Charmingly fragrant rosemary herb is the perfect potherb to have in your kitchen garden. It is one of the recognized herbs for its noteworthy health benefiting phytonutrients, antioxidants, and essential oils.
Rosemary belongs to the family of Lamiaceae, of the genus, Rosmarinus. Its botanical name is Rosmarinus officinalis.
The herb is thought to be originated in the Mediterranean region as a wild, strewing evergreen perennial shrub. Today, it is grown in nearly all parts of the Mediterranean area and Asia Minor as a major culinary herb.
Rosemary flourishes in well-drained, alkaline soil. It prefers sunny condition but at the same time needs shelter from gusty winds. The plant reaches about 1.5-3 meters in height. Its bushy stems and downy young shoots are covered with about 1 inch long, narrow, needle-like aromatic leaves; dark green above and grayish underneath. The plant bears short racemes of small sea-blue flowers appearing in early summer.
Rosemary herb. Note for narrow, dark green leaves.
The plant parts; flowers and leaves have a fragrance that is pungently aromatic and somewhat camphoraceous (camphor-like).
Apart from culinary and medicinal purpose, traditionally rosemary shoots, flowers, and leaves are being used in festivals and wedding ceremonies to decorate banquet halls as incense to ward off bad influences.
Health benefits of Rosemary herb
Rosemary leaves contain certain phytochemical (plant-derived) compounds that are known to have disease preventing and health promoting properties.
The herb parts, especially flower tops include phenolic antioxidant rosmarinic acid as well as numerous health benefiting volatile essential oils such as cineol, camphene, borneol, bornyl acetate, α-pinene, etc. These compounds are known to have rubefacient (counterirritant), anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, anti-fungal and antiseptic properties.
Rosemary leaves provide just 131 calories per 100 g and contain no cholesterol. Apart from nutrients, this humble herb contains many noteworthy non-nutrient components such as dietary fiber (37% of RDA).
The herb is exceptionally rich in many B-complex groups of vitamin, such as folic acid, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, riboflavin. It is one of the herbs containing high levels of folates; providing about 109 µg per 100 g (about 27% of RDA). Folates are essential DNA synthesis and when given during the peri-conception period can help prevent neural tube defects in the newborns.
Rosemary herb carries great amounts of vitamin A, 2924 IU per 100 g or about 97% of RDA. A few leaves a day in the diet, would contribute enough of this vitamin. Vitamin-A is known to have antioxidant properties and is essential for vision. It is also required for maintaining healthy mucosa and skin. Consumption of natural foods rich in vitamin A is known to help the body protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
Fresh rosemary leaves are a good source of antioxidant vitamin, vitamin-C; containing about 22 mg per 100 g, about 37% of RDA. It is essential for collagen synthesis in the human body. Collagen is the main structural protein in the body required for maintaining the integrity of blood vessels, skin, organs, and bones. Regular consumption of foods rich in vitamin-C helps the body protect from scurvy; develop resistance against infectious agents (boosts immunity) and help scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals from the body.
Rosemary herb parts, whether fresh or dried, are a rich source of minerals like potassium, calcium, iron, manganese, copper, and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids, which helps control heart rate and blood pressure. The human body uses manganese as a cofactor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.
This herb is an excellent source of iron, contains 6.65 mg/100 g of fresh leaves (about 83% of RDA). Iron, being a component of hemoglobin inside the red blood cells, determines the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood.