Rosemary is one of the most popular herbs in the western culture. It has been used since centuries across civilisations in cooking and for its medicinal properties to cure digestive problems, improve memory, boost the immune system and relieve aches and pains. In this guide, let’s discuss in details the characteristics, composition, properties, benefits and usages of rosemary oil.
The botanical name of the rosemary plant is Rosmarinus officinalis. It is also known as rosemary coronarium, compass plant, incensier and garden rosemary.
Rosemary is a hardy evergreen herb that belongs to mint, Lamiaceae, family. It grows up to 3-5 feet high and has aromatic green-gray needle-shaped leaves and pale-blue/lilac/purple flowers. The leaves are 1–4 cm long and 2–4 mm wide, sessile, leathery, linear to linear-lanceolate, with curved edges, dark green upper side and granulosa and page bottom tomentous, with prominent midrib, and very characteristic smell.
Lamiaceae family includes 236 genera and around 6900–7200 species. Other famous members in the mint family are basil, lavender, mint, myrtle, sage and thyme.
Rosemary is used as a garden plant for decorative purposes and to control pest in some cases. It is also used as herb to flavour various foods including stuffing and roast meats.
Rosemary is native to Mediterranean region. It is now cultivated across Algeria, California, Russia, Middle East, Morocco, England, France, Spain, Portugal, Yugoslavia, Morocco, China, South Africa, etc.
The largest rosemary oil producing countries are France, Morocco, Spain and Tunisia.
History of Use of Rosemary
Rosemary has been a very popular herb since centuries especially for civilisations across the Mediterranean regions, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Hebrews and others.
According to popular folklore, the colour of the rosemary flower changed from white to blue when Virgin Mary covered it with her blue cloak and since then it is called ‘Rose of Mary’.
In Ancient Egypt, it was used for purification and healing purposes. Remnants of the rosemary plant have been discovered in Egyptian tombs. Rosemary was regularly fumigated in temples and at secular occasions during Greeks and Romans civilisations. It was worn, strung together in garlands, leis and headdresses during social occasions.
During the Middle Ages, rosemary herb was considered sacred. It was used to ward off evils spirits, protect against the plague and other infectious illnesses. In fact, rosemary is one of the ingredients in the “Vinegar of the Four Thieves” recipe. Vinegar of the Four Thieves is a concoction of vinegar infused with herbs, spices or garlic that was believed to protect from the plague.
During the early modern times, French hospitals used to carry out rosemary fumigation to purify the air and prevent infection.
It is estimated that rosemary oil was first distilled during either early Renaissance or late Middle Ages, either in Spain or France, possibly as far back as the 13th century.
Rosemary essential oil is extracted from the leaves/flowers of the rosemary plant using steam distillation. Around 100 Kgs of biomass produce 1-15 Kgs of oil.
In case the whole plant is used for extraction of essential oil, the quality of essential oil will be poorer.
Characteristics of Rosemary Oil
Rosemary essential oil is a colourless to pale yellow or greenish yellow liquid with a strong, fresh, herbaceous, clean aroma with hints of sweetness. Rosemary oil has water like viscosity and middle-to-top note.
|Botanical Name||Rosmarinus officinalis|
|Colour||Clear to Pale Yellow|
|Aroma||Strong, Fresh, Herbaceous, Clean Aroma with hints of Sweetness|
Composition of Rosemary Oil
Rosemary oil is composed mainly of oxides, pinenes, camphene, limonene, cineol, borneol, camphor, linalol, terpineol, octanone, bornyl acetate, among others.
The main compounds found in rosemary oil are 1,8-cineole. camphor and α-pinene. The details of the composition of rosemary oil are as follow:
Rosemary ct. Cineole
Rosemary ct. Camphor
Other compounds found in rosemary oil are cymene, linalool, bornyl acetate, borneol, terpineol, verbenone among others.
As it can be noted from above table, cineole is present in higher concentration in Rosemary ct. cineole in comparison to in Rosemary ct. camphor and camphor is present in higher concentration in Rosemary ct. camphor.
ISO standard 1342 describes the character and data for rosemary oil.
Adulteration of Rosemary Oil: There are moderate chances of adulteration in case of rosemary oil. However, at times rosemary oil is adulterated with cheap grade eucalyptus oils, white camphor oil, Spanish sage oil, Turpentine oil and synthetic constituents.
Chemotype of Rosemary Oil
There are six known chemotype of rosemary. The main three types of chemotype of rosemary oils are as follow.
- Rosmarinus officinalis ct. cineole
- Rosmarinus officinalis ct. camphor
- Rosmarinus officinalis ct. verbenone
Other chemotype of rosemary oils are borneol, pinene and limonene. All three main chemotype of rosemary oils contain all three constituents (cineole, camphor and verbenone) in different proportion. All 3 main chemotype exert almost same therapeutic actions but with varying degree.
