Herbal Remedies

Rosemary Essential Oil: Benefits, History, and Uses

By Justin Fowler-Lindner

Rosemary is an affordable herb with a robust flavor and a long list of health benefits.

For starters, the phenolic compounds in rosemary oil are potent antioxidants.

Plus, many of them have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties.

Together, they make rosemary well-suited for a variety of health problems, especially those linked to lipid oxidation, like aging and cancer.

Here are a few of the top health benefits of rosemary essential oil:

  • Slows hair loss
  • Aid in the treatment cancer
  • Aid in cognitive function
  • Reduces stress
  • Supports the liver

Additionally, rosemary is an effective non-toxic food preservative.

Let’s take a closer look at everything that rosemary oil has to offer.

What Is Rosemary Essential Oil?

Rosemary, or Rosmarinus officinalis, is an aromatic plant related to mint, lavender, sage, and basil.

The leaves and stems are used to make rosemary essential oil. 

Carnosic acid and carnosol are the most influential therapeutic compounds in rosemary oil.

The History of Rosemary Oil

Today, most of the world’s rosemary is grown in the province of Murcia in Southeast Spain.

However, rosemary oil has been used by the Hebrews, Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians for thousands of years.

In the Middle Ages, rosemary adorned wedding couples as a good luck charm, and in Europe it continues to be used as a sign of remembrance at funerals.

How Rosemary Essential Oil Is Made

Rosemary essential oil is made from the plant’s fresh twigs and leaves through steam distillation: a process where steam is passed through the plant to separate the oil from the organic matter.

Most medicinal extracts, however, are prepared from dried leaves via solvent extraction.

When finished, rosemary oil has a dank, woody scent that lights up the senses.

How to Use Rosemary Essential Oil

Like most essential oils, rosemary can be ingested, inhaled, or applied topically. 


When ingested, rosemary oil can improve liver function and reduce cortisol.

However, oral essential oil comes with a few words of warning:

  • Never take it for more than 7-14 consecutive days to avoid stomach irritation.
  • Diluting rosemary oil in water can reduce the risk of digestive side effects. 
  • Not all rosemary oils are food-grade. Always make sure that your oil is 100% pure.


Rosemary oil aromatherapy has been shown to have powerful effects on cognitive function.

To boost memory, you can put this essential oil in a diffuser, or mix a few drops of pure rosemary oil with half a cup of water and spraying the solution around a room.

Topical Application

Mix three drops of rosemary oil with half a teaspoon of coconut oil and rub it into the back of your neck for localized pain relief.

Additionally, rosemary oil is one of the best essential oils for hair since it can promote hair growth when applied as a shampoo solution.

Rosemary Essential Oil Has Potent Anti-Inflammatory, Antioxidant, Antimicrobial, and Antibacterial Properties

Studies show that rosemary essential oil has many beneficial properties that promote natural healing.

  • A 2014 in vitro study found that rosemary oil exerts anti-inflammatory effects on human cells. 
  • According to a 2018 medical article, “Several studies have reported that rosemary extracts show biological bioactivities such as hepatoprotective, antifungal, insecticide, antioxidant and antibacterial.”
  • A 2014 study published in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, found that rosemary essential oil can effectively scavenge free radicals and protect the liver by activating the body’s natural physiological defense mechanisms.

Lastly, the antibacterial effects of rosemary have been shown to preserve sensitive foods like cooked beef, pork sausage, and meatballs. 

Rosemary oil can also kill E. coli, S. aureus, Bacillus cereus, and Enterobacteriaceae bacteria.

5 Health Benefits of Rosemary Essential Oil

Rosemary’s high antioxidant activity and other therapeutic properties have been linked to several healthy side effects.

Here are a few of the top health benefits of rosemary oil:

1. Prevent Hair Loss

Are you battling hair loss?

Rosemary oil is one of the best natural remedies for hair loss, and it works with all types of hair.

However, it’s most effective as a treatment for androgenetic alopecia, also known as male/female pattern baldness. Although it can happen to both men and women, alopecia is significantly more common in men.

Alopecia happens when dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a byproduct of testosterone, attacks hair follicles. If undelt with, it can lead to permanent hair loss.

Luckily, multiple studies show that rosemary oil for hair can treat the underlying causes of alopecia:

  • In a human study published in the journal SkinMed, 50 patients with alopecia were treated with either topical rosemary oil or a 2 percent minoxidil solution for six months. By the end of the study, both groups experienced reduced hair loss. The rosemary group, however, had fewer side effects like scalp itching.
  • A 2014 rodent study found that topical rosemary extract can improve hair regrowth in mice with DHT-induced hair loss. 
  • In a 7-month, randomized, double-blind control study, 86 patients with alopecia were treated with either an essential oil mixture (rosemary, thyme, lavender, and cedarwood) or a carrier oil placebo (grapeseed and jojoba oil). 44 percent of the essential oil group showed improvement compared to only 15 percent in the placebo group.

2. May Aid in the Treatment of Cancer

The anti-inflammatory properties of rosemary oil may help destroy cancer cells.

An article in the journal Nutrients claims that rosemary exhibits anti-cancer effects on colon, breast, lung, liver, pancreatic, and cervical cancer.

According to a separate article, “[Rosemary oil] appears to be well tolerated in that it has a selective toxicity towards cancer cells versus non-tumorigenic cells and is well tolerated when administered to animals.”

3. May Aid in Cognitive Function

Rosemary oil may play a special role in cognitive function, especially in patients with Alzheimer’s.

According to a 2016 study, rosemary oil may preserve neuronal health by reducing inflammation and inhibiting amyloid beta formation.

In a Japanese study, 28 elderly patients were treated with either essential oil aromatherapy (rosemary, lemon, orange, and lavender) or a placebo. By the end of the study, the essential oil group showed greater improvements in personal orientation and cognitive function than the control group.

4. Reduce Stress

Chronic stress is linked to excessive cortisol production, inflammation, and hormone imbalances.

Luckily, a 2007 study in the journal Psychiatry Research found that just five minutes of rosemary and lavender essential oil aromatherapy can effectively reduce salivary cortisol levels in humans.

By reducing cortisol, rosemary oil may support the immune system, reduce inflammation, and relieve stress since it’s made from high-quality herbs for anxiety, as well as support the microbiome (the colonies of microorganisms that live in the gut).

5. Liver Cleanser

Rosemary oil may also support liver function.

In a 2015 study, rodents with chemically-induced liver cirrhosis experienced significant improvements after being treated with rosemary and olive oil extracts.

Another study from 2014 also concluded that rosemary essential oil “mediates its hepatoprotective effects [prevents damage to the liver] through activation of physiological defense mechanisms.”

Additional Advantages of Rosemary Essential Oil

Not only can rosemary oil potentially reduce stress, kill cancer cells, and improve brain function, it can also heal skin irritations. Many people combine rosemary and tea tree essential oil with a carrier oil to create a skin care topical that helps nourish and moisturize the skin.

If you intend to ingest rosemary oil, take into consideration what prescription medications or concurrent health issues you have. Ask your doctor for medical advice before introducing rosemary oil into your daily routine.

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