|The History of the Magical Rosemary Plant
Medicinally and for purification rosemary was a mainstay in the practices of early medical and sterilization
techniques. During the plaque of 1665 it was carried and sniffed to protect against contamination from the
dreaded epidemic. Carried in either a pouch (ladies handbag), handkerchief or perhaps in the head of a
gentleman's walking stick.
Tradition asserts burned rosemary emits powerful cleansing and purifying vapors and vibrations. Rosemary is one
of Earth's oldest incenses. Rosemary has been burned for centuries in sick chambers to purify the air,
specifically in French hospitals during war (through WWII) to kill germs. Burned also in churches and courtrooms
and other public arenas for its antiseptic properties. Hence the French name incensier.
Centuries before the advent of the refrigerator, rosemary was used as a preservative for meats and other foods.
Because of rosemary's high antioxidant activity ancients would wrap their meats in crushed rosemary leaves. The
freshness would be preserved and thus the smell and taste would remain pleasant. Rosemary was also used to
control pests such as mosquitoes, fleas (the carrier of the plague) and moths.
During the Middle Ages rosemary was spread on the floor at midnight on Christmas Eve so as people walked on it
the fragrance would fill the air; this in the belief that those who smelled rosemary on Christmas Eve would have a
year of health and happiness. Thus, started the long tradition of rosemary in Christmas wreaths and other
Perhaps one of the more amusing tales of rosemary's magic involves Queen Elizabeth of Hungary (1305-1381).
Suffering from severe rheumatism and gout the Queen (aged 72) turned to the healing powers of the rosemary
plant. She began using a variant of Rosemary Water, also referred to as Hungary (Budapest) Water, allegedly
given to her by a hermit who claimed that "it would preserve her beauty and health until her death." In fact,
legend claims, the treatment so enhanced her health, vitality and appearance that she, using her own words, "was
not only cured, but recovered my strength, and appeared to all so remarkably beautiful that the King of Poland
asked me in marriage." (from a text by John Prevost, published 1656). By the way, the King was 26 years old.
Take from this what you may.
However, we do know that as we discover more about the chemical structure of rosemary and its antioxidant
properties, the myth of the past is quickly becoming the reality of the future. As we continue to unlock the
mysteries of the rosemary plant; we are validating the many applications of rosemary that have been utilized for
centuries. Yet what can the marvelous rosemary do for you.
Back to Blanckes' Herbal . . . Rosemary - "washe thy face therwith . . . thou shalt have a fayre face." "Smell it and
it shall preserve thy youthe. "And, remember Markham; "Rosemary "cleanseth away the spots of the face, . . . it
maketh a man look young."
Using the knowledge acquired over centuries and improving upon the techniques of the past, we have formulated
creams saturated in the rich chemical ingredients that empower the magical rosemary plant. Our predecessors
were on to something. They knew of the power of rosemary; now we have released it. Let Effulgere awaken the
Sleeping Beauty in you.
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The name rosemary is derived from the Latin "rosmarinus officinalis"; "ros", meaning dew, and "marinus", meaning
sea. This derivation probably stemming from the fact that the rosemary bush is native to the seaside regions of
North Africa and the Mediterranean. Hence the ancient legend that rosemary grows "where one can hear the
sea". One of it's common names "dew of the sea", is a likely reference to the shimmering blue flowers that cover
the rosemary bush in mid-winter. Other of its common names include: Incensier, Sea Dew, Ros Maris, Rosmarine,
Rosemarie, and Guardrobe.
The history of Rosemary is a story covering thousands of years. A story steeped in the myth and tradition of
many a varied civilization. Starting with its strong association to the ancient Greeks and Romans, rosemary
captivated these peoples for its mystical and healing powers. Hellenistic and Roman gardens almost always
contained rosemary bushes. Moreover, rosemary was believed to grow only in the gardens of the righteous and
protected one from evil spirits. Today, as in the past, rosemary continues to capture the attention of those who
seek its usefulness in the preservation of health and beauty.
Brought to Britain with the Roman armies, rosemary over the centuries has spread its influence through Europe
and eventually to the New World. In addition to the widespread belief in its cosmetic benefit, rosemary is again
and again mentioned throughout the annals of European history for it's properties of purification and it's healing
powers. Rosemary's long thought ability to increase circulation and strengthen blood vessels has also associated
it with memory, remembrance and the heart (love). Let us look at a few examples from the saga of the majestic
Beginning with the written word as early as the fifth millennium B.C. references to rosemary were found written in
cuneiform on stone tablets.
