rosemary herb and rosemary essential oil
About Essential Oils

The Amazing Rosemary Essential Oil: 15 Benefits plus History, Health and Hair Care

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Rosemary essential oil is an AMAZING oil with a ton of benefits. It is an evergreen shrub with needle-like leaves and a woodsy aroma.

A member of the mint family, Rosemary belongs to an aromatic family of herbs that includes Basil, Lavender, Myrtle, and Sage.  Its appearance, too, is like Lavender with flat pine needles that have a light trace of silver.

See below for a printable PDF with Diffuser Blends Using Rosemary Essential Oils

rosemary herb and rosemary essential oil

The name, “Rosemary” comes from the Latin term “Dew of the Sea” purportedly because it is native to the sea cliffs of the Mediterranean region.

It was considered sacred by ancient Greeks, Egyptians, Hebrews, and Romans. They used it to improve memory, as an incense, for protection, and as a reminder of the life and death cycle, among other things. It was also widely used by healers in early cultures.

Rosmarinus officinalis, the Latin name for this highly aromatic shrub is mostly known for its use in cooking as a seasoning agent.

About Rosemary Essential Oil and the Chemistry of Rosemary

The “oil” is extracted from the flowering tops of the plant, but despite the name, Rosemary Essential Oil, it is not a true oil as it does not contain fat.



chemistry of essential oils

There are several main chemical components of Rosemary Essential Oil:  1,8-Cineole, a-pinene, camphor. Each provides numerous benefits when used.

The chemical makeup of Rosemary oil allows it to repel insects and influence mood. Pinene and camphor are the monoterpenes in Rosemary essential oil that give it the ability to deter insects. These chemicals are also what make Rosemary oil so invigorating and stimulating, thus the effects on mood.

Due to rosemary oil’s use in folk medicine, many research labs are now testing the benefits of Rosemary essential oil.

The History of Rosemary Oil

As mentioned above, Rosemary is a fragrant herb native to the Mediterranean region.  It also grows in England, Mexico, the USA, and Morocco.

Historically, the Rosemary plant was considered sacred by ancient Greeks, Egyptians, Hebrews, and Romans.

The Greeks wore Rosemary garlands on their heads while studying, as it was believed to improve memory, and both the Greeks and the Romans used Rosemary in almost all festivals and religious ceremonies, including weddings, as a reminder of life and death.

Egyptians used the plant for incense, and it’s extracts for other purposes.

In the Middle Ages, Rosemary was believed to ward off evil spirits and to prevent the onset of the bubonic plague. People laid Rosemary branches were on their floors and in their doorways to ward off the disease.

Rosemary is also a key ingredient in Thieves Essential Oil blend.

In addition, Rosemary is considered a symbol of remembrance and tossed into graves of loved ones as a they would not be forgotten.

Throughout history, Rosemary oil has been used for in cosmetics for its antiseptic, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties and in medicine for its numerous health benefits.

“Rosemary had even become a favorite alternative herbal medicine for the German-Swiss physician, philosopher, and botanist Paracelsus, who promoted its healing properties, including its ability to strengthen the body and to heal organs such as the brain, heart, and liver. Despite being unaware of the concept of germs, people of the 16th century used Rosemary as incense or as massage balms and oils to eliminate harmful bacteria, especially in the rooms of those suffering from illness. For thousands of years, folk medicine has also used Rosemary for its ability to improve memory, soothe digestive issues, and relieve aching muscles.”

While people have been using Rosemary essential oil for thousands of years, modern research is in its infancy.  What has been found, so far, however, is incredibly encouraging and supports the traditional uses of this oil.

15 Rosemary Essential Oil Benefits

1. Helps with Fatigue

Rosemary oil has been commonly used to combat mental and physical fatigue.

In a small study, after healthy young adults inhaled rosemary oil, they reported feeling 30% more mentally refreshed and about 25% less tired as compared to those that inhaled a placebo.

This improvement in alertness and tiredness is caused by Rosemary’s effect on changes in brain waves and increases in heart rate, breathing and blood pressure.

