Oil of Rosemary: Science Says May Be Nature’s Best Food Preserver and Health Protector

Rosemary, the herb of love and remembrance, is steeped in thousands of years of myth and tradition. Rosemary is known to have been used for magic, healing, and seasoning since the beginnings of recorded history. Native to seaside regions of the Mediterranean and North Africa, the Latin name Rosemarinus means dew of the sea, likely a reference to the shimmering blue flowers that cover rosemary bushes in mid- winter.

Many people today love rosemary for its uplifting aroma and a delicious flavour, but it has found much wider appreciation over the years.

I looked up just a few bits and pieces of research:

A January 5th, 2012 article in Natural News writes of this scrumptious herb,

Currently, two of the most common additives used to preserve meat are BHT and BHA. But studies have linked BHA with cancer and BHT with hyperactivity, causing some consumers to avoid products containing them (read ingredients labels to find out if they’re in the foods you buy).

In a 2006 study, essential oils of rosemary and sage performed better at preventing oxidative decay and preventing loss of polyunsaturated fatty acids in meat than a combination of BHA and BHT. This means *rosemary oil and sage oil may be one of the best natural food preservers yet discovered, and instead of having detrimental side effects, these natural oils offers protective health benefits!

*please note all preppers!

The University of Maryland writes of Rosemary,

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is widely used as a spice when cooking, especially in Mediterranean dishes. It is also used for its fragrance in soaps and other cosmetics. Traditionally, rosemary has been used medicinally to improve memory, relieve muscle pain and spasm, stimulate hair growth, and support the circulatory and nervous systems. It is also believed to increase menstrual flow, act as an abortifacient (causing miscarriage), increase urine flow, and treat indigestion. Almost none of these uses have been studied scientifically in humans. However, one study in humans found that long term daily intake of rosemary prevents thrombosis.

In the lab, rosemary has been shown to have antioxidant properties. Antioxidants can neutralize harmful particles in the body known as free radicals, which damage cell membranes, tamper with DNA, and even cause cell death. Also in the lab, rosemary oil appears to have antimicrobial properties (killing some bacteria and fungi in test tubes). It isn’t known whether rosemary would have the same effect in humans.

Several studies show that rosemary inhibits foodborne pathogens like Listeria monocytogenes, B. cereus, and S. aureus.

May 2010, from McCormick Science Institute writes,

A preliminary study, funded by the McCormick Science Institute and the University of Florida was presented at the 2010 Experimental Biology Meeting. The study found that compared to baseline, individuals who consumed spices and herbs for seven days did not have higher antioxidant blood levels (ORAC). However, those who consumed paprika, rosemary, ginger, heat-treated turmeric, sage, and cumin, had fewer DNA strand breaks (either inherent or induced by hydrogen peroxide in vitro) in lymphocytes, another measure of antioxidant status.  Download the abstract (PDF)

The purpose of this study was to examine the bioavailability of 11 herbs and spices as a prelude to studying other health benefits. We hypothesized that changes in antioxidant activities in blood would be a sensitive measure of absorption.

After an overnight fast, volunteers (n=10-12 each spice) had a baseline blood draw, consumed capsules for 7 d, and returned for a second blood draw. Serum antioxidant capacity and DNA strand breaks in lymphocytes were measured. Serum antioxidant capacity was not significantly different between baseline and 7 d due to large individual variation.

Intrinsic DNA strand breaks were remarkably similar between and among subjects. Strand breaks induced by H2O2 were well controlled. A RM 2-way ANOVA measured significant differences in time and treatment for the number of strand breaks per cell or the percent of cells with strand breaks. There was no appreciable cell death during the oxidative stress phase of the experiment. Herbs and spices that did not have a significant effect were clove, black pepper, cayenne, cinnamon, and oregano.

Herbs and spices that protected lymphocytes against DNA strand breaks were paprika, rosemary, ginger, heat-treated turmeric, sage, and cumin. We conclude that compounds from these herbs and spices are absorbed.

In 2007, Dr. Keith Scott writes,

Scientists have discovered that yet another phytochemical found in the common culinary herb, rosemary protects against Alzheimer’s disease.

For several years we have been aware that the plant compound, rosmarinic acid has anti-Alzheimer’s properties. Now, a recently published research paper has described how carnosic acid (that occurs in the common culinary herbs, rosemary and sage) also has the capacity to prevent and possibly treat this distressing disease.

In ground-breaking research, scientists from Iwate University in Japan and the Burnham Institute for Medical Research in California have found that the antioxidant, carnosic acid protects the brain from free radical damage.

Oxidative damage, caused by excess free radicals is a major cause of neurodegenerative diseases such as stroke, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

Writing in the November 8 {2007} edition of the Journal of Neurochemistry the scientists involved in this research describe the novel way in which carnosic acid works to protect the brain from free radical damage.

Personally, I am happy to learn about the wonderful benefits of Rosemary, however, my two favourites uses for Rosemary are with home-fried potatoes and with BBQ lamb chops.  Yummy.

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