Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Traditional Indications

Rosemary is an antispasmodic, aromatic astringent, cardiac, carminative, cholagogue, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, nervine, ophthalmic, stimulant, stomachic and tonic. Rosemary is used as a tonic and pick-me-up when feeling depressed, mentally tired, nervous etc.
Research has shown that the plant is rich in volatile oils, flavonoids and phenolic acids, which are strongly antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. This remedy should not be prescribed for pregnant women since in excess it can cause an abortion. (1)

In Traditional Chinese Medicine Rosemary is called Mi Die Xiang. Mi Die Xiang enters the Lung, Liver, Spleen, Heart and Kidney channels to moves Blood, clear Wind-Cold, stops cough, clear Damp and resolve Phlegm, support the Lungs, strengthen the Spleen, improve memory and calm the Shen (spirit), tonifies Yang and supports Qi. (2)


The oil consisted of monoterpenic hydrocarbons, oxygenated monoterpenes and sesquiterpene hydrocarbons Camphor, α-pinene 1,8-cineole, camphene borneol, beta-pinene, alpha-pinene, , β-caryophyllene, carnosic acid , carnisol, diosmin, eucalyptol, geraniol, gamma-terpinene, limonene α-terpineol, myrcene p-cymene, bornyl acetate, linalool luteolin, rosmarinic acid, rosmarol and terpinen-4-ol, thymol, ursolic acid, verbenone. (3, 4)

Ursolic and oleanolic acid are natural anti-inflammatories. The major anti-inflammatory effects of these molecules have been found to be mediated via inactivation of NFkB, STAT3/6, Akt/mTOR pathways. NF-κB is a protein complex that controls transcription of DNA, cytokine production and cell survival. (5)

Rosmarinus officinalis and its constituent carnosol inhibit formalin-induced pain and inflammation via inhibition of both cyclooxygenase type 1 and 2 (COX1 and COX2). (6)

Rosemary and its polyphenolic diterpenes (carnosic acid and carnosol) are known to possess anti-oxidant activity that may be beneficial for cancer control. In vitro and in vivo studies suggest that these polyphenols target multiple signaling pathways involved in cell cycle modulation and apoptosis. (7)

Ursolic acid (UA) is a natural triterpene compound found in rosemary. Ursolic acid displays anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-apoptotic, and anti-carcinogenic effects. It exerts these effects in various tissues and organs: by suppressing nuclear factor-kappa B signaling in cancer cells, (8) improving insulin signaling in adipose tissues, reducing the expression of markers of cardiac damage in the heart, decreasing inflammation and increasing the level of anti-oxidants in the brain, reducing apoptotic signaling and the level of oxidants in the liver, and reducing atrophy and increasing the expression levels of adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase and irisin in skeletal muscles. (9)

Rosemary 1,8-cineole in rosemary correlates with improved cognitive performance. (10)

A study investigating the ischemic tolerance effect of Rosmarinus officinalis leaf extract concluded that Rosmarinus extract could significantly reduce cortical and sub-cortical infarct volumes, neurologic deficit scores, cerebral oedema and blood–brain barrier (BBB) permeability and that Rosmarinus extract offers a neuroprotective effect on cerebral ischemic tolerance in experimental stroke. (11)

A study exploring in relation to finding new anticancer agents concludes rosemary extract polyphenols, carnosic acid and rosmarinic acid effect key signaling molecules and display anticancer activity. (12)


1. PFAF. Rosmarinus officinalis 2019 [Available from:
2. Healing WRIo. Rosemary (Mi Die Xiang) 2019.
3. Salido S, Altarejos J, Nogueras M, Saánchez A, Luque P. Chemical Composition and Seasonal Variations of Rosemary Oil from Southern Spain. Journal of Essential Oil Research. 2003;15(1):10-4.
4. Özcan MM, Chalchat J-C. Chemical composition and antifungal activity of rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L.) oil from Turkey. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition. 2008;59(7-8):691-8.
5. Kashyap D, Sharma A, Tuli HS, Punia S, Sharma AK. Ursolic Acid and Oleanolic Acid: Pentacyclic Terpenoids with Promising Anti-Inflammatory Activities. Recent patents on inflammation & allergy drug discovery. 2016;10(1):21-33.
6. Emami F, Ali-Beig H, Farahbakhsh S, Mojabi N, Rastegar-Moghadam B, Arbabian S, et al. Hydroalcoholic extract of Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L.) and its constituent carnosol inhibit formalin-induced pain and inflammation in mice. Pakistan journal of biological sciences : PJBS. 2013;16(7):309-16.
7. Petiwala SM, Puthenveetil AG, Johnson JJ. Polyphenols from the Mediterranean herb rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) for prostate cancer. Frontiers in pharmacology. 2013;4:29-.
8. Prasad S, Yadav VR, Sung B, Reuter S, Kannappan R, Deorukhkar A, et al. Ursolic acid inhibits growth and metastasis of human colorectal cancer in an orthotopic nude mouse model by targeting multiple cell signaling pathways: chemosensitization with capecitabine. Clinical cancer research : an official journal of the American Association for Cancer Research. 2012;18(18):4942-53.
9. Seo DY, Lee SR, Heo J-W, No M-H, Rhee BD, Ko KS, et al. Ursolic acid in health and disease. The Korean journal of physiology & pharmacology : official journal of the Korean Physiological Society and the Korean Society of Pharmacology. 2018;22(3):235-48.
10. Moss M, Oliver L. Plasma 1,8-cineole correlates with cognitive performance following exposure to rosemary essential oil aroma. Therapeutic advances in psychopharmacology. 2012;2(3):103-13.
11. 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. Iranian journal of pharmaceutical research : IJPR. 2016;15(4):875-83.
12. Moore J, Yousef M, Tsiani E. Anticancer Effects of Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L.) Extract and Rosemary Extract Polyphenols. Nutrients. 2016;8(11):731.