Charmingly fragrant rosemary herb is the perfect potherb to have in your kitchen garden. It is one of the recognized herbs for its noteworthy health-benefiting phytonutrients, antioxidants, and essential oils.
Rosemary belongs to the family of Lamiaceae, of the genus, Rosmarinus. Its botanical name is Rosmarinus officinalis.
The herb is thought to be originated in the Mediterranean region as a wild, strewing evergreen perennial shrub. Today, it is grown in nearly all parts of the Mediterranean area and Asia Minor as a major culinary herb.
| Light-blue rosemary flowers.
|Rosmarinus officinalis Note needle-like narrow, pointed leaves.|
Rosemary flourishes in well-drained, alkaline soil. It prefers sunny conditions but at the same time needs shelter from gusty winds. The plant reaches about 1.5-3 meters in height. Its bushy stems and downy young shoots are covered with about 1 inch long, narrow, needle-like aromatic leaves- dark green above and grayish underneath. The plant bears short racemes of small sea-blue flowers appearing in early summer.
|Rosemary herb. Note for narrow, dark green leaves.|
The plant parts, including flowers and leaves, have a fragrance that is pungently aromatic and somewhat camphoraceous (camphor-like).
Apart from culinary and medicinal purposes, rosemary shoots, flowers, and leaves traditionally are being used in festivals and wedding ceremonies to decorate banquet halls as incense to ward off bad influences.
Rosemary leaves contain certain phytochemicals (plant-derived) compounds that are known to have disease-preventing and health-promoting properties.
The herb parts, especially flower tops include phenolic antioxidant rosmarinic acid as well as numerous health benefiting volatile essential oils such as cineol, camphene, borneol, bornyl acetate, α-pinene, etc. These compounds are known to have rubefacient (counterirritant), anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, anti-fungal and antiseptic properties.
Rosemary leaves provide just 131 calories per 100 g and contain no cholesterol. Apart from nutrients, this humble herb contains many noteworthy non-nutrient components such as dietary fiber (37% of RDA).
The herb is exceptionally rich in many B-complex groups of vitamin, such as folic acid, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, riboflavin. It is one of the herbs containing high levels of folates; providing about 109 µg per 100 g (about 27% of RDA). Folates are essential DNA synthesis and when given during the peri-conception the period can help prevent neural tube defects in newborns.
Rosemary herb carries great amounts of vitamin A, 2924 IU per 100 g or about 97% of RDA. A few leaves a day in the diet, would contribute enough of this vitamin.
Vitamin-A is known to have antioxidant properties and is essential for vision. It is also required for maintaining healthy mucosa and skin. Consumption of natural foods rich in vitamin A is known to help the body protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
Fresh rosemary leaves are a good source of antioxidant vitamin, vitamin-C; containing about 22 mg per 100 g, about 37% of RDA. It is essential for collagen synthesis in the human body. Collagen is the main structural protein in the body required for maintaining the integrity of blood vessels, skin, organs, and bones.
Regular consumption of foods rich in vitamin-C helps the body protect from scurvy; develop resistance against infectious agents (boosts immunity) and help scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals from the body.
Rosemary herb parts, whether fresh or dried, are a rich source of minerals like potassium, calcium, iron, manganese, copper, and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids, which helps control heart rate and blood pressure. The human body uses manganese as a cofactor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.
The herb is an excellent source of iron, contains 6.65 mg/100 g of fresh leaves (about 83% of RDA). Iron, being a component of hemoglobin inside the red blood cells, determines the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood.
|Principle||Nutrient Value||% of RDA|
|Total Fat||5.86 g||20%|
|Dietary Fiber||14.10 g||37%|
|Pantothenic acid||0.804 mg||16%|
|Vitamin A||2924 IU||97%|
|Vitamin C||21.8 mg||36%|
Rosemary is generally grown as a garden herb so that its fresh leaves can readily be available for use.
|Dried rosemary herb leaves. Photo: norwichnuts|
If you need to buy from the herb store, choose fresh rosemary over the dry form of the herb since it is superior in quality and has a subtle flavor. Dried rosemary is stronger and quite pungent in flavor, favored particularly in savory meat dishes. Fresh leaves should feature deep green leaves and free from spots or yellowing.
Fresh rosemary herb should be stored in the refrigerator inside plastic bags. Dried rosemary should be kept in an airtight container and placed in a cool, dark, and dry place where it will stay fresh for several months.
Wash or rinse fresh leaves in cold running water for a few minutes to remove any dirt or pesticide residues. In order to keep the fragrance and flavor intact, the herb is generally added to recipes at the final stages of cooking, preventing loss of essential oils through evaporation as a result of prolonged cooking.
Here are some serving tips:
|Rosemary herb bread. Photo: norwichnuts|
Fresh or dried rosemary leaves are part of the Mediterranean cooking, employed in the preparation of a variety of recipes.
The herb is used to flavor in salads, soups, baked vegetables, and meat dishes.
Rosemary tea is a popular flavor drink in Mediterranean region.
Rosmarinic acid, a natural polyphenolic antioxidant found in rosemary, has been found to have anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant functions. Apart from the rosemary, other traditional herbs like Sage, peppermint, oregano, thyme herbs also contain significant levels of rosmarinic acid.
Rosemary oil which is distilled from the flowering tops contains volatile essential oil such as camphene, cineol, borneol, bornyl acetate and other esters. These compounds are known to have tonic, astringent, diaphoretic, and stimulant properties.
Its herbal oil is also being used externally as a rubefacient to soothe painful ailments in gout, rheumatism, and neuralgic conditions.
Rosemary herb extractions when applied over the scalp known to stimulate the hair-bulbs and help prevent premature baldness. It forms an effectual remedy for the prevention of scurf and dandruff.
Rosemary tea is a natural remedy for the nervous headache, colds, and depression. (Medical disclaimer).
Rosemary herb may cause abortion in the pregnant woman when consumed in large amounts. Further, in some rare cases, rosemary oil products may cause allergic skin reactions.
In toxic doses, rosemary has been found to cause kidney dysfunction and might exacerbate existing neurological conditions like epilepsy, neuroses, etc. (Medical disclaimer).
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Stanford School of Medicine Cancer information Page- Nutrition to Reduce Cancer Risk.
Antimicrobial activity of Rosmarinus officinalis L.- PDF.
Rosemary- Herb Growing in South Africa-PDF.