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Rosemary Shows Potential as a Therapeutic Herb with Diverse Health Benefits

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Rosemary, an evergreen herb native to the Mediterranean region, has been a cornerstone in culinary traditions and herbal medicine for centuries. Today, its pharmacological properties are garnering attention for their potential to treat a wide range of health issues.

The findings were published in the Asian Journal of Advances in Medical Science.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is distinguished by its fragrant needle-like leaves and blue-violet blooms. Its name, derived from the Latin words “ros” (dew) and “marinus” (of the sea), suggests its ability to thrive in coastal areas. Historically, rosemary has been revered in various cultures, from the ancient Egyptians, who used it in rituals and cosmetics, to mediaeval Europe, where it symbolised love and fidelity. In addition to its historical significance, rosemary is a culinary staple, lending its unique flavour to a variety of dishes.

Rosemary’s therapeutic properties can be attributed to its complex phytochemical composition. It is rich in antioxidants like rosmarinic acid, which has anti-inflammatory properties, and carnosic acid, known for its neuroprotective effects. The plant also contains essential oils, including cineole and camphor, contributing to its antibacterial properties. This diverse array of compounds, including flavonoids, diterpenes, triterpenes, and terpenoids, work synergistically to exhibit a range of pharmacological activities.

Health benefits of rosemary

  • Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Rosemary’s high antioxidant content, primarily through compounds like carnosic acid and rosmarinic acid, makes it effective in combating oxidative stress and inflammation. These properties may offer potential benefits in treating conditions like arthritis and asthma.
  • Neuroprotective qualities. Carnosic acid and carnosol in rosemary show promise in protecting brain cells, potentially lowering the risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
  • Potential in cancer therapy. Some studies suggest that rosemary extracts might be effective against cancer cells, particularly in combination with conventional treatments.
  • Gastrointestinal health. Traditional use of rosemary for digestive issues finds support in research, which suggests its role in reducing inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Skin health. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of rosemary make it a valuable ingredient in skincare, potentially protecting against UV-induced ageing and reducing inflammation.
  • Cardiovascular health. Rosemary’s compounds may promote blood vessel dilation, improve blood flow and potentially reduce blood pressure.
  • Anti-diabetic properties. While research is less extensive compared to other plants, compounds in rosemary, such as rosmarinic acid, might aid in improving glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity.

While rosemary is generally safe for most individuals, it can cause allergic reactions in some. Overconsumption or concentrated forms like essential oils can lead to gastrointestinal upset and, in rare cases, hepatotoxicity. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should use rosemary in moderation, and those on medication, particularly blood thinners, should consult with a healthcare provider before using rosemary supplements.

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