Symbolism of rosemary

The ancient Greeks, it is said, wore sprigs of rosemary in their hair to promote good memory. Because of its reputation for strengthening the memory, it was also the emblem for fidelity in marriages and represented friendship. Rosemary is a symbol of love and loyalty. It has been used in incantations particularly to ward off evil spirits. It was worn by brides at weddings. Together with an orange and cloves it was given as a New Year’s Eve gift.


Roger Hacket stated in a sermon, “A Marriage Present,” published in 1607: “Speaking of the powers of rosemary, it overtoppeth all the flowers in the garden, boasting man’s rule. It helpeth the brain, strengtheneth the memorie, and is very medicinable for the head.”

The Treasury of Botany states that “rosemary will not grow well unless where the mistress is master; and so touched are some of the lords of creation upon this point, that we have more than once had reason to suspect them of privately injuring a growing rosemary in order to destroy this evidence of their want of authority.” [John Lindley, The Treasury of Botany, rev. ed., London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1889.]

A formula dated 1235, made of rosemary and called “Hungary water,” is said to be in Vienna in the handwriting of Elizabeth, the queen of Hungary. According to Mrs. M. Grieve, author of A Modern Herbal, “Hungary water, for outward application to renovate the vitality of paralyzed limbs, was first invented for a Queen of Hungary, who was said to have been completely cured by its continued use. It was prepared by putting 1.5 lbs. of fresh Rosemary tops in full flower into one gallon of spirits of wine, this was allowed to stand for four days and then distilled.” [Grieve, A Modern Herbal, p. 683.]

Jeanne Rose recommends in her Herbal Body Book, “Rosemary with lavender is an excellent herbal stimulant tea if you are allergic to caffeine.” [Rose, Herbal Body Book, p. 120.]

Culpeper states in his book, “Take what quantity you will of the flowers, and put them into a strong glass close stopped, tie a fine linen cloth over the mouth, and turn the mouth down into another strong glass, which being set in the sun, and oil will distill down into the lower glass, to be preserved as precious for diverse uses both inward and outward, as a sovereign balm to heal the diseases before mentioned, to clear dim sights, and take away spots, marks, and scars in the skin.” [Culpeper’s Complete Herbal & English Physician, p. 156.]


Rosemary is known as a great purifier, an antioxidant, and is antimicrobial. It soothes sprains and bruises and helps wounds in the healing process. It is found in acne products, aching-muscles toners, cleansers, facial steams, creams, lotions, and astringents. A couple of drops in the bath are very relaxing.

Rosemary should be included in high quality hair products of any kind as it is an effective remedy for dandruff and is recommended in shampoos, conditioners, and rinses. It is touted for its effectiveness in footbaths and facial steams to stimulate the skin.

It is said to stimulate the hair bulbs to renewed activity and therefore to aid in preventing baldness. Essential oil of rosemary mixed with almond oil and slowly heated to use as a hot-oil hair treatment is wonderful also mixed with a little lavender. A small amount of rosemary and lavender is nice to put on your hairbrush to stimulate the scalp daily.

Chemical constituents: volatile oil; the primary constituents of the oil are borneol, bornyl acetate and other esters, rosmarinic acid, carnosic acid, tannins, and oleanolic acid.