Notes from the Apothecary

Notes from the Apothecary: Rosemary


Rosemary; anthos; dew of the sea. This fragrant, woody evergreen has been cultivated by humans for millennia. Its uses range from pest control to flavouring fine foods, with a gamut of others in between. Simply brushing past Rosemary causes the most amazing smell to present itself; like a spirit arriving unseen, it makes your senses tingle. Rosemary is a powerful herb yet readily available, and can be grown in a pot on most windowsills. For those that simply have no way to grow, most supermarkets/grocery stores stock the dried product.

In the Kitchen

Rosemary is often paired off with lamb and not much else. That does this diverse herb a great disservice, as well as being mean to vegetarians and vegans! Rosemary is well suited in many Mediterranean dishes, adds flavour to soups, broths and stews, is amazing with roasted vegetables and can even be used for teas and in smoothies.

I particularly like the combination of garlic and rosemary, and often use this to flavour starchy, otherwise bland items such as bread or potatoes.

For you meat eaters, try rosemary as a seasoning for beef sometimes. The smell while the joint is cooking is quite astonishing! Rosemary also reduces the amount of carcinogens produced by meat cooked at high temperatures, so it’s well worth remembering the herb when thinking of your barbecue marinades.

Science tells us…

The fantastic and unique aroma rosemary produces may actually be an aid to good memory. This is very interesting, because as early as the 17th century, we know (thanks to Shakespeare) that rosemary was used as a herb of remembrance. Jemma McCready and Mark Moss of University of Northumbria, UK found that in studies, healthy adults were better not only at remembering past events, but also at remembering to do tasks in the future. The findings may have implications for treating those with memory impairment, or perhaps even conditions such as Alzheimer’s. Rosemary is also linked to improved intellectual performance.

As a Witch…

It’s worth remembering that Rosemary has a magical heritage reaching all the way back to the ancient Greeks. Aphrodite was born draped in rosemary, suggesting connections with life, birth and otherworldliness. Rosemary is even mentioned in stories about the Virgin Mary. Any herb that can make the jump from ancient mythology to modern Christianity without being denigrated in some way is clearly a powerhouse of the phytological world.

Despite the association with goddesses, rosemary is considered to be a masculine plant, with strong correspondences to the sun and fire. I often use rosemary as an ingredient of incense for the Morrígan, as the fire and passion aspect of her personality, and the masculine aspect creates balance.

Like sage, it can be burned to cleanse or smudge a sacred area, and is particularly good for banishing negativity and keeping it away. Rosemary is a protective herb, and some hung on the outside of your door marks the boundary of your territory and helps keep unwanted presences away.

Rosemary was used throughout the middle ages as part of wedding garlands. Some say this means the herb is associated with fidelity and love, but I prefer to see it as a sign of commitment or devotion. Use rosemary when you want to make a commitment to your deity or spirit, or to yourself. Use it in incense, have a pot of it or some leaves on your altar, or maybe cook some delicious food with it. Whatever your intent, you are making a promise to yourself and the universe that you will carry through with it; you will be true to your purpose.

For you to try at home

When studying or meditating, take a tissue and put a few drops of rosemary essential oil on it and place it near you. If you can’t get the oil, rub some of the fresh leaves between your palms, or pop a couple of teaspoons of the dried herb into a bowl of very hot water. Relax before you begin your work, or if meditating, make sure you take a note of the heady fragrance as you are focusing on your breathing. The rosemary should stimulate your brain power, opening up pathways to creativity and intellect. Images and visions from your meditation should be clearer and stay with you for longer, and whatever you study should be retained with less effort. Try it, and see how it works!

And finally, one thing you didn’t know about rosemary…

Although it’s a woody, evergreen shrub, rosemary is actually a member of the mint family. It is, therefore, closely related to lavender. It’s possibly a surprise, then, that smelling lavender can actually have the opposite effect of rosemary, in that it makes you forget things!