You can apply rosemary directly to your skin (if you have sensitive skin, you’ll want to dilute it with a carrier oil) as it absorbs into the skin and can reach your brain within thirty minutes.

rosemary herb and rosemary oil

Rosemary essential oil can also be taken internally to help reduce fatigue and the effects of stress.  Just add a few drops to your water or juice or put in a veggie capsule.

2. May Relieve Stress

We all have faced stress at one time or another. Stress can be caused by many different things – Many factors can cause stress — trouble at work, financial issues, relationship issues, tests and, of course, many other things. 

Studies have shown that inhaling rosemary oil may help reduce anxiety.

In a study of nursing students, those who inhaled rosemary oil before and during a test, their pulse decreased nearly 9% compared to those who did not inhale the oil.

The effects of an increased pulse rate reflect short-term stress and anxiety and rosemary essential oil may naturally lower stress levels.

In another study, when two dozen young adults inhaled rosemary oil for 5 minutes, their saliva had 23% lower levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) compared to those who inhaled a placebo.

It is interesting to note that increased cortisol levels can suppress your immune system, as well as contribute to insomnia and cause mood swings.

In addition to inhaling Rosemary essential oil, put a few drops in a warm bath for a calming, relaxing self-care practice which will uplift you both mentally and physically.  I like to add some Frankincense and Epsom salts, as well.  It’s great for a little “me time”.

3. Can Improve Brain Function

Research shows that inhaling rosemary essential oil helps prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine, a brain chemical important for thinking, concentration, and memory.

In a small study, young adults were asked math questions in a room diffused with rosemary oil. It concluded that their speed and accuracy increased in direct proportion to the duration the oil was diffused.

Other research concludes that inhaling rosemary oil and other essential oils may improve brain function in those with dementia, as well as those with Alzheimer’s disease.

The chemical makeup of Rosemary essential oil gives it renewing properties that can be both energizing and settling—particularly when you diffuse the oil.

I like to include rosemary essential oil in the diffuser I keep on my desk while working.  It helps to keep me awake and focused and helps me to remember information more easily.

4. May Assist in Relieving Pain

For centuries, Rosemary oil has been used as a mild pain reliever.

In a study of stroke patients with shoulder pain, patients received a rosemary oil blend with acupressure for 20 minutes twice a day.  The patients reported a 30% reduction in pain. Those who received only acupressure had a 15% reduction in pain.

In another study on animals, the researchers concluded that rosemary oil was more effective for pain relief than acetaminophen.

5. Can Stimulate Hair Growth and Help Hair Become Healthier

Rosemary oil treats alopecia (a certain type of hair loss) by preventing a byproduct of testosterone from attacking hair follicles, the cause of the condition.

In a wide study, men with androgenetic alopecia massaged diluted rosemary oil into their scalp twice daily for six months. The men experienced the same increase in hair thickness as those who used minoxidil (Rogaine) and rosemary oil is way less expensive than Rogaine!

In addition, those who used rosemary essential oil on their scalp, reported less scalp itching compared to minoxidil, a side of effect of the drug, making rosemary more tolerable to users.

fresh rosemary growing in garden
Fresh green rosemary herbs growing in garden

In other research studies, rosemary essential oil was found to fight patchy hair loss, which effects up to half the population below age 21 and about 20% of people over 40.

When those experiencing patchy hair loss (alopecia areata) rubbed rosemary essential oil onto their scalp each day for seven months, 44% reported improvement in their hair loss compared to only 15% in the control group, who used the neutral oils, such as carrier oils.

Rosemary essential oil can help to promote full, healthy-looking hair. Apply it “neat” or add Tea Tree (another great oil for hair health) to your scalp.

I use Rosemary Essential oil daily in my hair care routine. More on that below.

See below for more on Rosemary essential oil and hair

6. May Increase Circulation

Poor circulation is common among adults.  It may show as tingly or feeling as though your hands or feet are “asleep – even in warm weather.

Rosemary oil may help to expand your blood vessels, thus warming your blood to that it can more easily reach your fingers and toes.

It has also been found to improve the effects of Raynaud’s disease.

I currently use Rosemary oil on my toes to help with my chemo-induced neuropathy.

