Drugs A - Z
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis Linn.)
Generic Name: Rosemary
CategoryHerbs & Supplements
Albus (cultivar), Arp (cultivar), Aureus (cultivar), Benenden Blue (cultivar), Blue Boy (cultivar), caffeic acid, carnosol, carnosic acid, compass plant, compass-weed, dew of the sea, diterpenes, epirosmanol, Fierabras, Golden Rain (cultivar), Herbor 025, Hungary water, Incensier (cultivar), Irene (cultivar), Ken Taylor (cultivar), Labiate (family), Lamiaceae (family), Lockwood de Forest (cultivar), Majorica Pink (cultivar), methanol (MeOH), Miss Jessop's Upright (cultivar), phenols, pilgrim's flower, Pinkie (cultivar), polar plant, polyphenolic compounds, Prostratus (cultivar), Pyramidalis (cultivar), Queen of Hungary water, romero (Spanish), Roseus (cultivar), rosmanol, rosmarinic acid, Rosmanox®, Rosmarini folium, rosmarinic acid, Rosmarinus officinalis, Severn Sea (cultivar), Suffolk Blue (cultivar), Tuscan blue (cultivar).
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis Linn.) is a common dense, evergreen, aromatic shrub grown in many parts of the world. Historically, rosemary has been used as a medicinal agent to treat renal colic and dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation). It has also been used to relieve symptoms caused by respiratory disorders and to stimulate the growth of hair. Traditionally, rosemary has been used for improving memory, and has been a symbol of remembrance and friendship for centuries. In Morocco, rosemary has been used to treat diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure).
The most researched constituents of rosemary are caffeic acid and its derivative rosmarinic acid. These compounds are thought to have antioxidant effects and are being studied as potential therapies for cancer, hepatotoxicity (liver toxicity), and inflammatory conditions.
Currently, available studies show some promise for rosemary in the treatment of anxiety/stress (aromatherapy) and alopecia (hair loss). Current cosmetic uses of rosemary include treating cellulite and wrinkles, and normalizing excessive oil secretion of the skin. Germany's Commission E has approved rosemary leaf for treatment of dyspepsia and rosemary oil (used externally) for joint pain and poor circulation.
EvidenceDISCLAIMER: These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Alopecia areata (hair loss):
Rosemary oil is reported to increase circulation and possibly promote hair growth in patients with alopecia areata. Additional study is warranted to confirm these findings.
Rosemary extract is frequently used in aromatherapy for treatment of a variety of conditions, including anxiety, mood enhancement, alteration of pain perception, and to increase alertness. Early study has shown benefit in reducing stress levels and increasing alertness. More study is needed to draw a firm recommendation.
TraditionWARNING: DISCLAIMER: The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.
Abortifacient, air purifier, analgesic (pain reliever), anthelmintic (expels worms), antiaging, antibacterial, anticoagulant (blood-thinning), antifungal, antioxidant, antispasmodic, appetite stimulation, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), baldness, bronchial asthma, cancer prevention, cataracts, colic, dandruff, diaphoretic (promotes sweating), diuretic, drug withdrawal (morphine), dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation), dyspepsia (upset stomach), gout, hepatoprotection (liver protection), HIV infection, hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol), hyperglycemia, hypertension (high blood pressure), immunostimulation, inflammation, ischemic heart disease, joint pain, lice, liver cirrhosis, memory enhancement, muscle relaxant (smooth muscle), nerve regeneration, osteoporosis, paralysis, peptic ulcer disease, peripheral vascular disease, photoprotection, poor circulation, preservative, quality of life, renal colic, respiratory disorders, rheumatism, skin care (cosmetic), skin conditions (excessive oil secretion of the skin, cellulite), sperm motility, tonic, wound healing, wrinkle prevention.
Adults (over 18 years old)
Children (under 18 years old)
There is no proven safe or effective dose for rosemary, and use in children is not recommended.
SafetyDISCLAIMER: Many complementary techniques are practiced by healthcare professionals with formal training, in accordance with the standards of national organizations. However, this is not universally the case, and adverse effects are possible. Due to limited research, in some cases only limited safety information is available.
Avoid in individuals with a known allergy or hypersensitivity to rosemary. Contact dermatitis has been reported in a small number of people exposed to rosemary. A 56 year-old man reacted to carnool, the main constituent of Rosmanox®, which is made from the leaves of rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis). A 23 year-old woman using a cleansing gel containing rosemary leaf extract developed an itchy erythema on her face. Occupational asthma has also been reported.
Side Effects and Warnings
In general, rosemary appears well tolerated with few documented cases of adverse events. Rosemary is likely safe when taken by mouth in amounts commonly found in foods. It is possibly safe when rosemary and rosemary extracts are taken by mouth and used appropriately in medicinal amounts, or when used topically in medicinal amounts for up to seven months.
Allergic contact dermatitis, occupational asthma and chelitis have occurred in some individuals. Ingestion of rosemary oil can be toxic.
