The Health Benefits of Rosemary

Don't forget its antioxidant powers.


| January/February 1999


After years of being known in the United States as little more than a culinary flavoring, rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is gaining respect for its potential to heal.

Recent research into rosemary’s chemical makeup shows that the herb contains antioxidants, which inhibit the action of free radicals—unstable molecules believed to cause many diseases, including cancer.

So far, studies of rosemary’s healing effects have been conducted only in test tubes and on animals, although human ­trials are planned. But animal studies show that rosemary’s antioxidants prevent cancer-causing compounds from binding to DNA.

Jim Duke, Ph.D., Herbs for Health editorial advisory board member and author of The Green Pharmacy (Rodale, 1997), says that these studies, along with additional ­evidence, point to the ability of rosemary’s antioxidants to prevent and suppress Alzheimer’s disease.

“Alzheimer’s has been blamed on oxidative and inflammatory processes and on the breakdown or deficiency of choline and acetylcholine in the brain,” Duke says. “Rosemary contains more than a dozen antioxidants and a half-dozen compounds reported to prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine.”

Further, Duke and other researchers say that rosemary is at least as effective as the Alzheimer’s drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but that rosemary is gentler on the body.

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