The Rosemary is a well-known, sweet-scented shrub, cultivated in

our gardens, and herb beds on account of its fragrancy and its

aromatic virtues. It came originally from the South of Europe and

the Levant, and was introduced into England before the Norman

Conquest. The shrub (Rosmarinus) takes its compound name

from ros, dew, marinus, belonging to the sea; in allusion to the

grey, glistening appearance of the plant, an
its natural locality, as

well as its odour, like that of the sea. It is ever green, and bears

small, pale, blue flowers.

Rosemary was thought by the ancients to refresh the memory and

comfort the brain. Being a cordial herb it was often mentioned in the

lays, or amorous ballads, of the Troubadours; and was called

Coronaria [471] because women were accustomed to make

crowns and garlands thereof.

What flower is that which regal honour craves?

Adjoin the Virgin: and 'tis strewn o'er graves.

In some parts of England Rosemary is put with the corpse into the

coffin, and sprigs of it are distributed among the mourners at a

funeral, to be thrown into the grave, Gay alludes to this practice

when describing the burial of a country lass who had met with an

untimely death:--

To show their love, the neighbours far and near

Followed, with wistful looks, the damsel's bier;

Sprigged Rosemary the lads and lasses bore,

While dismally the Parson walked before;

Upon her grave the Rosemary they threw,

The Daisy, Butter flower, and Endive blue,

In Romeo and Juliet, Father Lawrence says:--

Dry up your tears, and stick your Rosemary

On this fair corse.

The herb has a pleasant scent and a bitter, pungent taste, whilst

much of its volatile, active principle resides in the calices of the

flowers; therefore, in storing or using the plant these parts must be

retained. It yields its virtues partially to water, and entirely to

rectified spirit of wine.

In early times Rosemary was grown largely in kitchen gardens, and

it came to signify the strong influence of the matron who dwelt


Where Rosemary flourishes the woman rules,

The leaves and tops afford an essential volatile oil, but not so much

as the flowers.

A spirit made from this essential oil with spirit of wine will help to

renovate the vitality of paralyzed limbs, if rubbed in with brisk

friction. The volatile oil [472] includes a special camphor similar to

that possessed by the myrtle. The plant also contains some tannin,

with a resin and a bitter principle. By old writers it was said to

increase the flow of milk.

The oil is used officinally for making a spirit of Rosemary, and is

added to the compound tincture of Lavender, as well as to Soap

liniment. By common consent it is agreed that the volatile oil (or the

spirit) when mixed in washes will specially stimulate growth of the

hair. The famous Hungary water, first concocted for a Queen of

Hungary who, by its continual use, became effectually cured of

paralysis, was prepared by putting a pound and a half of the fresh

tops of Rosemary, when in full flower, into a gallon of proof spirit,

which had to stand for four days, and was then distilled.

Hungary water (l'eau de la reine d'Hongrie) was formerly very

famous for gout in the hands and feet. Hoyes says, the formula for

composing this water, written by Queen Elizabeth's own hand in

golden characters, is still preserved in the Imperial Library at


An ounce of the dried leaves and flowers treated with a pint of

boiling water, and allowed to stand until cold, makes one of the best

hair washes known. It has the singular power of preventing the hair

from uncurling when exposed to a damp atmosphere. The herb is

used in the preparation of Eau de Cologne.

Rosemary wine, taken in small quantities, acts as a quieting cordial

to a heart of which the action is excitable or palpitating, and it

relieves ally accompanying dropsy by stimulating the kidneys. This

wine may be made by chopping up sprigs of Rosemary, and pouring

on them some sound white wine, which after two or [473] three

days, may be strained off and used. By stimulating the nervous

system it proves useful against the headaches of weak circulation

and of languid health. If a garlande of the tree be put around the

heade it is a remedy for the stuffing of the head that cometh from


The green-leaved variety of Rosemary is the sort to be used

medicinally. There are also silver and gold-leaved diversities. Sprigs

of the herb were formerly stuck into beef whilst roasting as an

excellent relish. A writer of 1707 tells of Rosemary-preserve to

dress your beef.

The toilet of the Ancients was never considered complete without

an infusion, or spirit of Rosemary; and in olden times Rosemary

was entwined in the wreath worn by the bride at the altar, being first

dipped in scented water. Anne of Cleves, one of Henry the Eighth's

wives, wore such a wreath at her wedding; and when people could

afford it, the Rosemary branch presented to each guest was richly


The custom which prevailed in olden times of carrying a sprig of

Rosemary in the hand at a funeral, took its rise from the notion of an

alexipharmick or preservative powder in this herb against

pestilential disorders; and hence it was thought that the smelling

thereof was a powerful defence against any morbid effluvia from the


For the same reason it was usual to burn Rosemary in the chambers

of the sick, just as was formerly done with frankincense, which gave

the Greeks occasion to call the Rosemary Libanotis. In the French

language of flowers this herb represents the power of rekindling lost

energy. The flowers of Rosemary, says an old author, made up

into plates (lozenges), with sugar, [474] and eaten, comfort the

heart, and make it merry, quicken the spirits, and make them more

lively. There's Rosemary for you--that's for remembrance! Pray

you, love, remember! says Ophelia in Hamlet. The spirit of

Rosemary is kept by all druggists, and may be safely taken in doses

of from twenty to thirty drops with a spoonful or two of water.

Rosemary tea will soon relieve hysterical depression. Some persons

drink it as a restorative at breakfast. It will help to regulate the

monthly flow of women. An infusion of the herb mixed with poplar

bark, and used every night, will make the hair soft, glossy, and


In Northern Ireland is found the Wild Rosemary, or Marsh Tea

(Ledum palustre), which has admirable curative uses, and from

which, therefore, though it is not a common plant in England, a

medicinal tincture (H.) is made with spirit of wine.

The herb belongs to the Rock Rose tribe, and contains citric acid,

leditannic acid, resin, wax, and a volatile principle called


This plant is of singular use as a remedy for chilblains, as well as to

subdue the painful effects of a sting from a wasp or bee; also to

relieve gouty pains, which attack severely, but do not cause swelling

of the part, especially as regards the fingers and toes. Four or five

drops of the tincture should be taken for a dose with a tablespoonful

of cold water, three or four times in the day; and linen rags soaked

in a lotion made with a teaspoonful of the tincture added to half a

tumblerful of cold water, should be kept applied over the affected


It equally relieves whitlows; and will heal punctured wounds, if

arnica, or the Marigold, or St. John's Wort is not indicated, or of

use. When tested by provers in large doses, it has caused a

widespread eruption of [475] eczema, with itching and tingling of

the whole skin, extending into the mouth and air passages, and

occasioning a violent spasmodic cough. Hence, one may fairly

assume (and this has been found to hold good), that a gouty,

spasmodic cough of the bronchial tubes, attended with gouty

eczema, and with pains in the smaller joints, will be generally cured

by tincture or infusion of the Wild Rosemary in small doses of a

diluted strength, given several times a day, the diet at the same time

being properly regulated. Formerly this herb was used in Germany

for making beer heady; but it is now forbidden by law.