In large doses, rosemary may be irritating to the mucosa of the intestinal tract and may cause nausea and cramping. Also, rosemary has been shown to decrease iron absorption. Although not well-studied, the volatile oil of rosemary leaves may have musculoskeletal effects. Rosemary may also increase the rate at which the liver deactivates estrogen, which may lead to estrogen-deficient conditions. Rosemary may also cause hypotension (low blood pressure). In theory, it may also stimulate hair growth, and hirsutism may occur.
Although not well-studied in humans, rosemary leaf volatile oil may increase blood sugar levels. Caution is advised in patients with diabetes or hypoglycemia, and in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that affect blood sugar. Serum glucose levels may need to be monitored by a healthcare provider, and medication adjustments may be necessary.
Rosemary may increase the effects of furosemide (Lasix®). Diuretic properties of rosemary have not been established, but it is possible that electrolyte changes may occur. Aqueous extracts of rosemary may increase urinary excretion of sodium, potassium, and chloride, and decrease creatinine clearance.
Pregnancy & Breastfeeding
Based on its traditional use for abortion, the risk of abnormalities caused by altered hormone levels, and preliminary evidence showing embryotoxic effects, rosemary should not be used by pregnant women or women who wish to become pregnant. Rosemary is not recommended in breastfeeding women due to a lack of available scientific evidence.
Interactions with Drugs
Rosemary may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with drugs that increase the risk of bleeding. Some examples include aspirin, anticoagulants ("blood thinners") such as warfarin (Coumadin®) or heparin, anti-platelet drugs such as clopidogrel (Plavix®), and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®) or naproxen (Naprosyn®, Aleve®).
Water extracts of rosemary may inhibit angiotensin I-converting enzyme (ACE). This may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in patients taking medications that also can reduce blood pressure, such as ACE inhibitors.
Rosemary and its various constituents have been noted for their high antioxidant properties, including carnosol, carnosic acid, rosmanol, epirosmanol, and hesperidin.
Alcohol extracts of rosemary may have antitumorigenic activity. Rosemary may increase the accumulation of commonly used chemotherapeutic agents, including doxorubicin and vinblastine, in cancer cells that express P-glycoprotein. However, rosemary extract probably does not affect accumulation or efflux of doxorubicin in cells that lack P-glycoprotein. Use cautiously in patients taking agents for cancer or chemotherapy drugs.
Constituents in rosemary extract may inhibit cholesterol oxidation product formation. Caution is advised in patients taking cholesterol-lowering medications.
Rosemary may interfere with the way the body processes certain drugs using the liver's "cytochrome P450" enzyme system. As a result, the levels of these drugs may be decreased in the blood, and reduce the intended effects. Patients taking any medications should check the package insert and speak with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, about possible interactions.
Rosemary has been shown to increase the effects of furosemide (Lasix®), which belongs to the class of loop diuretics. Patients taking medications that increase the flow of urine should consult with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, before combining therapies.
Rosemary may precipitate lithium toxicity due to its diuretic properties. Caution is advised in patients with bipolar disorder or those taking medications containing lithium. Medication adjustments may be necessary.
Rosemary extract may increase blood sugar levels in both diabetics and non-diabetics. Caution is advised when using medications that may lower blood sugar. Patients taking drugs for diabetes by mouth or insulin should be monitored closely by a qualified healthcare provider. Medication adjustments may be necessary.
In theory, rosemary, rosemary essential oil, and its components may inhibit bone resorption. Theoretically, there may be additive effects. Patients taking medications for osteoporosis should consult with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist.
Although not well-studied, rosemary may also interact with peptic ulcer disease drugs, and estrogen-containing medications such as birth control pills.
Interactions with Herbs & Dietary Supplements
Rosemary may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with herbs and supplements that are believed to increase the risk of bleeding. Multiple cases of bleeding have been reported with the use of Ginkgo biloba, and fewer cases with garlic and saw palmetto. Numerous other agents may theoretically increase the risk of bleeding, although this has not been proven in most cases.
Water extracts of rosemary may inhibit angiotensin I-converting enzyme (ACE). This may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in patients taking herbs or supplements that also can reduce blood pressure.
Rosemary may have antispasmodic, antifungal, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory effects. Patients taking any herbs or supplements with similar effects should use rosemary cautiously.
Rosemary and its various constituents have been noted for their high antioxidant properties, including carnosol, carnosic acid, rosmanol, epirosmanol, and hesperidin. Combination with lycopene may increase rosemary's antioxidative effects. Consult with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, before making decisions about therapies.
Alcohol extracts of rosemary may have antitumorigenic activity. Use caution in patients taking herbs or supplements that may be used for cancer, due to possible additive effects.
Constituents in rosemary extract may inhibit cholesterol oxidation product formation. Caution is advised in patients taking cholesterol-lowering herbs and supplements, such as red yeast rice.