7. It May Repel Certain Bugs

Rosemary oil has long been known to repel certain harmful insects in your garden or from your skin.  It is a low-cost, natural, and effective alternative to chemical products.

When a rosemary-oil-based pesticide, EcoTrol, was sprayed on greenhouse tomato plants, it reduced the population of two-spotted spider mites by 52% without harming the plants.

Rosemary also helps repel certain blood-sucking insects, such as mosquitoes, that can spread harmful viruses and bacteria.

When rosemary oil was tested against 11 other essential oils, it had the longest repellent effect on a certain type of mosquito, that spread the Zika virus. A simple dilution of 12.5% of rosemary oil repelled 100% of the mosquitoes for 90 minutes.

Additionally, a spray containing 10% of rosemary oil was similarly effective as the chemical insecticide bifenthrin for controlling the spread of black-legged ticks — which harbor Lyme disease — in tick-infested areas in the northeastern US.

8. May Reduce Joint Inflammation

Several research studies have shown that rosemary essential oil may help reduce joint inflammation, pain and stiffness.

Rosemary oil stems the migration of white blood cells to injured tissues which release inflammatory chemicals.

When people with rheumatoid arthritis were given a 15-minute knee massage using a rosemary essential oil blend three times each week, they had a 50% decrease in inflammatory knee pain in two weeks, compared to a 12% decrease in those not given the oil!

9. May Fight Cancer

Rosemary essential oil contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which test-tube studies have shown may fight cancer cells.

I currently use Rosemary essential oil as part of a healing blend of 14 essential oils that have anti-tumoral effects.

10.  Can Increase Effectiveness of Antibiotics and Reduce Side Effects

Rosemary oil has been shown to increase the effectiveness of some antibiotics. In this case, a lower dosage could be used, lessening the side effects of the antibiotics.

11. May Prevent Food poisoning

Rosemary essential oil can inhibit the growth of some strains of bacteria which cause food poisoning.

12. May Help Antibiotics Against Resistant Bacteria

Rosemary has been found to weaken the cell walls of antibiotic-resistant bacteria — not only damaging them but also enabling antibiotics to enter making them more effective.

Click the image below for a free two-page printable with uses and recipes using Rosemary Essential Oil

uses and recipes using rosemary essential oil

13. May Improve Liver and Digestive Health

Several studies on animals have indicated that rosemary oil stimulates the release of bile.  This is important in fat digestion and can boost your own antioxidant defense mechanisms to protect your liver.

As a colon cancer survivor, with metastasis to the liver, I currently take several supplements which include Rosemary for liver and digestive health. (Inner Defense and Multigreens)

14. As a Flavoring Agent

The most widely known method for using Rosemary oil is for a seasoning in cooking. Of course, you can buy fresh Rosemary or the dried type that comes in a bottle.  The fresh is always the best way to go, but the dried variety lacks the same flavor intensity and health benefits of the fresh or essential oil.

If you have a recipe that calls for rosemary, you can add one to two drops of Rosemary oil to the recipe.  It is highly concentrated, so you only need a bit, but not only will it add amazing flavor, you’ll reap the health benefits, as well.

Here are a few terrific recipes for Rosemary essential oil in cooking:

Lemon Rosemary Chicken

Rosemary Roasted Vegetables

Crockpot Turkey Breast

15. It is Easy to Use

Rosemary oil can be inhaled, applied topically, ingested, or added to your bath.  It’s very concentrated, so you only need a small amount at a time.

NOTE OF CAUTION: Pregnant women, those with epilepsy or high blood pressure should avoid using Rosemary essential oil.  It may worsen epileptic events and increase blood pressure.

Avoid getting essential oil in your eyes. If contact occurs, quickly rinse your eyes with cold water.

Rosemary Essential Oil and Hair

For hundreds of years Mediterranean cultures have used Rosemary essential oil to promote hair growth. In our modern times, many studies have been done to confirm its effectiveness for hair growth and thickening as well as overall hair health.

