087. Rosmarinus officinalis. Common Rosemary.

Botanical name: 

087. Rosmarinus officinalis. 087. Rosmarinus officinalis. C. Synonyma. Rosmarinus. Pharm. Lond. & Edinb.
Rosmarinum coronarium. Gerard. Emac. p. 1292.
Rosmarinus hortensis angustiore folio. Bauh. Pin. p. 217.
Rosmarinus coronarius fructicosus. J. Bauh. Hist. v. ii. p. 25. Raii Hist. p. 515.
Libanotis coronaria sive rosmarinum vulgare. Park. Theat. p. 71.

Class Diandria. Ord. Monogynia. Lin. Gen. Plant. 38.
Ess. Gen. Ch. Cor. inaequalis: labio superiore bipartito. Filamenta longa, curva, simplicia cum dente.

The root is strong, woody, and fibrous: the stalk is shrubby, covered with a rough grey bark, divided into many branches, and rises frequently to the height of six or eight feet: the leaves are sessile, or without footstalks, numerous, long, narrow, entire, obtusely pointed, on the upper side of a dark green, on the under of a greyish or silvery colour, and placed in whorls upon the branches: the flowers are large, of a pale blue colour, and arise from the axillae of the leaves: the calyx is divided into two lips, of these the uppermost is entire, but the undermost is cloven into two pointed segments: the corolla is monopetalous, consisting of a cylindrical tube, longer than the calyx, and divided at the brim into two lips; the upper lip is erect and bifid, the under lip is separated into three segments; of these the middle segment is larger than both the others: the two filaments are long, curved, tapering, towards the base furnished with a small tooth, and supplied with simple anthers: the germen is separated into four parts, which support a slender style, terminated by a cleft pointed stigma: the seeds are four, of an oblong shape, and lodged in the bottom of the calyx. Rosemary [Ros dici putatur quia roscidae sit naturae, vel quia roris instar aspergatur, vel quia ejus usus in aspergillis, quad nobis verisimilius videtur: marinus autem vel quia in marinis locis feliciter proveniat, vel quia saporis marini, hoc est, amari. Voss. Etymolog. Vide Ray, l. c.] is a native of the South of Europe and the Levant. It is commonly cultivated in our gardens, where it usually flowers in April and May.

The ancients were well acquainted with this plant, as it is mentioned by Dioscorides, Galen, and Pliny. [It is called (greek) by the Greeks, (Dioscor. Lib. 3. cap. 89.) Pliny, Lib. 24. cap. II. de rore marino. Hence it may have been alluded to by Virgil in the following lines: Nam jejuna quidem clivosi glarea ruris / Vix humiles apibus casias roremque ministrat. Georg. ii. v. 212.] It grows wild in some of the southern parts of France, but more abundantly in Spain and Italy. Its cultivation in this country, like many other plants which we have had occasion to mention, is probably of ancient date, but now cannot be traced beyond the time of Gerard.

Rosemary has a fragrant aromatic smell, and a bitterish pungent taste. The leaves and tops of this plant are the strongest in their sensible qualities: the flowers, which are also directed for use by the College, are not to be separated from their cups or calyces, as the active matter principally, if not wholly, resides in the latter. [Lewis M. M. p. 544.] "Rosemary gives out its virtues completely to rectified spirit, but only partially to water. The leaves and tops, distilled with water, yield a thin light pale-coloured essential oil of great fragrancy, though not quite so agreeable as the Rosemary itself: from one hundred pounds of the herb in flower were obtained eight ounces of oil: the decoction thus divested of the aromatic part of the plant yields, on being inspissated, an unpleasant bitterish extract. Rectified spirit likewise, distilled from Rosemary leaves, becomes considerably impregnated with their fragrance, leaving however in the extract the greatest share both of their flavour and pungency. The active matter of the flowers is somewhat more volatile than that of the leaves, the greatest part of it arising with spirit." [Lewis, l. c.]

Rosemary is reckoned one of the most powerful of those plants, which stimulate and corroborate the nervous system; it has therefore been recommended in various affections, supposed to proceed from debilities, or defective excitement of the brain and nerves; as in certain headachs, deafnesses, giddinesses, palsies, &c. and in some hysterical and dyspeptic symptoms. Dr. Cullen supposes the stimulant power of Rosemary insufficient to reach the sanguiferous system; ["It has justly had the reputation of a cephalic, or as a medicine that gently stimulates the nervous system, but hardly so strongly as to affect the sanguiferous." M. M. vol. ii. p. 151.] it has however the character of being an emmenagogue, and the only disease in which Bergius states it to be useful is the chlorofis. ["Virtus: resolvens, nervina corroborans, emmenagoga. Usus. Chlorosis." — M. M. p. 21.] The officinal preparations of this plant are the oleum essentiale roris marini, and the spiritus roris marini. It is also a principal ingredient in what is known by the name of Hungary water.

By many people Rosemary is drunk as tea for breakfast.

Medical Botany, 1790-1794, was written by William Woodville, M. D., and illustrated by James Sowerby.