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A Guide To Rosemary Essential Oil and Its Benefits and Uses

A Guide To Rosemary Essential Oil and Its Benefits and Uses written on a white background with a picture of aromatherapy supplies and a photo of a rosemary plant

The fragrance of rosemary essential oil "enables the human spirit to receive and understand the assistance descending to us from wiser beings," writes aromatherapist Valerie Ann Worwood in Aromatherapy For the Soul. "Rosemary helps us remember who we are and what our place is in the evolutionary plan."

Worwood says the emotional benefits of rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) are to encourage energy, upliftment, confidence, clarity, concentration, stability, purification, and awareness.

Basic Rosemary Facts

Plant family: Lamiaceae/Labiatae

Production: Steam distilled from the leaves and flowers/buds of the rosemary plant.

Aroma: Fresh, camphorous, herbaceous

Perfume/Aromatic note: Middle

Chemotypes

Rosemary essential oil is available in variations called chemotypes. That is, the chemical composition of the oil varies depending on growing conditions. Thus the predominant effects of the essential oil differ by chemotype. The three most common chemotypes are:

  • Rosemary camphor (Rosmarinus officinalis ct. camphor) has a distinct camphor aroma.
  • Rosemary verbenone (Rosmarinus officinalis ct. verbenone) contains less camphor and the aroma is more herbaceous. Generally considered the gentlest  chemotype.
  • Rosemary cineole (Rosmarinus officinalis ct. 1,8–cineole) is sometimes preferred for use in respiratory and circulatory issues.

Other chemotypes include borneol, bornyl acetate, beta-myrcene, and alpha-pinene.

Is rosemary safe to use during pregnancy? No, according to Aromatherapy and Massage For Mother and Baby. Do not use while breastfeeding.

Is rosemary essential oil safe for children? Do not use with babies or children under age 2. For the harsher chemotypes, some sources recommend not using with children under age 10.

Cautions:

  • Many sources recommend not using rosemary if you have epilepsy.
  • Some sources state not to use the essential oil if you have high blood pressure, but not everyone agrees. In Proof of Safety: Challenges Facing Essential Oil Therapy, aromatherapy expert Robert Tisserand writes, "The action of rosemary oil may depend on its relative concentrations of 1,8-cineole and camphor, but there is no convincing evidence that it is hypertensive." If you are concerned and want to use rosemary, monitor your blood pressure to see what happens.
  • Rosemary essential oil is often adulterated and diluted. When buying this oil pay close attention to its source.

Main components:

Camphor chemotype

camphor 17.0–27.3%
1,8-cineole 17.0–22.5%
alpha-pinene 4.4–22.0%

1,8-cineole chemotype

1,8-cineole 39.0–57.7%
camphor 7.4–14.9%
alpha-pinene 9.6–12.7%

Verbenone chemotype

camphor 11.3–14.9%
verbenone 7.6–12.3%
alpha-pinene 2.5–9.3%
1,8-cineole 0–9.0%

Borneol chemotype: 1,8-cineole 20.0%, bornel 15.6%,  camphor 15.3%

Bornyl acetate chemotype: alpha-pinene 24.0–28.5%, bornyl acetate 11.5–14.3%, 1,8-cineole 6.8–13.6%, camphor 9.9–10.4%

Source: Essential Oil Safety, 2nd Edition

Benefits Of Rosemary Essential Oil

Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art: "Rosemary is one of the best stimulants for the nervous system, adrenal glands, digestion, and poor circulation...[It] helps sluggish, underactive skin and is used on dry, mature, and couperose complexion types and varicose veins." Other benefits of rosemary include helping reduce cellulite, dermatis, scars, inflammation, dandruff, and hair loss. "The fragrance improves memory, confidence, perception, and creativity."

For specific chemotypes, the book gives this information:

  • Borneol type: helps overcome fatigue and infectons, a heart tonic.
  • Camphor type: vein decongestant, cardiac tonic, diuretic
  • Cineol type: helps relieve lung congestion and chronic fatigue
  • Verbenone type: helps relieve sinus infections, helps balance endocrine and nervous systems, useful for oily and regenerative skin care

The Heart of Aromatherapy: Rosemary ct camphor is good for respiratory support, soothing allergies, clearing mucous and congestion, reducing swelling, soothing sore muscles, encouraging circulation, relieving headaches, promoting a feeling of energy, and supporting mental focus and clarity.

Aromatherapy For Healing the Spirit: In Traditional Chinese Medicine, rosemary is warm, pungent, and stimulating. The essential oil is a tonic for yang energy, promotes the circulation of Qi-energy and blood, energizes the Qi-energy of the heart. "Reinforcing the Heart and empowering the Mind (Shen), rosemary oil helps to boost the confidence and morale of those who lack faith in their own potential." The oil's energy is warm and dry and rosemary's main element is fire.

