ROSEMARY, Rosmarinus Officinalis

Rosemary has been a herb of prominence for thousand of years. It is not a strikingly beautiful plant, but its fragrant aroma and healing ability makes up for any lack of beauty.

Way back in the early 1200's, there was a Queen Elizabeth who was the ruler of Hungary. Well, it seemed that the Queen liked to eat tarts and cakes and all that good stuff that makes rheumatism and gout rather unbearable. When she couldn't stand the pain any longer, Queen Elizabeth put out the word to the whole kingdom. Someone had better come up with a cure for her majesty's miseries, or some of her loyal subjects would be in a world of hurt.

Well, the history books record that there was a little old gnarled hermit who thought the Queen was a pretty special lady. He hated to see her all crippled up and partly paralyzed with arthritis and rheumatism. He gathered up a whole bunch of rosemary in full bloom and soaked it in some white wine for a few days. He then distilled the oily fluid out and gave it to his beloved Queen. She rubbed this aromatic potion on her hurting and paralyzed joints and limbs. You guessed it. She overcame her paralysis and rheumatism. ( I think she must have changed her diet, too). The story didn't say what happened to the little old gnarled hermit, but the Queen got so healthy and beautiful that the king of Poland asked her to marry him even though she was seventy two years old.

Rosemary is an evergreen shrub. Some species grow close to the ground and some are bushes that grow several feet tall. The needles or leaves are green and leathery and grow in RE clusters or whorls of one to a dozen on opposite sides of the branch. The underneath side of the needle has an indented vein that is light gray and runs from the tip to the stem. The flower is pale blue to white and grows in raceme or groups out of the end of the cluster of needles. They have two lips and look something like a snapdragon or penstemon. They start blooming in early spring and last until late fall. The scent of the rosemary is close to that of the pine, only spicier and slightly perfumed. Rosemary is sometimes put in scent bags in closets to discourage months. In early times, rosemary was hung around to ward off evil spirits.

Rosemary has been used as a healing herb for many centuries. It is another one of those herbs that is good for many different ailments. It is used as a stimulant to get things going, as an emmenagogue to help female to help female complaints, as a tonic to tone up the body, as an astringent to tighten tissue and stop bleeding, as a diaphoretic to aid in sweating, as a nervine to soothe and build the nerves and help a nervous headache, as a carminative to help expel gas from the stomach or bowel, as an aromatic for a nice smell, as a stomachic to soothe the stomach and help digestion, as an antispasmodic to relieve tension and to work against spasms, and the list goes on and on.

Rosemary and juniper were used to disinfect hospitals in many countries of Europe as late as the Second World War. They would steep teas out of these herbs and the sick rooms were washed down with them. Sometimes a pan of this tea would be simmered to dispel the smell of the stale and foul odor of sickness. Since the time of the Greeks and the Romans, rosemary has been known for its ability to strengthen the memory. One 90 year old said, “I don't why there's a fuss about remembering. I just drink my rosemary tea each day. I thought everyone did. We could say many more things like rosemary will help restore hair, soothe the nerves, calm the stomach or aid digestion. We haven't say said much about cooking, but rosemary is a fine culinary herb.

With all this in mind, I think every home should have some rosemary growing around it.

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