Pedanius Dioscorides (ca. 40 to ca. 90) Greek physician, pharmacologist and
botanist practiced in Rome during the time of Nero. His most famous writing,the
five volume "De Materia Medica" is one of the most influential herbal books in
history. Dioscorides recommended rosemary for its "warming faculty". In addition
to its importance in the history of herbal science, the "Materia Medica" also
enlightens us about the herbs and remedies employed by the Greeks, Romans
and other cultures of antiquity.
Dioscrides, De Materia Medica, Byzantium
The first book printed in English which could actually be
called an herbal is Blanckes' Herbal published in England
circa 1525. Of all the various and diverse herbs listed in
Blanckes' the characteristics and attributes of this "dew of the
sea"are perhaps the most fascinating and charming. An
excerpt from Blanks' recommends cosmetic uses for
rosemary; "boyle the leves in whyte wyne and wasshe thy
face therwith . . . thou shalt have a fayre face." Further
advice includes . . ." make thee a box of the wood (rosemary)
and smell to it and it shall preserve thy youthe." A rosemary
tea is also touted in Blanckes' "for much worth against all
evils of the body". Among medicinal benefits claimed include a topical application for gout; "if thy legs be blown
with the gout, boil the leaves (rosemary) in water and then take the leaves and bind them in a linen cloth about
thy legs, and it shall do much good."
Gervase Markham (1568-1637) English writer and poet, included high praise for rosemary in his most famous
work "English Housewife",first published in 1615. He writes; "Rosemary water (the face washed therein both
morning and night) causeth a fair and clear contenance." Furthermore; "when one maketh a bath of this
decoction, it is called the bath of life , the same drunk comforteth the heart, the brain, and the whole body, and
cleanseth away the spots of the face; it maketh a man look young . . ."
Nicholas Culpepper (1616-1654) was an English botanist, herbalist and physician, who
spent the greater part of his life cataloging hundreds of medicinal herbs. His two great
works "The English Physician" (1652) and the "Complete Herbal" (1653) vastly
contributed to our knowledge of the pharmacalogical properties of herbs. Dr.
Culpepper devoted himself to using herbals to treat the illnesses of his patients, greatly
criticizing what he considered the unnatural methods of his contemporaries. Ultimately,
he transformed traditional medical knowledge and methods via his quest for improved
solutions for ill health.
The use of herbals by Culpepper was key to the development of modern day
pharmaceuticals most of which originally had herbal origins. Culpepper was one of the
pioneers to translate documents discussing medicinal plants found in the Americas from
the Latin. The impact on medicine in the North American colonies by
Culpepper's translations and approach to using herbals was incalculable.
His "Complete Herbal" was so highly regarded in the colonies that many of
the species that he touted were imported to the New World from England.
One of the most flattering descriptions of the benefits of rosemary
(rosemary water) was set forth by Dr. Culpepper. Among the attributes he
ascribed to rosemary; "the (rosemary) water is an admirable cure-all
remedy of all kinds of cold, loss of memory, headache, coma." It receives
and preserves natural heat, restores body function and capabilities, even
at late age. There are not that many remedidies producing that many good
effects." ("Pharmacopeia Londoniensis", Nicholas Culpepper, 1653).
Students in ancient Greece wore garlands of rosemary around their necks,
or braided it into their hair to improve their memory during exams. Others
would place it in their pillow the night before to enhance memory during
As to rosemary's power to
enhance memory we have a
mutitude of testimonials. Sir
Thomas More, (Aka Saint Thomas
More, (1478-1535) English lawyer,
author and stateman wrote, "As for
rosmarine, I lette it runne all over
my garden walls, not onlie because
my bees love it, but because it is
the herb sacred to remembrance,
and, therefore to friendship . . .”
|Sir Thomas More
Portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger
Shakespeare's Juliet was honored at her burial with rosemary for
remembrance. Early Europeans commonly threw sprigs of rosemary
into graves as a symbol that the dead would not be forgotten. In
ancient Egypt rosemary was placed in the tomb to remember the
dead, used in the bouquets of funeral flowers and even utilized in
the embalming practices of that time. The tradition of tossing
rosemary sprigs into the grave did not end in England until the 19th
century. This tradition was memorialized in the lines of George
Sewell (1687-1726) English poet and physician;
"All must be left when Death appears,
In spite of wishes, groans, and tears;
Not one of all thy plants that grow
But rosemary will with you go."
