native to: Mediterranean region
in season here: all year
Rosemary is traditionally used to flavor chicken, lamb, pork, salmon, and tuna. It is a member of the Labiatae family and related to mint, oregano, and thyme. Historically, it is associated with memory; in ancient Greece, students would place sprigs in their hair while studying. The link to memory also made it a symbol of fidelity in England, where it was once used in wedding decorations and gifts. In the 15th and 16th centuries, it was a popular digestive aid. Fresh rosemary can be frozen in water or broth in ice cube trays as an alternative to drying it.
Rosemary stimulates the immune system and improves digestion. Its anti-inflammatory compounds can mitigate asthma attacks and it stimulates circulation, increasing blood flow to the brain and helping concentration. The flowers contain the phenolic anti-oxidant compound rosmarinic acid and a number of volatile essential oils that work to soothe painful ailments such as gout, rheumatism, and neuralgic conditions. A recent study suggests that a compound in rosemary, carnosic acid, could help prevent macular degeneration. It also fights inflammation, allergies, and fungal infections, and acts as an antiseptic. It is high in many B vitamins, folates, and minerals such as iron and calcium, and is a good source of vitamins A and C. Rosemary extract can stimulate hair growth and prevent dandruff, while rosemary tea has been used to treat nervous headaches, colds, and depression.
In large amounts, rosemary can cause miscarriage and might worsen neurological conditions such as epilepsy and neurosis. Rosemary oil can cause allergic skin reactions in some people, but this is not common. Rosemary should be used with caution by those taking anticoagulants, ACE inhibitors, diuretics, or lithium.