Native to the Mediterranean region, rosemary was used as an antiseptic, cold remedy, and for pain relief. It has long been called the herb of remembrance and was worn or carried to improve memory during exams, and honor the memory of others since ancient times.
Traditionally used to treat muscle and joint pain, rosemary contains salicyclic acid, the active ingredient in aspirin. The essential oils in rosemary also have antibiotic and antioxidant properties. Rubbed on the skin, rosemary oil may improve hair growth and circulation. Used in aromatherapy or drunk as a tea, it helps relieve stress and anxiety.
Rosemary is a woody shrub with fragrant, resinous, evergreen needles. Some varieties have a low, sprawling habit suitable for growing over a wall or in a hanging basket. It is commonly grown as a garden and landscape plant in mild climates. In cold climates, rosemary plants can be wintered indoors in a cool, sunny window.
Sow seeds indoors 8 to 12 weeks before last frost, planting them 1/4″ deep. Seeds require soil temperatures above 70º to germinate and may take 2 to 3 weeks to sprout. Transplant to the garden after all frost danger has passed and the soil has warmed, or plant in pots. Space plants 12″ to 24″ apart and plant in loose, well-drained soil in full sun.
Grown indoors, rosemary requires a sunny window or grow lights through the winter. It grows best with good air circulation and cooler temperatures in winter. Keep the soil moist and take care not to let it dry out completely.
Harvest & Keeping
Cut sections of the branch tips and strip the leaves for fresh use. Bundle the leafy stems with other fresh herbs for bouquet garni to flavor soups and stews. Steep leaves and flowers hot water to make tea. Dry the leaves for winter use and store in glass jars.
Although safe as a food flavoring, when consumed in medicinal concentrations, rosemary may increase bleeding disorders, stimulate menstruation, or increase seizures. It may cause a reaction in people who are allergic to aspirin. Medicinal concentrations are not recommended for pregnant and nursing women, and those with Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis or high blood pressure.