Here is everything you need to know about rosemary essential oil: benefits, properties, use of rosemary essential oil and possible adulterations. Discover also our tips about how to use it.


Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is an indigenous Mediterranean plant. It is an evergreen shrub, up to 1.50 m high, belonging to the Lamiacee family. The stem is prostrate or erect, the leaves (2-2.5 cm) are opposite, sessile, linear, leathery, bright green on the upper part and tomentose white on the lower one. The flowers are fragrant and hermaphrodites are pollinated by bees.

The name Rosemary means “sea dew“, perhaps because its natural habitat is that of the rocky coasts where sea water splashes and covers the plants like a spray. The plant is mentioned in the most ancient Greek and Roman texts, while the Egyptians knew it, either because it was cultivated or because it was imported. It is known to all as a flavoring, but in particular it provides an essential oil that can also be used for therapeutic purposes.

The Greek texts give rosemary a stimulating effect on the mind, and for the Romans it was the plant of memory. In modern times, the plant and essential oil have been used as a stomachic, circulatory stimulant, antirheumatic, analgesic remedy. The plant was smoked as a remedy for asthma and burned as incense.

Rosemary: essential oil

Rosemary essential oil is a thick liquid and can be colorless to pale yellow to greenish yellow. It has a typical aromatic perfume, penetrating eucalyptus (or camphorated according to the chemotype) and pleasant. For the production of rosemary essential oil, the water-steam distillation of the flowers is better than that in the current of steam (a softer and more floral essential oil is obtained), but the latter is used for twigs and leaves.

Based on the composition on the market, three chemotypes predominate: cineole (North African), camphor (Spain), borneol. In particular, the chemotype that produces an oil rich in eucalyptol (1.8 cineol) stimulates the secretion of the glands of the digestive and respiratory systems, responsible for the effects on digestion and mucolytic activity; the chemotype that produces an oil rich in camphor may instead be used as an antirheumatic for local use, but responsible for toxic effects on the central nervous system when used orally; the chemotype that produces an oil rich in borneol and derivatives, as foreseen by the Pharmacopoeia, would seem better indicated in the spastic pathology of the biliary tract.

Benefits and properties

Rosemary essential oil, according to scientific studies in vitro and in vivo:

  • has a stimulating effect of attention by smell and significant improvement of memory performance by inhalation and by mouth; it showed moderate antibacterial activity on S. aureus, Streptococcus mutans and Streptococcus pyogenes., E. coli, Klebsiella, Proteus, Escherichia coli, Propionibacterium acnei, and antifungal;
  • it has shown to have mucolytic / expectorant effect, probably due to the irritating action at the level of the pulmonary epithelium, and to the action on the lung receptors which causes an analectic reaction;
  • the presence of camphor and cineole make it a moderate rubefacient, and a moderate insect-repellent.
  • The phenolic compounds present show a high antioxidant activity (Fahim et al., 1999), a dose-dependent anti-free radical effect on the DPPH radical at a dose of 3.82 microg / ml, and a good anti-lipid peroxidant effect (Bozin et al., 2007).

Rosemary essential oil: benefits and use

Here in detail where and how to use rosemary essential oil:

  • skin and scalp problems: rosemary essential oil is indicated for oily skin and hair, dandruff, acne. Strengthens the hair and facilitates circulation in cold and pale skin. It can therefore be used for this purpose in massages and local applications and as an addition to a normal shampoo;
  • respiratory problems: rosemary is used  for the prevention of infections, respiratory congestion, phlegm, cold, cough, otitis, sinusitis, bronchitis. Inhalations of a few drops are the ideal treatment for these conditions, in particular for catarrhal ones. The oil can also be used for this purpose as an environmental fragrance as the vapors can reduce the load of pathogens in the air, but it will be appropriate to ensure adequate ventilation of the environment to avoid eye irritation. Local application as liniment on the chest performs an action similar to inhalations, and is therefore indicated for the same conditions;
  • musculoskeletal problems: rosemary essential oil is indicated for rheumatism, muscle contractures, cramps, sprains, muscle pain and myalgias, “cold” (acute non-inflammatory) conditions such as poor circulation and cold feet. Massage is one of the best ways to use it for these conditions, since it combines the local application of the essential oil of rosemary with the mechanical action of the massage;
  • nervous problems: chronic fatigue, nervous breakdown, stress. Excellent used in the bathroom as a mental stimulant after a sleepless or restful night, to recover energy. As an environmental fragrance during mental efforts (study, computer work). In massage it is very useful as a stimulant in case of debilitation, fatigue and in case of convalescence;
  • in cases of premenstrual syndrome, postpartum depression or menopause, rosemary, used in all the modalities described above, can be helpful as part of a broader strategy.
  • Rosemary essential oil is also famous in perfumery: it is traditionally used in fresh and herbaceous fragrances, for bath preparations (foam baths, bath crystals etc.), shampoos and hair products, fine fragrances, especially as part of aromatic fern accords in all environmental fragrances and deodorants. Together with bergamot and Neroli it is the main ingredient of many Cologne waters.

Rosemary essential oil: adulterations

The essential oil of rosemary can be falsified with the addition of cineol and various terpenes, essential oil of cypress, camphor, Eucalyptus globulus and radiata, fractions of turpentine, waste from the production of synthetic terpineol, light fractions of essential oil of Cedar wood and Spanish sage. The low quality essential oil of Spanish origin is often de-tempered to improve its quality.

On we have selected for you the Flora bio aromatherapy essential oil: Rosmarinus officinalis essential oil, 100% pure, natural and total, from controlled biodynamic cultivation. It was extracted by steam distillation from the whole flowering plant. Find it here.

Dr. Laura Comollo

For any clarification or for more information Contact us about rosemary essential oil benefits.

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