Rosemary has several health benefits that help to promote hair growth including:

  • have anti-inflammatory properties
  • promote nerve growth
  • improve circulation

Like peppermint essential oil (also used to promote hair growth), rosemary essential oil strengthens circulation. As a result, it could prevent hair follicles from being starved of blood supply, dying off, and leading to hair loss.

woman with hair loss problem holding hairbrush; rosemary essential oil for hair

Beyond stimulating hair growth, rosemary essential oil is used to prevent early graying and even dandruff as it prevents dry and itchy scalps.

Scientific studies have proven the effectiveness of Rosemary essential oil for hair growth, mainly in relation to benefitting nerve tissue.

In one scientific study, an active ingredient in Rosemary oil, Carnosic acid, healed tissue, and nerve damage. This ability to heal nerve endings may rejuvenate nerves in the scalp too, possibly restoring hair growth.

Two clinical research studies confirm rosemary oil’s hair growth potential.

Three Ways to Use Rosemary Essential Oil for Hair

Here are a few ways to use Rosemary essential oil for hair restoration or thickening.

1. Massage it directly into your scalp

Put a few drops of Rosemary essential oil on your hand, rub your hands together and massage evenly into your scalp after bath or shower.

2. Mix it into your shampoo

You can also add it to your conditioners and other personal care products. Remember, it is highly concentrated, so you just need a small amount. A general rule of thumb is five drops per ounce of product.

3. Add it to a DIY Shampoo

There are tons of recipes online for homemade shampoo.  You can add any desired essential oils to them for additional health and beauty benefits.  Here’s a good place to find some DIY shampoo recipes.

Hair Care Recipes With Essential Oils

picture of glass bottle with rosemary essential oil, cedarwood essential oil and lavender essential oil for hair care

My favorite way to use Rosemary essential oil for hair health is to add it to my “Mermaid Spray”.  Mermaid spray is made in a glass spray bottle with:

  • 2-3 ounces of Witch Hazel
  • 30 drops of Cedarwood Essential Oil
  • 30 drops Lavender Essential Oil
  • 30 drops Rosemary Essential Oil
  • Then fill rest of bottle with water.  Shake and spray on wet hair after shower or brush through dry hair. Use it daily for best effects.

Diffuser Blends with Rosemary Oil

1. Rosemary Essential Oil Mint

  • 4 drops Rosemary Essential Oil Essential Oil
  • 2 drops Spearmint Essential Oil

2. Awakening

  • 3 drops Lavender Essential Oil
  • 2 drops Rosemary Essential Oil
  • 1 drop Cedarwood Essential Oil

3. Fully Focused

  • 5 drops Lemon Essential Oil
  • 2 drops Cinnamon Bark Essential Oil
  • 2 drops Rosemary Essential Oil

4. No More Grief

  • 4 drops Clary Sage Essential Oil
  • 2 drops Peppermint Essential Oil
  • 2 drops Rosemary Essential Oil

5. Mindful Clarity

  • 2 drops Lime Essential Oil
  • 2 drops Grapefruit Essential Oil
  • 2 drops Rosemary Essential Oil
  • 2 drops Northern Light White Spruce Essential Oil

6. Oh So Smart!

  • 2 drops Cinnamon Bark Essential Oil
  • 2 drops Peppermint Essential Oil
  • 2 drops Rosemary Essential Oil

Click the image below for a printable of these amazing diffuser blends with Rosemary Essential Oil (3 pages!)

7. A Calm Walk in the Garden

  • 4 drops Lavender Essential Oil
  • 2 drops Rosemary Essential Oil
  • 1 drop Lemongrass Essential Oil

8. Breathing Crisp and Clear

  • 3 drops Peppermint Essential Oil
  • 2 drops Eucalyptus Globulus Essential Oil
  • 2 drops Rosemary Essential Oil
  • 1 drop Lemon Essential Oil

9. Go Get It Monday Morning

  • 3 drops Grapefruit Essential Oil
  • 2 drops Lavender Essential Oil
  • 2 drops Rosemary Essential Oil

10. Home Sweet Home

  • 4 drops Orange Essential Oil
  • 3 drops Peppermint Essential Oil
  • 3 drops Rosemary Essential Oil

How have you used Rosemary essential oil? Let me know – I’d love to hear from you!

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