Rosemary is an ingredient that adds a fragrant, savory note to dishes. Some people claim that rosemary can help reduce muscle pain, boost the immune system, and improve memory. However, it can interact with some medications.

Rosemary is a fragrant evergreen herb native to the Mediterranean. It is used as a culinary condiment, an ingredient in perfumes, and for its potential health benefits. Like oregano, thyme, basil, and lavender, rosemary is a member of the mint family Lamiaceae.

People typically prepare it as a whole dried herb or a dried powdered extract or make teas from fresh or dried leaves.

The herb has been hailed since ancient times for its medicinal properties. Traditional uses of rosemary include helping alleviate muscle pain, improving memory, boosting the immune and circulatory system, and promoting hair growth.

Fast facts on rosemary:

  • Rosemary is a perennial plant (it lives more than 2 years).
  • The leaves are often used in cooking.
  • Possible health benefits include improved concentration, digestion, and brain aging.
  • Very high doses may cause vomiting, coma, and pulmonary edema.
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This Medical News Today Knowledge Center feature is part of a collection of articles on the health benefits of popular foods.

Rosemary has a range of possible health benefits.

The herb not only tastes good in culinary dishes, such as rosemary chicken and lamb, but it also contains iron, calcium, and vitamin B6.

Contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds

Rosemary is a rich source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.

Antioxidants play an important role in neutralizing harmful particles called free radicals and preventing oxidative stress, both of which can contribute to preventing and alleviating chronic inflammatory conditions.

Boosts mood and aids mental health

Limited research suggests that rosemary may be beneficial for depression, stress, and emotional upset.

For example, a 2020 study of 42 Japanese men with mood disturbances concluded that taking rosemary extract for 4 weeks improved mental energy and sleep quality.

The researchers concluded that rosemary extract may have beneficial effects on mood and cognitive function.

Additionally, a 2020 review examined the antidepressant effects of rosemary in animal studies and concluded that rosemary may help regulate dopamine in the brain.

Enhances memory and concentration

According to the same 2020 review, rosemary may have beneficial effects on cognition, including memory and learning.

Additionally, a 2018 randomized controlled trial showed that university students who took rosemary supplements for 1 month had significantly improved memory performance.

Another 2021 review of animal research found that rosemary may help enhance cognition in animals, increasing their memory and learning abilities.

Neurological protection

Rosemary could also be good for the brain. Rosemary contains an ingredient called carnosic acid, which can fight off damage by free radicals in the brain.

Some studies mentioned in the 2020 review also posited that rosemary can, in theory, have beneficial effects on Alzheimer’s.

It may have a protective effect against the progression of the disease, and rosemary aromatherapy might improve cognitive function in people with Alzheimer’s. However, this theory is based on test tube and animal study results.

An animal study in the review also found that rosemary significantly decreased seizure severity and onset in rats. They propose that rosemary may be beneficial for epilepsy in humans.

Good for skin health

A 2023 review proposes that rosemary may have beneficial effects on the skin and that its anti-inflammatory properties could help with some inflammatory skin conditions.

They also detail studies that found that rosemary has anti-aging effects on the skin due to it containing carnosic acid. Carnosic acid may help protect the skin from damage caused by UV rays, which may support graceful aging.

May prevent and treat cancer

According to a 2020 review, rosemary could theoretically be beneficial for preventing and treating cancer.

Many test tube and animal studies in the review found that rosemary stops the activation of carcinogens, increases antioxidant enzyme activity, reduces tumor-stimulating inflammation, and suppresses tumor growth.

The researchers recommend more research into the possible cancer-fighting properties of rosemary.

Relieves pain

One of the traditional uses of rosemary is as a mild analgesic or pain reliever.

A 2020 review noted that rosemary might help treat neuropathic pain, a type of pain that occurs due to damage or dysfunction in the nervous system. However, more research is needed.

Rosemary also has antibacterial properties. In one 2019 animal study, rosemary essential oil helped infected wounds heal quicker.

However, a person should not put undiluted essential oil directly on the skin or into an open wound. A person should consult a doctor if they wish to use rosemary for pain and healing.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has labeled rosemary extracts as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS), and rosemary is safe to take in low doses.

Experts consider safe doses to be around 400 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) of rosemary herb.

A person should consult a doctor before starting any new natural supplement and purchase supplements from a trusted source.

There are a few different ways to use rosemary. A person can use the herb in cooking or make rosemary tea by steeping the herb in hot water and then drinking it.

Rosemary essential oil can also be used by inhaling it, also known as aromatherapy, or applying it topically to the skin. To inhale, a person can put a few drops of the oil into an oil dispenser or a bowl of hot water before inhaling the steam.

Essential oils are highly concentrated, so it is best to dilute a few drops with a carrier oil, such as coconut or almond oil, before applying it to the skin. A person should never ingest essential oils.

While research suggests there are health benefits, the FDA doesn’t monitor or regulate the purity or quality of essential oils. It’s important to talk with a healthcare professional before using essential oils and research the quality of a brand’s products. Always do a patch test before trying a new essential oil.

Rosemary is a safe herb with minimal side effects and may benefit cognition, mental health, skin, and more.

Rosemary may interact with some medications, so it is important to consult a doctor before using it for medicinal purposes.

Enjoyed reading about the potential health benefits of rosemary? Take a look at our collection of articles about other foods.

Alternatively, read our article about the top 10 healthy foods for a daily diet.

Rosemary products are available for purchase online.