Rosemary may interfere with the way the body processes certain herbs or supplements using the liver's "cytochrome P450" enzyme system. As a result, the levels of other herbs or supplements may become too low in the blood. It may also alter the effects that other herbs or supplements potentially may have on the P450 system.
Rosemary may enhance the effects of herbal agents used to increase the flow of urine.
Although not well studied, rosemary may enhance the liver's rate of deactivating estrogen in the body. Caution is advised when combining rosemary with other herbs and supplements that contain phytoestrogens.
Rosemary extract may increase blood sugar levels in both diabetics and non-diabetics. Caution is advised when using agents that may lower blood sugar. Patients taking herbs or supplements for diabetes by mouth or insulin should be monitored closely by a qualified healthcare provider. Medication adjustments may be necessary.
Rosemary may decrease iron absorption. Caution is advised in patients taking iron supplements or multivitamins.
This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature, and was peer-reviewed and edited by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com): Tracee Rae Abrams, PharmD (University of Rhode Island); Ashley Brigham, PharmD (Northeastern University); Jessica Clubb, PharmD (Northeastern University); James Ceurvels, PharmD (Northeastern University); Nicole Giese, MS (Natural Standard Research Collaboration); Kevin Hoehn, PharmD MBA CGP (Faxton-St. Luke's), Catherine DeFranco Kirkwood, MPH, CCCJS-MAC (MD Anderson Cancer Center); Shaina Tanguay-Colucci, BS (Natural Standard Research Collaboration); Wendy Weissner, BA (Natural Standard Research Collaboration).
BibliographyDISCLAIMER: Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.
Almela L, Sanchez-Munoz B, Fernandez-Lopez JA, et al. Liquid chromatograpic-mass spectrometric analysis of phenolics and free radical scavenging activity of rosemary extract from different raw material. J Chromatogr.A 7-7-2006;1120(1-2):221-229.
Hafez HM, Hauck R. Efficacy of a herbal product against Histomonas meleagridis after experimental infection of turkey poults. Arch Anim Nutr 2006;60(5):436-442.
Kaziulin AN, Petukhov AB, Kucheriavyi IuA. [Efficiency of includes of bioactive substances in diet of patient with hepatic encephalopathy]. Vopr.Pitan. 2006;75(2):40-44.
Kwon YI, Vattem DA, Shetty K. Evaluation of clonal herbs of Lamiaceae species for management of diabetes and hypertension. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr 2006;15(1):107-118.
Lopez-Munoz F, Alamo C, Garcia-Garcia P. "The herbs that have the property of healing...,": the phytotherapy in Don Quixote. J Ethnopharmacol 7-19-2006;106(3):429-441.
Martinez L, Cilla I, Beltran JA, et al. Combined Effect of Modified Atmosphere Packaging and Addition of Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), Ascorbic Acid, Red Beet Root (Beta vulgaris), and Sodium Lactate and Their Mixtures on the Stability of Fresh Pork Sausages. J Agric.Food Chem 6-28-2006;54(13):4674-4680.
Miresmailli S, Bradbury R, Isman MB. Comparative toxicity of Rosmarinus officinalis L. essential oil and blends of its major constituents against Tetranychus urticae Koch (Acari: Tetranychidae) on two different host plants. Pest.Manag.Sci 2006;62(4):366-371.
Moreno S, Scheyer T, Romano CS, et al. Antioxidant and antimicrobial activities of rosemary extracts linked to their polyphenol composition. Free Radic.Res 2006;40(2):223-231.
Perez-Fons L, Aranda FJ, Guillen J, et al. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) diterpenes affect lipid polymorphism and fluidity in phospholipid membranes. Arch Biochem Biophys. 9-15-2006;453(2):224-236.
Ramirez P, Garcia-Risco MR, Santoyo S, et al. Isolation of functional ingredients from rosemary by preparative-supercritical fluid chromatography (Prep-SFC). J Pharm Biomed.Anal. 8-28-2006;41(5):1606-1613.
Rau O, Wurglics M, Paulke A, et al. Carnosic Acid and Carnosol, Phenolic Diterpene Compounds of the Labiate Herbs Rosemary and Sage, are Activators of the Human Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor Gamma. Planta Med 2006;72(10):881-887.
Rho KH, Han SH, Kim KS, et al. Effects of aromatherapy massage on anxiety and self-esteem in korean elderly women: a pilot study. Int J Neurosci. 2006 Dec;116(12):1447-55.
Sancheti G, Goyal, PK. Effect of rosmarinus officinalis in modulating 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)anthracene induced skin tumorigenesis in mice. Phytother Res 2006;20(11):981-986.
Sancheti G, Goyal P. Modulatory influence of Rosemarinus officinalis on DMBA-induced mouse skin tumorigenesis. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2006;7(2):331-335.
Tahraoui A, El Hilaly J, Israili ZH, et al. Ethnopharmacological survey of plants used in the traditional treatment of hypertension and diabetes in south-eastern Morocco (Errachidia province). J Ethnopharmacol 9-23-2006.
Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.