Anti-ageing, anti-cancer? Look no further than Rosemary!

Rosemary.1Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis) is a fantastic herb for warming things up, particularly for the cold winter days when soups, broths and casseroles are popular. It has a wonderful variety of actions and applications. Traditionally, Rosemary has been used to treat memory loss/poor concentration, hair loss, depression, dysmenorrhoea (painful periods) and improve circulation. However, modern science is showing that Rosemary has enormous benefits as an anticancer agent, it is cancer protective and promotes efficient hormone metabolism.


Recent research into rosemary has shown that apart from its traditionally known actions, it also has powerful cytotoxic , anti-proliferative, anti-inflammatory, antidepressive,  DNA protective and antioxidant capabilities.[1]

Much research has gone into investigating two of Rosemary’s active ingredients: carnosic and rosmarinic acid. Carnosic acid is antibacterial and photoprotective (protects skin from UV radiation). Both ingredients are potent antioxidants.

A recent study examined the effect of rosmarinic acid on the reproductive cells of male rats that had been treated with electromagenetic radiation (EMR), which is known to damage cells at high levels. The rats in the rosmarinic acid treatment group showed significantly lower levels of cell damage and oxidative stress, and higher antioxidant levels,  than the rats in the placebo group. The authors of the study concluded that Rosemary was preventative against cell damage caused by exposure to EMR.[2]

Another study was performed on rats that were artificially given colitis (inflammation of the colon). When treated with Rosemary leaf extract and essential oil, it was found that the lesions in the colon, and the resulting inflammation caused by them, was significantly reduced[3]. Another showed that Rosemary directly inhibited inflammation by interfering with proinflammatory genes and their expression[4].

Rosemary can be used for digestive disturbances, as a circulatory stimulant (for those with sluggish circulation or cold hands and feet), and as an anti-depressant or for focus and concentration. It can be used to treat headaches and muscular aches and pains.


The humble Rosemary plant has quite a history. It was said that it was draped around the shoulders of the goddess Aphrodite as she rose from the ocean. The Virgin Mary was also said to have laid her cloak on a rosemary (Rose of Mary) bush with white flowers which then turned blue. It has also been used to ward off evil spirits, repel nightmares, and used to put on graves for remembrance of loved ones.

Culinary Use

Rosemary is native to the Mediterranean region, but is grown throughout the world both for medicinal and culinary use and as an ornamental shrub.

Rosemary is a fabulous addition to roast vegetables and meat, and can also be added to stuffing. During the winter months, it can be added to soups, stews and casseroles to create a warming and stimulating meal. Rosemary can also be added to frittatas, or sprinkled on toast or sourdough with olive oil.


[1] Hussain, A.I et al. Rosmarinus officinalis: antiproliferative, antioxidant & antibacterial activities.Braz J Microbiol. 2010 Oct;41(4):1070-8

[2]Hajhosseini, L.  Effect of Rosmarinic acid on sertoli cells apoptosis and serum antioxidant levels in rats after exposure to electromagnetic fields. Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. 2013 Oct 3;10(6):477-80

[3] Minaiyan. M. Effects of extract and essential oil of Rosmarinus officinalisL. On TNBS induced colitis in rats. Res Pharm Sci. 2011 Jan-Jun; 6(1): 13–21

[4]Scheckel, K eta l. Rosmarinic acid antagonizes activator protein-1-dependent activation of cyclooxygenase-2 expression in humancancer and nonmalignant cell lines.J Nutr. 2008 Nov;138(11):2098-105