Advanced Aromatherapy: The Science of Essential Oil Therapy: The camphor chemotype helps with neuromuscular problems and releases tension. The cinoele chemotype is stimulating and promotes digestion. The verbenone chemotype is regenerating for the skin and reduces mucus.

The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy: Rosemary oil may help relieve muscle and joint pain (including arthritis), muscle injury, headaches, and a feeling of heaviness in the legs. The essential oil may also help with respiratory conditions, sinus congestion, cellulite, memory improvement, acne, boils, abscesses, dandruff, and hair loss.

Rosemary Oil Uses

Diffuse rosemary for energy and focus.

Energizing Diffuser Blend

  • 5 drops rosemary essential oil
  • 5 drops lime essential oil
  • 5 drops grapefruit essential oil

Blend the essential oils in a small glass bottle. Follow your diffuser's directions and add the appropriate number of drops to the diffuser.

Source: Essential Living

Focus and concentration inhaler: Add 5 drops rosemary and 10 drops lemon essential oil to a blank aromatherapy inhaler.

Brain Energizer Diffuser Blend

  • 2 drops rosemary essential oil
  • 2 drops lemon essential oil
  • 6 drops geranium essential oil

Source: Astrological Aromatherapy

For taking tests: Mix one drop rosemary with 2 drops neroli essential oil. Dab on wrists before a test — rosemary stimulates the mind while neroli is relaxing. Source: Aromatherapy Bible

Hair Care

This essential oil is one of the most recommended for reducing hair loss.

Rosemary Mint Shampoo

  • 3/4 cup aloe vera gel
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 10 tablespoons baking soda
  • 10 drops peppermint essential oil
  • 20 drops rosemary
  • 8-ounce bpa-free plastic dispenser bottle

Mix all ingredients together. Add to an 8-ounce dispenser bottle. Use as you would any other shampoo.

Source: Dr. Axe

Scalp Re-Conditioning Blend

To a 5-ml colored glass euro-dropper bottle add these essential oils:

  • 30 drops vetiver
  • 30 drops ylang ylang
  • 30 drops rosemary
  • 30 drops carrot seed
  • 30 drops geranium

Cap the bottle tightly and shake vigorously to blend oils together. Let set for 8+ hours. Two ways to use:

  • Put one drop in with your shampoo (the amount you use for a single wash) and shampoo as usual.
  • Add a few drops of the blend to your favorite carrier oil and use as a leave on conditioner. Leave on your scalp for up to an hour, and then thoroughly shampoo your hair.

Source: KG Stiles' Aromatherapy Library

Body Care

To soothe muscle aches and joint pains, make this massage oil:

  • 5 drops rosemary essential oil    
  • 5 drops nutmeg essential oil    
  • 5 drops lavender essential oil    
  • 1 tablespoon carrier oil

Source: New Directions Aromatics

Foot Soak For Cold Feet

This foot soak warms and restores your entire body, mind, spirit, and emotions:

  1. Mix 1 to 3 drops of rosemary essential oil in an unscented liquid soap.
  2. Blend this mixture in a basin of comfortably hot water.
  3. Soak your feet for 15 minutes.

Breathe Deep Steam Inhalation

This blend soothes sinuses irritated by pollen and is also a stimulating facial steam.

  • 1 drop rosemary
  • 3 drops spike lavender (Lavandula latifolia) essential oil
  • 4 drops lemon essential oil
  • 2 drops eucalyptus globulus essential oil
  1. Blend essential oils in a small dish.
  2. Add the blend to a bowl of steamy water.
  3. Cover your head with a towel or cloth, creating a tent.
  4. Keep your eyes closed as you place your face over the steamy bowl.

Source: Katie Vie, "Seasonal Self Care," Aromatherapy Journal, Spring 2013.1, p. 6.

Buy Rosemary Essential Oil

I recommend rosemary essential oil from Young Living. When I asked customer service about the chemotype, I received this reply:

"Young Living® no longer standardizes its essential oils by chemotype... [and] has adopted the use of "Seed to Seal®" to standardize its essential oils. Seed to Seal includes standardization by chemical profile as well as growing conditions, distillation, and manufacturing process.

Based on our review of the chemical profile, we have determined that our rosemary essential oil is not considered verbenone... With that being said, our rosemary should not cause an adverse reaction of any kind when used according to the label directions and safety guidelines."



Photo Credit: Jnn [CC BY 2.1 jp], via Wikimedia Commons

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