Most common chemotype of rosemary oil is cineole. Cineole is most stimulating and verbenone is most regulating among them. Rosemary ct. cineole is usually more sweet and fresh-pungent, while Rosemary ct. camphor is more green-herbaceous and has strong camphoraceous note. The woody and herbal aroma of the verbenone type is much less sharp than the cineole variety, which has a bitter bite to it.
Rosemary essential oil blends well with basil, bergamot, citronella, clary sage, eucalyptus, frankincense, geranium, grapefruit, lavender, lemon, marjoram, niaouli, oregano, black pepper, peppermint, pine, tea tree, thyme.
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Rosemary oil has analgesic, antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-infective, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antirheumatic, antispasmodic, antiviral, astringent, decongestant, diuretic, immune-system support, stimulant and tonic properties.
Benefits of Rosemary Oil
Rosemary essential oil is a popular essential oils owning to its numerous benefits including ability to stimulate hair growth, boost mental activity and improve mental clarity, relieve respiratory problems, reduce pain, soothing digestive problem and boosting the liver.
Hair Care: Rosemary oil has anti-inflammatory properties and supports blood circulation and promote nerve growth. These actions help rosemary oil to increase the circulation around follicles, prevent hair loss and stimulate hair growth. In addition, rosemary oil also helps in case of itchy scalp, and prevent greying of hair.
In a study conducted to compare the effect of rosemary oil and minoxidil 2% for the treatment of androgenetic alopecia, also known as male-or-female pattern baldness, it is found that rosemary oil was equally effective in treatment after six months of treatment.  Androgenetic alopecia leads to permanent hair loss and minoxidil 2% is a conventional form of treatment. In addition, use of rosemary oil leads to less itching comparatively as side effect.
Rosemary oil is widely used as ingredient in many hair care products including shampoos and lotions.
To get the best results, mix it in a carrier oil and apply on scalp or use it with a hair shampoo or lotion or cream.
Digestion Aid: Rosemary oil is a natural remedy to cure flatulence, stomach cramps, bloating, indigestion and constipation. In addition, rosemary oil helps in detoxification of liver. It increases the amount of bile secreted by the liver and helps protect liver. It is also a natural appetite stimulant.
According to a study published in 2014 on rats, rosemary essential oil not only helped in removing free radicals but also protecting the liver. 
Cognitive Abilities: Rosemary oil is a mental stimulant. It helps to relieve mental fatigue, lethargy and nervous exhaustion and assist with mental concentration. Rosemary oil enhances mental clarity and stimulates creative action.
According to a study conducted to assess the effect of lavender and rosemary oil on cognitive performance and mood in healthy volunteers effect, it is found that rosemary oil produced a significant enhancement of performance for overall quality of memory and secondary memory factors. In addition, rosemary oil lead to alertness in comparison to lavender and control groups. 
In another study, a group of twenty healthy volunteers showed significant increases in blood pressure, heart rate and respiratory rate and found to be more active after rosemary oil inhalation. 
In ancient Greece and Rome, students used to wear wreaths made of rosemary for better focus and memory.
Skin Care: Rosemary oil is a natural remedy helpful in treating acne, wrinkles, scars and sun-damaged skin. It is antibacterial and a good oil to use for acne, dermatitis, eczema, and athlete’s foot. It nourishes skin and works as an astringent for skin, tightening and toning it.
According to a study the topical application of rosemary oil showed hydrating effect on skin and improved elasticity in skin. 
Respiratory Problems: Rosemary oil is may be useful for relieving respiratory conditions like strep, bronchitis and sinusitis, as well as symptoms of the cold and flu. Its mucolytic, decongestant and expectorant properties give rosemary its outstanding ability to relieve excess mucous conditions that is unsurpassed by other oils.
Anti-oxidant: Rosemary oil is a natural anti-oxidant and may be used for food preservation. In fact, EU has approved rosemary extract (E392) as a safe and effective natural antioxidant for food preservation.
Products: Rosemary oil is used in products such as soaps, detergents, cosmetics, disinfectants, household sprays and perfumes. In addition, it is widely used in flavouring and cooking, especially meat products, as well as alcoholic and soft drinks.
Rosemary oil is non-toxic, non-irritant and non-sensitizing oil. However, please conduct a patch test before using topically. Use it with proper dilution.
Consult your healthcare provider if you’re nursing, taking medications, or being treated for other health challenges. Keep out of reach of children. People who have epilepsy, or are prone to seizures, or are pregnant should NOT use rosemary because of its camphor content. If used at night, it may be too stimulating.
Care must be taken in storing rosemary oil. Must be stored in a cold and dark place. Shelf life is up to four years.
The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This information is for educational purposes only, it is not intended to treat, cure, prevent or, diagnose any disease or condition. Nor is it intended to prescribe in any way. This information is for educational purposes only and may not be complete, nor may its data be accurate.