Rosemary was believed to stimulate the brain and help the memory and so it came to be associated with remembrance. The old custom of leaving rosemary at the graveside and for handing a bunch of it to those bereaved is carried on to this day. Rosemary also stood for fidelity and was included in bridal bouquets.
Rosemary, rosmarinus officinalis, is a lovely sweet- scented evergreen shrub with small pale blue flowers growing in twos or threes in the axils of the leaves. There is a trailing rosemary which is rather a tender plant and another variety known as Mrs Jessup’s Upright, rosmarinus pyramidalis, which is suitable for growing as a hedge. The flowers are in bloom in April and May and make a lovely show in the border. The short, stiff, narrow leaves are deeply cut, dark green above and pale grey underneath and they grow in dense profusion up the stems. It is a tall hardy shrub and a well-known garden herb. Rosemary is one of the herbs which are intensely fragrant fresh or green dried, and has many uses in the home.
Rosemary is a herb very well known in the kitchen for both sweet and savoury dishes. It is most commonly used with lamb, but it adds a delicious flavour to other roast meats and to poultry and game. Rosemary is added to chicken soup and vegetable broths and gives a subtle taste to omelettes and scrambled eggs. It imparts an unusual fresh flavour when added to fruit salads, wine or fruit cups and other summer drinks. Rosemary is a strong herb and should be used lightly in cooking. It is one of the herbs used in the making of vermouth.
Rosemary grows well in light, well-drained, sandy soil in a sunny sheltered spot. Propagation is by seed, cuttings or layering; the best plants are those grown from seed, although it is a slow process for the seed takes about three weeks to germinate. If taken in August cuttings will root quite easily. Cuttings 6 in (15cm) long are taken from a woody shoot — soft stem cuttings will wither and die. Remove the lower leaves and set the cuttings two-thirds of their length in the soil. Choose a shady, sheltered, undisturbed spot in which to grow the cuttings. They will be ready to plant into their final positions the following year, or while still small they can be potted up and brought indoors for the winter. Young plants outside may need protection in a harsh winter.
The leaves and flowering tips are the parts of the shrub used in the home. The leaves for drying are taken from the stems before the flowers appear. The flowering tips are cut when the flowers are fully open. They are dried and stored in the usual way.
Rosemary is an effective remedy for digestive upsets and flatulence when taken with food. It stimulates the circulation and rosemary tea can be taken for a nervous headache while a compress of rosemary is applied to the forehead and temples.
* To make rosemary tea: Pour ½ cupful of boiling water on to 1 teaspoon of dried herb, leaves or flowering tops. Leave to infuse for 5- 10 minutes, then strain and add honey to sweeten. Drink it warm and make fresh each time. Do not take over long periods.
Rosemary tea, allowed to cool, makes an effective mouth wash for those suffering from bad breath.
Oil of rosemary, which can be purchased from some chemists (pharmacies), makes a good ointment for relieving painful gout and rheumatism, and for soothing eczema and other skin irritations. The oil should never be taken internally.
* To make the ointment: Add 1 tablespoon of rosemary oil to 4 tablespoons of white petroleum jelly melted in an enamel pan. Stir well together then pour into small pots and cover when cold.
A few drops of oil of rosemary on cotton wool held under the nose will help to revive those who feel tired and faint. Rosemary oil rubbed on to cold hands and feet will stimulate the circulation and they will quickly warm up. A milder form of rosemary oil can be made at home.
* To make rosemary oil: Put 2 handfuls of rosemary into a glass jar and add a cupful of olive or almond oil. Cover the jar with a piece of muslin or cheesecloth held on with a rubber band and stand the jar on a sunny windowsill for 2—3 weeks until the oil is well impregnated. Strain the oil into small screwtop jars and store in the dark. Use to massage gently on to painful joints and bruises.
Rosemary conserve is an old-fashioned recipe which is said to lift the spirits and relieve depression.
* To make a conserve: Add 1 ½ cups of sugar to ½ cup of fresh soft flowering tips. Grind in a pestle and mortar, or the electric blender, with a little rosemary infusion added to stop the mixture from sticking. Add more infusion if necessary to make it the consistency of thick honey. Pour into a stoppered jar and keep in a cool place or in the refrigerator. Take 1 teaspoonful for a headache, cold or when feeling depressed.
* To relieve a stuffy cold and a feeling of congestion, a small muslin or cheesecloth bag can be made containing a mixture of fresh finely crushed rosemary and coltsfoot leaves. Held under the nose it helps to clear the head.
Rosemary is used in many beauty care products, in soaps and perfumes, toilet waters and hair preparations, all of which can be purchased from health stores or chemists. It is an excellent herb for the hair, stimulating the circulation of the scalp and thus helping to get rid of dandruff and to improve the growth and condition of the hair. Rosemary hair lotion can be applied to the scalp four times a week.
* To make the lotion: Pour 1 cupful of boiling water on to 1 ½ tablespoons of fresh or dried rosemary. Leave the infusion to stand for 20 minutes. Strain into a stoppered jar and store in a cool place. Use within a few days. Dip cotton wool into the lotion and rub into the scalp. This is a good lotion for all types of hair.
Rosemary shampoo made at home uses a strong decoction of rosemary added to soapwort shampoo (see page I 25).
* To make the decoction: Pour 1 cupful of water on to 1 heaped tablespoon of dried rosemary in an enamel pan. Bring it slowly to the boil and simmer gently for 20—30 minutes. Strain and leave to cool before mixing it with soapwort shampoo.
As a hair rinse for dark hair, make double the amount of decoction and after shampooing the hair and rinsing it in the usual manner use rosemary decoction to rinse through the hair several times. It will leave the hair soft, shining and easy to manage, and it improves the colour of dark hair.
* Rosemary makes a good skin tonic, stimulating and clearing a dull complexion. It will help to reduce puffiness under the eyes. The lotion is made as rosemary tea (see Medicinal Use) and left to cool before straining into a stoppered jar. In the morning use cotton wool soaked in lotion to smooth over the face, pressing lightly on to the puffiness. Do not use on the skin under the eyes at night. Use up the lotion within a few days.
A rosemary skin lotion, which can be kept for longer than rosemary tea lotion, can be made using distilled water and a little brandy.
* To make skin lotion: Into an enamel pan put a handful of fresh or dried rosemary leaves. Add 1 cup of distilled water and 1 tablespoon of brandy. Bring the mixture to the boil, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain and when cold pour into a screwtop bottle. Keep in a cool place.
A decoction of rosemary is good for fading freckles and reducing wrinkles.
* To make a skin tonic: Add 2 handfuls of the herb to 2 cups of water in an enamel pan. Bring to the boil and boil for 2 minutes. Leave to infuse for 20 minutes, and then strain into a stoppered bottle. Keep in the cool and dab on the skin night and morning.
A rosemary footbath is a refreshing remedy for tired, swollen, sweaty feet and, used two or three times a week, will help to reduce excessive perspiration.
* To make a footbath: [“lake sufficient rosemary decoction to cover the feet when placed in a bowl. Allow it to cool until lukewarm, and then strain into the bowl. Soak the feet for 10 minutes and dry well afterwards. Make a fresh decoction for each application.
For a stimulating, fragrant and refreshing bath add rosemary infusion to the bath water.
* To make a herbal bath: [‘lake a strong infusion, using a cup of boiling water poured on to 2 handfuls of rosemary, and leave it to stand for 15 minutes. Strain the infusion and add to the bath water.
* Dried rosemary leaves and flowering tips can both be added to a potpourri containing many other herbs. Its strong aromatic scent mingles well with any herb mixture and helps to provide a long-lasting fragrance. Rosemary on its own, arranged in a vase or dried and put into a bowl, will cleanse the air in a stuffy room and help to keep it fresh and sweet. Small muslin or cheesecloth bags filled with dried rosemary can be laid between clothes and linen or hung in the wardrobe (closet). It will act as a moth deterrent and impart a sweet fragrance to the clothes.
A herb cushion with its clean clear scent can be filled with a mixture of finely crushed rosemary, woodruff, lemon verbena and angelica. Use a fine muslin or cheesecloth for the inside cushion and make a pretty flowered cotton cover. The herb filling will need to be renewed after six or nine months when it begins to lose its fragrance and strength.
Rosemary is associated with fidelity, love and remembrance. In the Middle Ages, in Europe, rosemary was said to possess magical qualities. In England, if a rosemary plant grew outside a house it was a sign that the wife ruled the household. Some husbands would remove the root of the plant so it withered and died, therefore dispelling rumours from prying neighbours.