Use of Rosemary in Herbal Medicine

Rosmarinus officinalis
Category: Headache Tincture
Part used: Leaves

Rosemary is a familiar but underappreciated herb that offers a unique range of therapeutic actions. The herb is native to the Mediterranean and has been distributed across the world for its culinary and medicinal uses.

Traditional use of Rosemary

Valued since ancient times for its ability to strengthen and restore memory, students in ancient Greece would burn Rosemary leaves in exam rooms to improve memory. The herb has a longstanding reputation in traditional European medicine for stimulating blood flow to the head1, promoting hair growth, and was used for issues associated with poor circulation.

Use of Rosemary in Medicine

Although it is commonly used fresh or dried in cooking, rosemary can be used in tonics, tinctures, teas, and as an essential oil for a variety of health benefits. Rosemary is considered a warming tonic that seems to have an affinity for people who are frail or struggling to thrive, sensitive to the cold, and prone to low blood pressure and poor muscle strength.

Since 1990, over 286 research articles have been published on rosemary and its key active constituents. Many of these compounds have been shown to have nerve-protective and anti-inflammatory activity, and to work within the brain to promote healthy function and to improve and strengthen memory and concentration2.

Rosemary has marked anti-anxiety and antidepressant activity, and can also make a valuable remedy for headaches and, perhaps, migraine, especially if there is a digestive cause.

The key active constituents in rosemary are:

  • Volatile oil (1–2%) containing borneol, camphene, camphor, cineole
  • Flavonoids (apigenin, diosmin)
  • Tannins
  • Rosmarinic acid
  • Diterpenes (including carnosic acid and carnosol)

The Medicinal Benefits of Rosemary

Pain Relief

Studies have shown that several compounds found in rosemary have inhibited the detection of pain, particularly pain felt from inflammation.3

Improves Memory

The herb’s aromatic leaves give off a distinctive, slightly peppery essential oil that has been shown by research to improve memory and recall when inhaled4. This study found that following exposure to the rosemary aroma, volunteers had improved cognitive performance.

Anti-Anxiety Properties

Research has shown that a dosage of rosemary extract has a similar anti-anxiety effect as diazepam. The results of that study provided evidence that rosemary could be used as an alternative to anti-anxiety medication.

Improves Blood Flow

Several studies have shown that rosemary can help prevent neurological diseases by maintaining a healthy flow of blood circulation. This means rosemary could reduce the chances of cardiovascular disease.

Inhibits Spread of Cancer

A number of studies have linked rosemary with the reduction of tumours and spread of human cancer cells. Rosemary extracts have been shown to inhibit the proliferation of malignant cells whilst preserving benevolent cells, showing promise that the herb could be used as a less damaging treatment for cancer.

How to Take Rosemary

Research has shown that large doses of rosemary are not needed, and that small doses are more effective than larger doses.


Tinctures are generally stronger concentrations than infusions, so the extract is added to water. Our natural rosemary tincture for headaches and migraines is non-alcoholic and vegan and will help to ease tension in the head. It also contains peppermint, cloves and lavender for a gentle anaesthetic effect.

Or, if you’re making your own rosemary tincture, add around 40 drops to water twice per day.


To make a rosemary infusion, add 2-3 g of dried or 4-6 g fresh rosemary to a strainer and leave to infuse in boiling water for 5-10 minutes. Try adding a teaspoon of honey to sweeten if required.

The Side Effects of taking Rosemary

If you are taking any prescription medication, check with your doctor or healthcare specialist before using rosemary. Ingesting large amounts of rosemary can result in stomach irritation. A study on the toxicity of rosemary extracts has shown that the herb has low acute toxicity10.

  1. Chevallier, Andrew. Encyclopedia Of Herbal Medicine: 550 Herbs and Remedies for Common Ailments. United Kingdom, Dorling Kindersley Limited, 2016
  2. Habtemariam S. The therapeutic potential of rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) diterpenes for Alzheimer’s disease. Evid Based Compl Alternat Med. 2016 Oct;2016:2680409.
  3. de Oliveira JR, Camargo SEA, de Oliveira LD. Rosmarinus officinalis L. (rosemary) as therapeutic and prophylactic agent. J Biomed Sci. 2019;26(1):5. Published 2019 Jan 9. doi:10.1186/s12929-019-0499-8
  4. Moss M, Oliver L. Plasma 1,8-cineole correlates with cognitive performance following exposure to rosemary essential oil aroma. Ther Adv Psychopharmacol. 2012;2(3):103-113. doi:10.1177/2045125312436573
  5. Noori Ahmad Abadi M, Mortazavi M, Kalani N, Marzouni HZ, Kooti W, Ali-Akbari S. Effect of Hydroalcoholic Extract of Rosmarinus officinalis L. Leaf on Anxiety in Mice. Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine. October 2016:NP85-NP90. doi:10.1177/2156587216642101
  6. Seyedemadi P, Rahnema M, Bigdeli MR, Oryan S, Rafati H. The Neuroprotective Effect of Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L.) Hydro-alcoholic Extract on Cerebral Ischemic Tolerance in Experimental Stroke. Iran J Pharm Res. 2016;15(4):875-883.
  7. Peng CH, Su JD, Chyau CC, et al. Supercritical fluid extracts of rosemary leaves exhibit potent anti-inflammation and anti-tumor effects. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2007;71(9):2223-2232. doi:10.1271/bbb.70199
  8. Cheung, Susan, and Joseph Tai. “Anti-proliferative and antioxidant properties of rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis.” Oncology reports vol. 17,6 (2007): 1525-31.
  9. Pengelly A et al. Short-term study on the effects of rosemary on cognitive function in an elderly population. J Med Food. 2012 Jan 1;15(1):10-7
  10. Anadón A, Martínez-Larrañaga MR, Martínez MA, et al. Acute oral safety study of rosemary extracts in rats. J Food Prot. 2008;71(4):790-795. doi:10.4315/0362-028x-71.4.790