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Rosemary - Natural remedy of the month

   March 2010



rosemaryAt the end of February a lot of media carried reports about some new health benefits discovered from that ubiquitous herb rosemary. Evidently its properties can help prevent carcinogenic (cancer) compounds forming when meat is cooked at very high temperatures.

This however is only the tip of the iceberg - it has been known for a long time that this wonderfully flavoured herb can offer a range of great health benefits.

The evergreen shrub (Rosmarinus officinalis) was originally a native of Mediterranean countries and it played a vital role in the cuisines of the Greeks and Romans who used it to flavour wine as well as food. Its long medicinal history includes being brewed into drinks used to help digestive, skin and nervous complaints and in the middle ages it was used to fumigate houses against the plague.

Rosemary also has spiritual and religious significance especially in connection with remembering the dead; Shakespeare wrote: “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance”. Rosemary is often planted around war memorials and cemeteries.

While we will I am sure continue to use rosemary for its wonderful flavour and aromatic scent, it is its medical benefits that are now attracting attention.

Applied to the skin, many believe the essential oils of rosemary will strengthen the capillaries and have a real rejuvenating effect, but its health properties go a lot further than that.

The compounds in rosemary, rosmarinic acid, carnosol and carnosic acid, play an important role in protecting the brain from damage by free radicals, reducing the risk of stroke, neurodegenerative conditions including Alzheimer’s Disease and the stressful effects of ageing.

A recent report, from the Burnham Institute for Medical Research in La Jolla, California and in Japan, confirms these findings. Rosemary is also a rich source of vitamin E (alpha tocopherol), a potent antioxidant which contributes even further to its powers to fight free radicals in the body.

Many believe rosemary can help boost the functioning of the liver and also act as a mild diurectic to help reduce swelling. Then there are reports that rosemary can help block oestrogen and therefore contribute towards preventing breast cancer. There have been reports that the natural antioxidants found in rosemary, including monoterpenes, phenolic diterpenes and flavonoids, help boost the body’s defence against a range of problems.

Research is ongoing, but isn’t it great news that this wonderfully tasting herb, that can add so much to our cooking, can also be so good for us?

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