Rosemary is a Mediterranean evergreen shrub which is widely cultivated all over the world for its aromatic and flavorful leaves. Gardeners also use this plant as a topiary or large ornamental bush, because it can get quite large, and produce many white, light blue, or pale purple flowers. In addition to use in cooking, rosemary is also used in cosmetics and in aromatherapy treatments, as well as in sachets to keep garments smelling sweet and fresh. The herb is available in fresh form in some specialty stores, as well as in in whole dried and powdered forms.
The Latin name for this plant is Rosmarinus officianalis, and the compound word rosmarinus means “dew of the sea.” This is probably a reflection of the rugged environment it prefers; the plant grows best when largely left alone, and is often found on the cliffs and rocks along seashores. Rosemary is highly drought resistant, and is usually a largely maintenance free plant, unless it is over-watered, in which case the roots may rot, causing the plant to droop and die. It also takes well to pruning, and can be shaped into a bush or low hedge.
In cooking, the aromatic leaves are used in sauces, to rub meats, to barbecue with, and in an assortment of other ways. They contain a pungent oil which will add a distinctive flavor to food, and the herb is mostly used to season Mediterranean style foods from France, Greece, and Italy. Culinary use of rosemary stretches back for centuries; it has been recorded as a culinary ingredient since before the common era.
Both men and women have used this plant in cosmetics since ancient times. Rosemary oil can be used to make astringent toners for men to use after shaving, or to improve their skin, while the herb is also used to scent women's moisturizers and toners. It has mild antibacterial properties, making it an excellent choice as an addition to shaving toner, and the scent of the herb is also supposed to help with relaxation.
In medieval times, people exchanged rosemary as a symbol of loyalty and remembrance, and it was frequently used in memorial wreaths for this reason as well. The herb is still associated with memory in Western culture, although it has not been shown to have any properties which could influence brain health. Pregnant women should avoid consuming rosemary products in excessive amounts, as the herb can stimulate uterine contractions. Studies have also shown that it contains a compound which may aggravate seizures, so epileptics should avoid concentrated rosemary as well.