The herb rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is actually a member of the mint family, despite its outwardly different appearance. In fact rosemary’s leaves resemble pine leaves more that the lush green leaves of some of the other members of the mint family such as spearmint or water mint. Rosemary is originally from the mediterranean area, where it was a common herb used for culinary purposes in both Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece. In traditional medicine, rosemary is used to strengthen the mind, and this may relate to the presence of its essential oils. In this regard, rosemary is similar to other members of the mint family that are also a rich source of essential oils. However, the composition of the essential oils differ between the members of the mint family and rosemary has some unique oils not found in other plants.
Within the oils in rosemary are powerful antioxidants, which may confer protection from disease. These antioxidants may be a contributory factor in the aforementioned ability to strengthen the mind because antioxidants can prevent lipid peroxidation in the neurones of the brain. Such lipid peroxidation of neurones in the brain is now thought to be a causative factor in degenerative diseases of the brain. Rosemary can also increase blood flow to the head, perhaps because the antioxidants are able to prevent the oxidation that is now thought to cause impaired blood flow due to free radical induced reductions in nitric oxide. One of the antioxidants in rosemary is rosmarinic acid, and studies suggest that rosmarinic acid is able to decrease levels of inflammation which may relate to its antioxidant properties. Rosemary also appears able to stimulate immune function and in this regard may be a useful herb to prevent infection.
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