Upon the hill, Egtved

Upon the hill, Egtved
Upon the hill, Egtved

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Rosemary /Rosmarin

Spice Herb

Rosmarinus officinalis.

There's rosemary, that's for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember.” 

William Shakespeare, Hamlet 







Rosmarinus officinalis is an evergreen halfbush which is often sold and cultivated as if it was a perennial. It is cultivated for its aromatic leaves, used in various Mediterranean inspired dishes. The plant contains a strongly fragrant tacky rresin. The leaves are narrow and grey-greenish and the little flowers are pale blue to dark blue . tTe flowers arrive early spring (in Denmark often in March-April). The fruits are nuts, each with an Elaiosome. The roots go very deep with many fine side roots. It is a member of the mint family Lamiaceae, which includes many other herbs. The name "rosemary" derives from the Latin  "dew" (ros) and "sea" (marinus), or "dew of the sea" The plant is also sometimes called anthos, from ancient Greek, meaning "flower". Rosemary's natural habitat is in southern Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, where it prefers light-open, dry places with a calcareous and nutrient-poor soil. Rosemary is used as a decorative plant in gardens where it may have pest-control effects.


Rosemary in Denmark.
In Denmark rosemary is one of the oldest houseplants, it was cultivated around 1500s and maybe even earlier. In 1559 the king's gardener had to provide rosemary plants for the king's herb garden, and in 1618 were 60 rosemary plants provided for the royal garden at Rosenborg slot. It is told about one of Chr. 4's daughters that she did not tolerate the scent of rosemary since it reminded her of the death of her childhood friend. Rosemary is mentioned in the first Danish garden book from 1647. It was said that it should be planted and cultivated in "posh gardens" . The plant was also a part of the verse in some Danish psalms. Rosemary was used as a houseplant outside in summer and inside in winter, but the cultivation ceased almost completely around 1850, and in 1880 Rosemary was referred to as a rare plant.  


Medicine/Folk Medicine
Christiern Pedersen 1533: wine decoction to drink against various diseases; to smoke the crushed plant into the nostrils against headache and sneezing; a water- or beer decoction of rosemary and 
rue (herb-of-grace) -  or a wine decoction of rosemary against epilepsy. The leaves were eaten as an appetizer. The dry leaves to take with a drink against stomach pain. Crushed rosemary upon haemorroids. Rub black teeth with a powder of burnt twigs.
Henrik Smid 1546: wine decoction of flowers to drive out jaundice, to counteract shortness of breath, stimulate the digestion , this decoction was an antidote, it was cleansing the blood and it was diuretic.  Destilled water from the plant in order to regain a lost voice. Rosemary sugar strengthens the brain and heart and counteracts poison.
Simon Paulli 1648 said:  " this herb is one of the very best for the weaknesses of the head and extremely good to use against strokes, epilepsy, catarrh, weak eyes, dizziness, toothache, pain in the tongue and in the whole body, stitches in the chest, shortness of breath , vomitting, jaundice, colic, flatulence, diarrhea ". Malaria patients were cured with Rosemary oil. The pharmacy had a Rosemary balm, which was rubbed under the nose in times of the plague . 

The rosemary leaves and flowers were written into the Pharmacopoeia in 1772  and in a medical book in 1807.

In the 1700s and 1800s:  rub rosemary oil on the forehead against frenzy. Wine and rosemary for a weak heart ; rosemary as a component in snaps against gout. Tea of rosemary and lemon balm against various diseases; rosemary tea was a good help for the whooping cough. Old peope should bathe their weak eyes with rosemary in snaps; a decoction of rosemary against toothache and against hair loss.

Live stock: horses were smoked with rosemary for various horse-diseases. A decotoion of rosemary drove out lice, mange and scab of livestock.

Other use: Rosemary is used in the kitchen for both food and drink. The leaves are used to flavor various foods, such as stuffings and roast meats. The dry leaves in vinegar and for giving a steak a taste of game .Rosemary oil is used for purposes of fragrant bodily perfumes or to emit an aroma into a room. It is also burnt as incense, and used in shampoos and cleaning products.


Legend/Mythology
According to legend, it was draped around the Greek goddess Aphrodite when she rose from the sea, born of Uranus' semen.  The Virgin Mary is said to have spread her blue cloak over a white-blossomed rosemary bush when she was resting, and the flowers turned blue. The shrub then became known as the "Rose of Mary"


In the Middle Ages, rosemary was associated with wedding ceremonies. The bride would wear a rosemary headpiece and the groom and wedding guests would all wear a sprig of rosemary. From this association with weddings, rosemary was thought to be a love charm.

In myths, rosemary has a reputation for improving memory and has been used as a symbol for remembrance during war commemorations and funerals in Europe and Australia. Mourners would throw it into graves as a symbol of remembrance for the dead.

In Shakespeare's Hamlet, Ophelia says, "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance." (Hamlet, iv. 5.) In Australia, sprigs of rosemary are worn on ANZAC Day and sometimes Remembrance Day  to signify remembrance; the herb grows wild on the Gallipoli Peninsula. Hungary water was first prepared for the Queen of Hungary Elizabeth of Poland to " ... renovate vitality of paralyzed limbs ... " and to treat gout. It was used externally and prepared by mixing fresh rosemary tops into spirits of wine. Don Quixote, (Part One, Chapter XVII) mixes it in his recipe of the miraculous balm of Fierabras.


Music/ TV 
The song "Scarborough Fair " (popularised by Simon and Garfunkel) has the refrain "Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme" which is also the title of their third studio album.

Rosemary and Thyme is the name of a British TV detective series, starring Felicity Kendal and Pam Ferrim.
Rosemary song by Suzanne Vega, first published 1998 on her album Tried and True. 



Source: Brøndegaard, Dansk Etnobotanik, folk og flora, bd. 4. / Dansk wikipedia /British Wikipedia
photo: wikipedia
sketch: gb

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