AskDefine | Define rosemary

Dictionary Definition



1 widely cultivated for its fragrant gray-green leaves used in cooking and in perfumery [syn: Rosmarinus officinalis]
2 extremely pungent leaves used fresh or dried as seasoning for especially meats

User Contributed Dictionary



Latin ros marinus, dew of the sea



rosemary (rosemaries)
  1. a shrub that originates from Europe ans Asia Minor and produces fragrant mint used in cooking and perfumes

Scientific names


Rosmarinus officianalis

Extensive Definition

commons Rosmarinus officinalisRosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a woody, perennial herb with fragrant evergreen needle-like leaves. It is native to the Mediterranean region. It is a member of the mint family Lamiaceae, which also includes many other herbs.
The name rosemary has nothing to do with the rose or the name Mary, but derives from the Latin name rosmarinus, which literally means "dew of the sea", though some think this too may be derived from an earlier name.


Forms range from upright to trailing; the upright forms can reach 1.5 m tall, rarely 2 m.
The leaves are evergreen, 2-4 cm long and 2-5 mm broad, green above, and white below with dense short woolly hairs.
The flowers are variable in color, being white, pink, purple, or blue.

Cultivation and uses

The fresh and dried leaves are used frequently in traditional Mediterranean cuisine as an herb; they have a bitter, astringent taste, which complements a wide variety of foods. A tisane can also be made from them. They are extensively used in cooking, and when burned give off a distinct mustard smell, as well as a smell similar to that of burning which can be used to flavor foods while barbecueing.
Rosemary is extremely high in iron, calcium, and Vitamin B6.
Since it is attractive and tolerates some degree of drought, it is also used in landscaping, especially in areas having a Mediterranean climate. It is considered easy to grow for beginner gardeners, and is pest-resistant.
Rosemary is easily pruned into shapes and has been used for topiary. When grown in pots, it is best kept trimmed to stop it getting too straggly and unsightly, though when grown in a garden, rosemary can grow quite large and still be attractive. It can be propagated from an existing plant by clipping a shoot 10-15 cm long, stripping a few leaves from the bottom, and planting it directly into soil.
Numerous cultivars have been selected for garden use. The following are frequently sold:
  • Albus- white flowers
  • Arp- leaves light green, lemon-scented
  • Aureus- leaves speckled yellow
  • Benenden Blue - leaves narrow, dark green
  • Blue Boy - dwarf, small leaves
  • Golden Rain - leaves green, with yellow streaks
  • Irene - lax, trailing
  • Lockwood de Forest - procumbent selection from Tuscan Blue
  • Ken Taylor - shrubby
  • Majorica Pink - pink flowers
  • Miss Jessop's Upright - tall, erect
  • Pinkie - pink flowers
  • Prostratus
  • Pyramidalis (a.k.a Erectus) - pale blue flowers
  • Roseus - pink flowers
  • Salem - pale blue flowers, cold hardy similar to Arp
  • Severn Sea - spreading, low-growing, with arching branches; flowers deep violet
  • Tuscan Blue - upright

Medicinal uses

Hungary water was first invented for the Queen of Hungary to "renovate vitality of paralysed limbs." It was used externally and prepared by mixing 180g of fresh rosemary tops in full flower into a liter of spirits of wine. Leave to stand for four days then distill. It is also supposed to work as a remedy against gout if rubbed vigorously on hands and feet.
Rosemary has a very old reputation for improving memory, and has been used as a symbol for remembrance (during weddings, war commemorations and funerals) in Europe, probably as a result of this reputation. Mourners would throw it into graves as a symbol of remembrance for the dead. In Shakespeare's Hamlet, Ophelia says, "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance." One modern study lends some credence to this reputation. When the smell of rosemary was pumped into cubicles where people were working, those people showed improved memory, though with slower recall. A second study shows that carnosic acid, found in rosemary, shields the brain from free radicals, lowering the risk of strokes and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Lou Gehrig's.
Don Quixote (Chapter XVII, 1st volume) mixes it in his recipe of the miraculous balm of Fierabras with revolting results.
Health Precautions: In some cases, rosemary can cause autoimmune diseases. Rosemary in culinary or therapeutic doses is generally safe; however, precaution is necessary for those displaying allergic reaction or prone to epileptic seizure. Rosemary essential oil is a powerful convulsant; if applied to the skin, it may cause seizures in otherwise healthy adults or children. Rosemary essential oil is potentially toxic if ingested. Large quantities of rosemary leaves can cause adverse reactions, such as coma, spasm, vomiting, and pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs) that can be fatal. Avoid consuming large quantities of rosemary if pregnant or breastfeeding.
Rosemary may also be useful in the prevention and treatment of headlice.
Rosemary, for example, a cup of rosemary tea, can cause drowsiness.


  • Calabrese, V., Scapagnini, G., Catalano, C., Dinotta, F., Geraci, D., & Morganti, P. (2000). Biochemical studies of a natural antioxidant isolated from rosemary and its application in cosmetic dermatology. International Journal of Tissue Reactions. 22 (1): 5-13.
  • Huang, M. T., Ho, C. T., Wang, Z. Y., Ferraro, T., Lou, Y. R., Stauber, K., Ma, W., Georgiadis, C., Laskin, J. D., & Conney, A. H. (1994). Inhibition of skin tumorigenesis by rosemary and its constituents carnosol and ursolic acid. Cancer Res. 54(3):701-8.

External links

rosemary in Arabic: حصالبان
rosemary in Bulgarian: Розмарин
rosemary in Catalan: Romer
rosemary in Czech: Rozmarýna lékařská
rosemary in Danish: Rosmarin
rosemary in German: Rosmarin
rosemary in Modern Greek (1453-): Δενδρολίβανο
rosemary in Spanish: Rosmarinus officinalis
rosemary in Esperanto: Oficina rosmareno
rosemary in Persian: اکلیل کوهی
rosemary in French: Romarin
rosemary in Galician: Romeu
rosemary in Croatian: Ružmarin
rosemary in Italian: Rosmarinus officinalis
rosemary in Hebrew: רוזמרין
rosemary in Hungarian: Rozmaring
rosemary in Luxembourgish: Rousemaräin
rosemary in Dutch: Rozemarijn
rosemary in Japanese: ローズマリー
rosemary in Norwegian: Rosmarin
rosemary in Narom: Romathîn
rosemary in Polish: Rozmaryn lekarski
rosemary in Portuguese: Alecrim
rosemary in Russian: Розмарин обыкновенный
rosemary in Slovenian: Rožmarin
rosemary in Finnish: Rosmariini
rosemary in Swedish: Rosmarin
rosemary in Turkish: Biberiye
rosemary in Chinese: 迷迭香
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