Unfortunately Dr. Sewell died indigent and alone, afforded neither a
memorial at his grave nor a sprig of rosemary for remembrance.
Rosemary is still today regarded as the funeral flower signifying
respect and remembrance for the departed. The honored war dead
are annually commemorated on ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand
Ophelia by John Everett Millais (1851-52)
Shakespeare's Ophelia appeals to
Hamlet, "There's rosemary, that's
for remembrance, pray you love,
|The Balcony Scene of Romeo & Juliet
by John Everett Millais
Army Corps) Day by the wearing of small rosemary sprigs in the coat lapel, pinned to the breast or held in place
by medals. This, yet again, done for remembrance.
On a lighter note rosemary has been a long standing fixture in the lore of romance and matrimony. As the symbol
of remembrance and fidelity rosemary has been used for centuries in courtship and weddings. According to
English folklore if a girl placed a plate of flour under a rosemary bush on midsummer's eve, her future husband's
initials would be written in it. Other's believed that to see your true love in a dream one should put rosemary
under your pillow. Sleeping Beauty was said to have been awoken from her sleep by Prince Charming brushing a
rosemary sprig over her cheek.
Rosemary has long held a prominent role in the wedding ceremony. Used in weddings to help one remember the
wedding vows, the bride and groom might dip rosemary in their wine cups to toast each other. Dried rosemary
has been laid in the bed linen to ensure faithfulness and a bride who gave her groom a sprig of rosemary to hold
on their wedding night would ensure that he remain faithful. In the middle ages the more elegant couples gave
rosemary as a wedding favor. Sprigs were often dipped in gold and tied with a beautiful ribbon, this to symbolize
that though the couple were starting a new life they would always remember their friends and family.
Rosemary has been celebrated in song for it's power over memory. Simon and Garfunkel in 1966 revitalized an
old Elizabethan ballad, "Scarborough Fair".
"Are you going to Scarbourough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Remember me to one who lives there,
For she once was a true love of mine."
And, the Elizabethans knew rosemary for love and faithfulness, rosemary to remember.
French legend has it that if a man didn't
like the scent of rosemary, he would be an
inferior lover. Empress Josephine is said
to have asked Napoleon to wash in
rosemary water before entering her
bedchamber. Perhaps this explains
Napoleon's obsession with rosemary. It is
said to have been his favorite perfume.
Chardin, "Perfumer of Their Imperial and
Royal Majesties," recorded Napoleon's
use of 162 bottles of rosemary water in
the first three months of 1806. Napoleon
also favored rosemary for its qualities of
restoring bodily vitality, brain stimulation
and it's antiseptic properties. In his book,
"Memories of Saint Helena", Victor
Masson wrote that Napoleon was such a
fan that as he lay dying two of Chardin's
perfumed pastilles (compressed herbs
Josephine kneels before Napoleon at his coronation at Notre Dame
burnt to release medicinal properties) were burning in his bedchamber. And, once again rosemary exhibited its
magical power over love and remembrance. Despite many affairs, eventual divorce and even remarriage, the
Emperor Napoleon's last words as he died on the Island of Helena in 1821 were "France,the Army, the Head of
the Army,Josephine." Thus, their great love affair passed into immortality. Rosemary water subsequently became
so popular that it was the first herbal product to be commercially produced and marketed.
As for English royalty, Anne of Cleves wore a
"rich crown of stone and pearls set with
rosemary in her hair" when she became King
Henry the Eighth's fourth wife in 1540.
However, even the power of rosemary could
not prevent renowned womanizer King Henry
from forgetting his wedding vows. Four months
later the marriage was doomed as he
succombed to the charms of Catherine
Howard, lady-in-waiting to Queen Anne. Yet
many, many couples have had far more good
fortune with the rosemary used in their
wedding ceremonies. Today brides in Europe
still wear the traditional sprig of rosemary in
Anne Of Cleves (1515 -1557)
|"Let Effulgere Awaken
the Sleeping Beauty