Rosemary - Darling of the kitchen is a workhorse in aromatherapy
by Tonya Banbury
We tell individuals we need to know the Latin name of a plant before attempting an ID. Common names are, well, common, and can vary by region. Guess what? The need for specificity is even greater where essential oils [EO] are concerned. Sometimes, the chemical composition within a family, as measured by mass spectrometry, can differ by region and climate. The herb, Rosemary, Rosemarinus officinalis, is one of the best examples.
Turns out this darling of the kitchen is truly a workhorse in aromatherapy due to Rosemary’s three distinct chemotypes, dependent upon its country of origin.
Rosemary-camphor type comes from Spain and Croatia. Its high ketone content makes it risky for internal use due to its neurotoxicity and is contraindicated for pregnant women and children under 10 years old. However, ketones are known for their stimulating effect on cell and tissue regeneration and thus provide superior wound healing and relief from muscle pain and cramps. Taken in small dosages, it relieves nervous tension and supports the digestive system by stimulating the production of bile. It’s also used for acne blends and on the scalp for dandruff and thinning hair.
Rosemary-cineole type comes from North Africa and is known as a preventative against all respiratory infections. Its antibacterial and antifungal qualities make it useful for treating staph, strep, E. coli, and candida. Use it in a diffuser or steaming water for the whole house or for the sick room to thin mucous and expectorate. Lacking ketones, this type carries no contraindications.
Rosemary-verbenone type is grown in Corsica and is an aromatherapy classic known for its regenerative qualities. A great choice for mature and dry skin, this type is also useful for respiratory problems and as a treatment for middle ear infections. To treat the latter, add the EO to carrier oil and massage into the area behind the jaw, below the ear and towards the throat. Due to its ketone content, the above contraindications apply.
Most EOs cannot be used neat (undiluted) on the skin because of their concentration and must be cut with a carrier oil such as Jojoba, Almond or Coconut oil. Exceptions are Lavender, German Chamomile, Rose, Geranium, Tea Tree and Sandalwood.
Just as we instruct people to read chemical labels, the message here is do your homework. Learn all you can about an EO so you can use it safely and effectively. More is not always better!
Tonya Banbury is an Extension Master Gardener Volunteer with Mecklenburg County, NC. Her series of articles on Medicinal Herbs: Essential Oils is based upon documented research and personal usage experience.
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