Rosmarinus officinalis belonging to the Family Labiatae (Lamiaceae), is a small evergreen shrub with thick aromatic leaves. It can grow up to around 2 meters in height. Although it is native to the Mediterranean region it is cultivated worldwide. A clear to pale yellow essential oil is steam distilled from the flowering herb. The essential oil yield is around 0.5%.
There are three major chemotypes of Rosemary available on the market today and each one has a different chemical breakdown. Rosmarinus officinalis ct. cineole is the rosemary most commonly available it contains around 30% oxides (1,8-cineole), 30% monoterpenes (pinene, camphene, myrcene, limonene, cymene), 25% ketones (campher, carvone, thujone, octanone), as well as some alcohols, esters and sesquiterpenes. Rosmarinus officinalis ct. camphor contains a much higher percentage camphor and a lower percentage cineole. Rosmarinus officinalis ct. verbenone main chemical constituents are bornyl acetate (esters), alpha-pinene 15-34%, beta-pinene, camphene, myrcene, limonene, alpha-terpinene, terpanolene (monoterpens), borneol from a trace to 7% (alcohol), verbenone 15 — 37%, camphor 1 — 19% (ketones), 1,8-cineole from a trace — 20% (oxide).
Because of their different chemical make up there are some differences as to how the oils would be used and where they might be more effective. For exampleRosmarinus officinalis ct. camphor has neuromuscular and tension relieving properties and make it most effective for muscular cramps and spasms as well as rheumatism and arthritis. Rosmarinus officinalis ct. cineole is especially suited for catarrhal conditions, while Rosmarinus officinalis ct. verbenone is especially effective at the beginning mucolytic treatment of bronchial and cold conditions.
Rosemary oil is used extensively in cosmetics as a fragrance component and/or a masking agent. It is used in soaps, detergents, creams, lotions, and perfumes — especially colognes and toilet waters. The oil is also used extensively in the flavoring of many different foods and beverages. Rosemary has a long history of traditional use. In Europe it has been used as a tonic, stimulant and carminative and in treating indigestion, stomach pains, headaches, head colds and nervous tension. In China, the leaves and branches of the herb have been used for similar conditions particularly headaches. It also has a tradition of being associated with memory and remembrance. It blends well with basil, cedarwood, citrus, frankincense, lemongrass, lavender, peppermint, petitgrain, pine, citronella, oregano, thyme, cinnamon and other spices. The different chemotypes smell different too.
Psychologically, Rosemary has stimulating properties. It is an excellent oil to consider when there is physical exhaustion, feeling rundown, headaches, migraines, mental fatigue and nervous exhaustion. It is excellent to use in the mornings when one needs a bit of help in getting going. Probably best to avoid its use at night as it might prove too stimulating and make it difficult to sleep. It is also excellent for memory.
On the physiological level Rosemary has analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, antiviral, expectorant and mucolytic properties. It is said to strengthen and promote hair growth. It can be useful for many respiratory conditions as well as muscular aches and pains, cramps and spasms. Also considered to be helpful in cases gout. As an oil from a culinary herb it is useful when suffering from upset stomachs, flatulence and constipation.
Contraindications:. Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritating and non-sensitizing. As it is highly stimulating do not use when you need to sleep. Use with caution with epilepsy, high blood pressure and pregnancy. Both the chemotype verbonone and chemotype camphor should be avoided with small children and during pregnancy due to their high ketone content.
Albert Y. Leung & Steven Foster , Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics, John Wiley & Sons, 1996
Beverley Hawkins, Aromatherapy 101 Course 1999 revised 2000, 2001, 2002,2003,2004
Beverley Hawkins, Aromatherapy 201 Course 1999 revised 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004