Rosemary is a woody herb native to the Mediterranean and is used to flavour a wide range of foods and beverages. It’s one of the most popular dried herbs in the United Kingdom and contains a wealth of organic compounds that could provide a number of health benefits when consumed dried, fresh, or as an essential oil.
One of the best ways to benefit from this punchy, potent herb is to drink it as a tea. In fact, rosemary tea has a long history as a digestion aid and even as a hangover cure! In this guide, we’ll see if those benefits are actually backed by science while also seeing what else this herb can do for you.
The Health Benefits of Rosemary
One of the healthiest compounds in rosemary is something known as rosmarinic acid, a compound that can also be found in lemon balm and tulsi (also known as holy basil), but one that was first isolated in rosemary. This compound, in combination with many others found in rosemary, could provide the following benefits:
1. It is an Anti-inflammatory
Most herbs possess an anti-inflammatory action, and rosemary is no exception. It has shown promise in the treatment of an array of inflammatory disorders and may also help reduce chronic inflammation all over the body, which in turn could minimize the risk of many chronic diseases. (1)
2. It Could Promote Feelings of Calm
Just like the popular St John’s Wort, rosemary could help improve mood and reduce anxiety, but unlike the aforementioned remedy, it does so with very few adverse reactions and contraindications.
Rosemary is thought to trigger a number of polite reactions in the brain, most of which occur as a result of inhaling its aroma as opposed to actually consuming it. (2) These effects could also lead to improved cognitive function, as suggested by a 2012 analysis that found notable improvements in 20 healthy patients exposed to rosemary fragrance. (3) (4)
3. It Could Trigger Hair Growth
Although the research is new and far from conclusive, there are suggestions that rosemary could stimulate hair growth in patients with certain forms of alopecia. (5)
We reserve judgment on this one, as the initial trials were conducted over 20 years ago—the hair-growth industry is huge and it stands to reason that someone would be profiting from the sale of rosemary formulas if it was that effective. But it could lead to some benefits for some people, and when you consider that rosemary is abundant, cheap, and relatively side-effect free, that’s more than enough to warrant getting a little excited.
4. It is an Antioxidant
Antioxidants work wonders for your health and are packed into most herbs, spices, fruits and vegetables. Rosemary is also filled to the brim with these healthy compounds, many of which are also responsible for reducing levels of inflammation as discussed above.
Regular consumption of these compounds has been linked to a wide range of health benefits, so sprinkling some dried rosemary onto the occasional meal, or enjoying the odd cup of rosemary tea, could provide many benefits not mentioned above.
5. It Could Improve Digestive Health
Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant herbs like rosemary have been linked with many digestive benefits and could provide some relief for sufferers of certain digestive disorders. Studies performed on rosemary and/or rosemary oil have suggested that these antioxidant compounds could have a positive effect on peptic ulcers, spasmogenic disorders, and more. (6)
A single tablespoon of dried rosemary contains around 1.5g of dietary fiber in addition to between 2% and 5% of your family requirements for nutrients like calcium, iron, manganese, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin B6. It’s far from a nutritional powerhouse, but the odd teaspoon or tablespoon added to food will boost your daily nutrient intake.
Rosemary is well tolerated, but there are some issues to be aware of, and these increase under certain conditions and when large doses are used. If you suffer from any medical conditions, are pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking medication, we would recommend discussing it with your doctor before taking medicinal amounts of rosemary.
Some of the side effects include gastrointestinal issues (nausea, vomiting, reflux) as well as seizures and toxicity. However, these are usually only an issue when large amounts of concentrated extracts are taken—everything, even common herbs and foodstuffs, can cause serious reactions when taken in excess.
It’s also possible to be allergic to rosemary, so it’s best to stay clear if you are allergic to any plant in the mint (Lamiaceae) family.
How to Make Rosemary Tea
You can make a very strong and soothing cup of tea using a small amount of rosemary and a little honey or sugar. Just add a single teaspoon of the dried of fresh herb to some boiled water, leave it to steep for between 5 and 10 minutes, and drink!
It’s a small dose, but it’s enough to make a strong cup of rosemary tea that is packed with all the aforementioned antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. If you prefer something a little more rounded, try adding some dried fruit or a strong herb like peppermint to cut through the taste. If you want something a little weaker or stronger, simply adjust the dose and the brewing time.
What About Rosemary Oil?
Herbs like rosemary can be turned into a highly concentrated oil and used as a flavouring, or an oral/topical medicine. Some of the studies we mentioned above used rosemary oil as opposed to rosemary sprigs, as it allows for easier ingestion and it’s much easier to attain consistency with regards to dosing.
However, many of those benefits can also be attained from consuming the herb in its dry form, and this also ensures that you’re getting a genuine, unprocessed product, as opposed to one that could contain additives and may have been extracted using solvents. As we discussed in our guide to lemongrass and lemongrass oil, concentrated oils also carry a considerably greater risk, and there are many more reports of adverse reactions and even overdose.
Stronger doesn’t always mean better, and while there are certainly some notable benefits to rosemary oil, we recommend using the dried or fresh herb where possible. It tastes better, makes for a great cup of tea, and will lead to few—if any—issues for the average consumer.