Nature never ceases to amaze us with what it offers. One such example is the herb, rosemary. Easy to grow in the garden or even a pot, if short of space, this aromatic herb adds a delicious flavour to foods, along with offering an array of health benefits.
History of Rosemary
Rosemary was used in Ancient Rome and Greece for both weddings and during time of death, due to being inter-linked with remembrance.
Rosemary has been linked to having therapeutic benefits for a long time and has traditionally been used as a mental stimulant helping improve memory; helping aid circulation; and used within tonics to improve well-being.
Savour rosemary in your slow cooks
Pliny and other authors believed that rosemary was associated with memory, as well as being good for the stomach and other health benefits (Food and Drink in the Ancient World, 2016).
Even Shakespeare referred to it in Hamlet, when Ophelia says “there’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance.”
For its association with remembrance, rosemary was used by brides in their bouquets but it was also used for times of burials, where it would either be burned or placed like flowers.
During the bubonic plague, individuals were advised to ward off the plague by burning incense to protect them from harm, one of the herbs included was rosemary (Porter, 2014). This lead to a steep increase in price for rosemary for a small amount (Our Herb Garden, 2016). As we move forward in time, there has still been a continuous link to rosemary being beneficial for our health.
Rosemary is a common herb which we use in recipes today and we can either use it dried or fresh.
If using a fresh sprig of rosemary, crush the leaves to remove the aromatic oils or, alternatively, pull the leaves from the stalk and chop them finely.
It has been a staple ingredient to those living in the Mediterranean as it is native to these parts and can be added numerous dishes, bringing its own unique flavour.
The Benefits of Rosemary
These beneficial effects on our body include:
- Lowers blood pressure
- Lowers blood sugar levels
- Hepatoprotective which means it can help protect the liver from damage (Hassani et al., 2016).
Two of these compounds which we will be looking at in this article are carnosic acid and rosemarinic acid, which have been found to play a role in producing these effects.
Both rosemarinic and carnosic acid have been shown to be protective against oxidative damage in the cells, with carnosic acid having the highest levels of antioxidant capacity (Pérez-Fons et al., 2010). It is believed that the combination of rosemarinic acid and carnosic acid may work together to enhance their activation and therefore improve their beneficial health effects (Bahri et al., 2016).
Nutritional Values of Rosemary
As well as the phenolic compounds, rosemary also contains:
- vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B2, B5, B6
Rosemary is also a source of dietary fibre, which as adults we are required to get 30g/day.
We require all of these vitamins and minerals to maintain a functioning, healthy body throughout our lifecycle! They enable our body to continue working and each nutrient has its own purpose and role in this maintenance, whether this be aiding with vision; skin; blood vessels; organs; bone health; blood health; antioxidants; and improving our immune system.
Rosemary, the Mediterranean Diet and Good Health
Rosemary is also a staple part of the Mediterranean diet.
There is one study which is currently being carried out which is looking at why Acciaroli, a remote Italian village, found between the ocean and the mountains, has 300 citizens whom are all over the age of 100 years.
In Italy, the average life expectancy is 83, coming 6th in the rankings, while in the UK, our life expectancy is 81 years and we just make it into the top 20….. at number 20!
It has been found that those within this group have low rates of heart disease and Alzheimer’s.
There are also two important factors to think about when looking at this village. Those within the community favour a Mediterranean diet, which includes rosemary and due to the location of the village, rosemary grows well in this area.
As well as their physical activity levels, the locals all walk long distances and hike up in the mountains, this is all a part of the day to day living (Brubaker, 2016).
The study is aiming to find out why these individuals are living for so long, and whether it is their lifestyle including their diet and their physical activity that is inducing longevity, or if there are any genetic factors which are implicated. This is long-term research which has only just begun this year, so hopefully it will come up with some interesting results!
The Mediterranean diet is really all about just eating fresh – be it vegetables, fruits, legumes, wholegrains, fresh fish, and olive oil to name a few components.
You can get all the benefits from rosemary itself in its whole form, and not just in a supplementation. Obviously, this article isn’t saying that by consuming rosemary it will result in a longer life, but it’s a great addition to your diet, and has been shown to have some health benefits that we should be aware of.