part of the study and after exposure to the scent of rosemary oil, subjects reported feeling more alert and clear-headed.
A 1998 study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience measured EEG activity in 40 adults given three minutes of aromatherapy using rosemary.
The rosemary group showed increased alertness and subjects had lower anxiety scores, reporting they felt more relaxed and alert. (source)
Rosemary Oil: Potential Side Effects and Precautions
The use of rosemary oil is considered safe for adult use, but as with all substances, there is a potential for side effects.
The following people should avoid the medicinal use of rosemary oil:
Essential oils are powerful substances and the best way to avoid side effects is to properly dilute them in carriers.
When beginning a therapeutic regimen with rosemary oil, start with a small dose and increase slowly. Stop if side effects are evident.
As a precaution against allergy, perform a skin test. Rub a drop of rosemary oil in a teaspoon of carrier oil on the inside of the wrist and observe for skin reactions such as redness or swelling.
Rosemary oil benefits many with respiratory disease, but always use caution as scents can trigger breathing difficulty.
Accidentally consuming large amounts of rosemary oil can cause severe side effects such as vomiting, pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs) or coma.
All essential oils should be securely stored to avoid ingestion by children or pets.
Research and Facts: The Future of Rosemary Essential Oil
Despite centuries of use and the many recent studies that prove the therapeutic benefits of rosemary essential oil, the total body of scientific research remains relatively small, but it is growing.
In addition to the many quality studies done to support the health, beauty and agricultural benefits of rosemary essential oil, researchers are now honing in its individual chemical constituents to better understand how it works.
A chemical analysis isolated these chemical constituents in rosemary oil:
Alpha-Pinene — confirmed to have both anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.
8-Cineole — discovered to have anti-fungal and antibacterial effects.
Camphor — shown to be effective in as a first aid antiseptic.
Camphene — shows potential as an anti-inflammatory and a treatment for hyperlipidemia.
Beta-Pinene —confirmed to fight certain types of cancer cells.
Limonene — shows promise as a treatment for insulin resistance.
Final Thoughts About Rosemary Oil
Essentials oils are gaining in popularity as people yearn for more natural, holistic ways to approach wellbeing.
Oils should never be used as a replacement for traditional medicine, but rather, in concert with it.
The benefits of adding rosemary essential oil to a daily regimen that supports health is clear and research for its use in the treatment of pain and memory loss is exceptionally promising.
When choosing an essential oil, embrace the power of nature and choose those made organically and without unnecessary additives.
Essential oils are powerful and should be used with the same caution as other medicines.
Finally, when remembering memories that bring joy, peace, and a sense of inner contentment, call to mind the sights and smells of those days and pull those close to you.
I once did in my grandmother’s kitchen and learn more from her wisdom every day.
What Company Should I Purchase Rosemary Oil From?
I hope you enjoyed learning about all of the cool benefits and uses that rosemary essential oil offers. It is definitely one of the most versatile oils because it can be used to create so many different types of blends to solve your everyday problems.
My personal favorite brand that I purchase most of my oils from is doTERRA. I find that they offer the highest quality oils, starter kits, and diffusers. They are especially good if you are brand new to oils because they offer a lot of free resources and education once you become a customer.
I highly recommend giving them a try. You can read more about my story of using their oils here.