I encourage my clients to add fresh or dried herbs and spices to their meals every day. And not just once a day, but at every meal if they can. This may seem excessive, but herbs and spices have many great health benefits so it is worth doing. And if you think about it at every meal, you’ll easily get into the habit. Today we’ll look at therapeutic rosemary, a herb with many healing effects.
Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis L., is a Mediterranean herb that grows well in many places. We have huge shrubs of it in our garden. As the shrub gets large, it gets woody. This means it is quite hardy and will continue to grow so needs to be trimmed back annually. It has pretty pink, blue or lavender flowers which are very popular with bees and insects.
Rosemary for remembrance
In the language of flowers, rosemary symbolizes remembrance. Thus, you may hear of someone who plants a rosemary bush when someone dies or you may see rosemary at a funeral or memorial. This remembrance symbol probably arose because rosemary is seen to stimulate the brain and help our memory. It may also be helpful in preventing Alzheimer’s disease (see below).
Rosemary has been shown to be an adaptogen for methylation. If you are interested in nutrigenetics and nutrigenomics you may have come across methylation. It is a reaction that happens in all the cells in the body and is really important. Whether you hypomethylate or hypermethylate – i.e., have too little or too much methylation, rosemary adapts to balance methylation. This is reason enough to eat rosemary, but there are other health benefits too.
Powerful anti-oxidant activity
One of the key actions rosemary has on the body is that it is an anti-oxidant. This anti-oxidant activity means it can help prevent DNA damage which could lead to cancer. In fact, there has been quite a bit of research into the anti-cancer effects of rosemary. But this anti-oxidant activity also means it has other good therapeutic effects. The infographic below shows us just some of them.
How to use rosemary
You can use rosemary as a fresh or dried herb or as an extract or essential oil.
If you use dried herbs, make sure they are still reasonably “fresh” i.e., you don’t want to use dried herbs that you’ve had sat in the cupboard for 3 years. As many of the active oils in herbs and spices are volatile, after a while, they will disappear. So dried is fine, but not old-dried. You want to be able to smell the aromas clearly when you open the jar.
A hot water extract of rosemary is basically rosemary tea. You can make this yourself just by steeping rosemary leaves in hot water for 10 minutes. Or you can buy a rosemary tea. Here is one by Buddha teas or you can probably find one at your local supermarket.
Rosemary is also popular as an essential oil. If you are going to use essential oil in food or drinks, make sure you purchase one that specifies it is a food grade essential oil. I am not trained in essential oils so cannot recommend any specific ones. If you are interested in essential oils, talk to someone who is trained in how to use them.
A few weeks ago I gave you a recipe for roasted pears with rosemary. The rosemary comes through beautifully in that recipe. I’ll add some other recipes in the near future too, so you can try some different ways of incorporating it.
In the meantime, get creative. Try rosemary in your drinks – cocktails or infused water; add it to soups, breads, even cakes. Take a look at Pinterest for inspiration.
Make a rosemary salt
A quick easy way to use more rosemary is to make a rosemary salt. Basically, combine 2 parts of dried rosemary to 1 part of extra coarse salt. Just mix them together and store in a jar. Keep it near where you cook and add some to dishes instead of salt. This way you get more rosemary and less salt in your dishes! A double whammy.
Growing rosemary at home
Rosemary is easy to grow whether you have a large garden or a little window sill. Give it a try and enjoy those wonderful aromas in your cooking. Watching it grow will serve as a reminder to add herbs and spices to your meals! And the more you eat, the more you’ll remember!