Rosemary (Rosmarinus Officinalis) is probably best known as a culinary herb. It grows freely throughout most of Europe but is most at home growing close to the sea. Its Latin name is formed from two words, Ros and Marinus, which translates as 'Dew of the Sea'. It's probably one of the most important plants of the Labitae family in aromatherapy terms, second only to Lavender. Scent-wise, it blends well with Basil, Cedarwood, Citrus Oils, Geranium, Lavender, Lemongrass, Melissa, Peppermint.
Rosemary oil is derived from the flowering tops and leaves of the plant using the extraction method of steam distillation. Its odour is strong, penetrating, herbal and clear - and bears a similarity to that of Frankincense.
Like Frankincense, it was used during the middle ages in exorcisms because of the belief that it would smoke out the 'demons' and cleanse the spirit. Rosemary was used in sick rooms for many centuries, and in French hospitals its use continued until only the last century - ironically being dropped at roughly the same time that modern research proved its antiseptic properties.
The piercing odour combined with the antiseptic properties of Rosemary make it a very useful oil when dealing with minor respiratory problems, such as the common cold, catarrh, sinusitis etc. Use as a steam inhalation (head over a bowl covered by a towel), in oil burners to generally fumigate the house, or in the case of a bedroom, a couple of drops added to a saucer of hot water. In winter months a small bowl of water with a couple of drops of rosemary can be placed on a radiator, thereby permeating the room. However, I would advise against using Rosemary at night because it's a strong brain and mind stimulant and, as such, could interefere with sleep patterns.
Its mild analgesic (pain-relieving) properties and the absence of sedative (sleep-inducing) properties, make Rosemary a valuable oil for use before and after exercise:
For a pre-exercise rub, to improve muscle tone and efficiency, blend Rosemary, Black Pepper and either Juniper or Fennel into a base oil and massage into appropriate muscle areas.
For a post-exercise rub or to alleviate tired, stiff and overworked muscles, again using a base oil, blend Rosemary, Lavender and Chamomile or Marjoram and massage affected muscle areas.
Rosemary can be added to shampoo as a scalp stimulant and to treat minor scalp problems such as itchiness and dandruff. It leaves an envigorating, clean feeling to the scalp and hair. For headaches, one neat drop warmed between the forefingers - touch lightly below the nostrils and then gently rub into the temples.
For me, the property that sets Rosemary apart from other oils is its ability to 'awaken' the brain and clear the head. Breathing in the aroma of this oil produces a feeling of great mental clarity and alertness, which undoubtedly helps the thought processes. For this reason it's helpful before study and/or exams or, indeed, any task which requires prolonged use of 'brain power'. I also find it useful in the car - a couple of drops onto my old dangly 'car scenter' not only freshens the interior but helps to ward off drowsiness. However, drowsiness when driving should never be ignored and Rosemary should not be relied upon to be kept awake.
N.B. Always pull off the road and rest at the first signs of tiredness.
As with most essential oils and/or modern medicines, there are contra-indications for the use of Rosemary, and these are Epilepsy, High Blood Pressure, Pregnancy, Sensitive Skin.