05 May Superhero Herbs: Rosemary
One of my favorite treatment modalities is botanical (herbal) medicine. My mom is a master gardener, and I grew up seeing all kinds of herbs and edible plants in my yard. Quite often, I would eat them before my mom had a chance to harvest. I’m glad my mom was a tolerant person, lol.
I have a top ten list of herbs that I find to be the most useful out of the 400 plus Chinese medicine and Naturopathic herbs I have learned. This morning, I woke up thinking about one of those herbs in particular, because I had kind of a nasty headache from overworking and staring at my computer too long yesterday. The herb that came to mind, after I had some tea and breakfast, was Rosemary.
Rosemary is a fairly hearty plant and will grow in many different climates.
It also doesn’t need much Cultivation work to grow. When I moved to Oregon to go to medical school, I brought a cutting of a Rosemary plant that I had in my yard in Salinas, CA. For a while, I kept it as a potted plant. But then I realized it needed more room to grow and I went out back and stuck it in the ground, watered it in, and left it. By the time I was done with school and ready to move back to California there was a lovely little Rosemary shrub in that yard.
Common Uses of Rosemary
Most people know that Rosemary is a culinary herb, and that it’s incredibly fragrant and goes well with Italian food. Some people might use Rosemary in its essential oil form for facial steams, because it’s good at opening up the sinus cavities.
There are abundant medical uses of Rosemary. Some of these are more well known than others. We see Rosemary in many different forms of gastrointestinal supplements. It has an incredible ability to kill off bacterial overgrowth in the intestines, and its bitter properties help aid digestion.
Rosemary’s Uses for Yeast and Respiratory Infections
Rosemary is very effective at treating candida infections, which can show up in several areas of the body, because it is part of the normal flora. This herb is also present in many of the upper respiratory infection formulations, again because of its ability to kill unwanted bacteria and fungi (like candida-related pneumonia), especially in the lungs. It does a good job at breaking up congested mucus, as well as opening up the sinuses.
Rosemary for Your Gut
One of my favorite uses for rosemary, which goes along with some gastrointestinal issues, is for GI related headaches. Rosemary has a strong affinity for all things going on in the head. If you’ve ever bent down to smell a sprig on a bush, or opened the canister of dried herb in your kitchen and the scent rose up to nasal passages, then you know that Rosemary loves to travel upward in the body.
Rosemary and Your Brain
There is a lot of scientific research on Rosemary regarding its effects in the head and the brain specifically. One of the things that is well known in science about Rosemary is that it can help to treat a brain cancer called glioblastoma.
I had a patient with this condition as an intern in my Chinese medicine program who we adjunctively treated with Rosemary. (I wouldn’t ever use a single herb alone as the only treatment for a cancer patient, but using herbs properly can absolutely improve health outcomes when used adjunctively.)
Recently, there have been a few research projects focused on the use of Rosemary in patients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), attention deficit disorder (ADD). Science has known for many years that Rosemary can reduce anxiety and depression, so it’s not a stretch to think that it might be useful in some of the other mental health disorders as well.
I have used it, along with lavender, passion flower, and California poppy to help reduce anxiety and/or depression in certain patients. With these recent articles regarding its potential use in ADHD, I am looking forward to being able to use it in that patient population as well.
Along those lines, Rosemary has been shown to enhance memory and cognition. It doesn’t stop there either, it has the effect of protecting the brain from things like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. It is interesting to think about the connection between the gut and the brain and that Rosemary has effects on both. I say this because Alzheimer’s is also called type 3 diabetes, so Alzheimer’s is a disease that is affiliated with the gut and the brain.
Rosemary and…Your Hair?
Another exciting use for Rosemary is that it can help stimulate head hair growth. So many patients who have hypothyroidism, skin disorders, sex hormone dysregulation, those going through menopause, and others can have issues with hair loss. There are not many options for treating hair loss while those problem areas are being addressed. Having a solution as simple as the application of diluted Rosemary essential oil is a huge gift.
Rosemary and Spiritual PracticeSomething interesting that happened to Rosemary recently is that it has been reclassified as part of the sage family. Rosemary’s common name stays the same, but its Latin name has changed to Salvia rosmarinus. It’s not too surprising to me that’s the case, because Rosemary can be bound up, dried and used as incense. I prefer to use it, because of the overharvesting of the sacred Indigenous plant, white sage.
I could go on for quite a long time regarding how wonderful Rosemary is, but I will spare you all that. I would just like to wrap this up by saying go out, harvest some Rosemary or get it in dried form from your local grocery store. Add it to anything you can think it would go well then. The next time you’re walking through your neighborhood, and you see a Rosemary bush, consider saying thank you.
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Dr. Lisa Fortes-Schramm
San Jose Integrative Medicine
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Dr. Lisa Fortes-Schramm is a Naturopathic Doctor, a Doctor of Traditional Chinese medicine, and has two degrees in the mental health field. She is experienced in treating people with anxiety and depression. If you’re experiencing anxiety and/or depression, or suspect you may be, talk with Dr. Fortes and she can tell you about your Naturopathic options.