Rosemary Oil – Uses & Health Benefits for Hair Growth, Skin, & Acne

The ultimate guide to using rosemary oil for the skin, hair, body, mental concentration, and more.

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The Rosemary Herb

Derived from the Latin word ros ‘dew’ and marinus ‘sea’, Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) means ‘dew of the sea’. It is a perennial herb grown in many parts of the world for its multiple medicinal, aromatic and cosmetic properties.

Archaeologists and anthropologists have found evidence that rosemary herbs were used for medicinal, culinary, and cosmetic purposes in ancient Egypt, China, Mesopotamia, and India.

In ancient Rome and Greece, rosemary was believed to strengthen the memory which accounts for its being known as the herb of remembrance and fidelity.

Rosemary was also an essential part of the apothecary’s repertoire during the Renaissance period.

Elizabethan sweethearts carried a twig of rosemary which is still used in bridal bouquets in England and Germany today. The leaf of rosemary is an indispensable flavoring agent and spice in French, Italian and Spanish cuisine.

The plant is very rich in polyphenols and flavonoids.[1, 2These have high antioxidant properties and are used for problems involving the central nervous system, cardiovascular system, liver treatments, and respiratory systems among many others.

Rosemary leaves have been traditionally used to treat a variety of conditions including dyspepsia, headache, and nervous tension.

Based on obtained scientific results, volatiles from the plant induced apoptosis at cytotoxic concentrations and indicate that consumption of the natural compounds might be valuable in the prevention of lifestyle diseases.

The herb is mainly produced in Spain, France, Portugal, Egypt, Germany, Romania, England, Russia, and the Balkans.

Uses for Rosemary Essential Oils

The market demand for the plant is growing, as it is used in several commercially available products in the cosmetics and medical industry.

Externally, it can be used to treat bites and stings.

In aromatherapy, the essential oil is used as a decongestant and as an inhalant for exhaustion, headaches, loss of concentration, and memory loss.

It also has a reviving effect when tired or lethargic. The essential oil also improves the blood circulation of the limbs, has an anti-rheumatic effect, and relieves neuralgic pains.

Besides its therapeutic application, the essential oil is also widely utilized in the cosmetic industry.

The oil is infused in creams, ointments, cologne waters, bathing essences, shampoos, and soaps.

Rosemary Oil

Rosemary oil is obtained by steam distillation of the fresh leaves and flowering tops of the plant. It is a colorless to a pale yellow liquid having the characteristic odor of the herb and camphoraceous taste.

The volatile oil consists of borneol, camphene, bornyl acetate, cineol, pinene, and camphor.

The Health Benefits of Rosemary Essential Oils

Results of relevant studies show that there are biologically active compounds in rosemary essential oils that exhibit cytotoxic, antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic, and cognition-enhancing properties depending on their type and concentration.[3, 4, 5, 6]

They also have the potential to influence glucose levels in diabetic patients and enhance bone resorption.

01

Rosemary Essential Oil for Hair Growth

One of the known benefits of rosemary oil is its capability to enhance micro-capillary perfusion (circulation).

Along with cedarwood, thyme, and lavender; rosemary oil helps promote hair growth even in patients with alopecia and prevents dandruff.[7, 8]

Studies have investigated the clinical efficacy of rosemary oil in the treatment of androgenetic alopecia (AGA) and compared its effects with minoxidil 2%.

Patients with AGA were randomly assigned to rosemary oil (n = 50) or minoxidil 2% (n = 50) for a period of 6 months.

The frequency of scalp itching at the 3- and 6-month trial points was significantly higher compared with baseline in both groups (P <.05). Scalp itching, however, was more frequent in the minoxidil group at both assessed endpoints (P <.05).

The findings of the present trial provided evidence with respect to the efficacy of rosemary oil in the treatment of AGA.

An herbal hair treatment composition for controlling dandruff comprises a cosmetically acceptable carrier and a vegetable oil extract of sage, Indian hemp, and rosemary.

We recommend the essential oil recipes & blends in the following publications (the links will lead you to the Amazon website):

  1. Aromatherapy Essential Oils & How to Use Them 
  2. Aromatherapy For Scentual Awareness
  3. Reference Guide for Essential Oils
  4. The Essential Oils Book: Creating Personal Blends for Mind & Body
  5. Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health: 175 Teas, Tonics, Oils, Salves, Tinctures, and Other Natural Remedies for the Entire Family
02

Clear Concentration and Memory Enhancer

In a clinical study to assess the olfactory impact of rosemary oil on cognitive performance; EEG activity, alertness, concentration, memory, and mood were assessed in 40 adults given 3 minutes of aromatherapy using rosemary.

The group showed decreased frontal alpha and beta power, suggesting increased alertness. They also had lower state anxiety scores, reported feeling more relaxed, and alert, and were faster at completing the math computations after the aromatherapy session.

03

Benefits of Rosemary Oil on the Body

Administration of rosemary oil, both by inhalation and by oral route, can promote respiratory and locomotor activity. The use of rosemary oil in baths is reported to invigorate the skin and improve circulation.

In a massage, it can stimulate the lymphatic system, aiding detox and treatment of cellulite and water retention. Its warming effect is great for loosening sore muscles before and after exercise.

Rosemary oil is also used in massage oils and lotions for arthritis, joint pain, muscular pain, neuralgia (severe pain that occurs along a damaged nerve), revitalizing paralyzed limbs, rheumatism, rheumatoid arthritis, sciatica (pain affecting the back, hip, and outer side of the leg, caused by compression of a spinal nerve root in the lower back, often owing to degeneration of an intervertebral disk).

We recommend the essential oil massage recipes & blends in the following publications (the links will lead you to the Amazon website):

  1. Aromatherapy Essential Oils & How to Use Them
  2. Essential Oils for Health
04

Antimycotic (Anti-fungal) Activity of Rosemary Oil

The problem of yeast/fungal infection (oral candidiasis) in immuno-compromised patients and following the use of drugs such as broad-spectrum antibiotics, corticosteroids, and cytotoxic drugs which may not respond to the commonly used remedies such as nystatin. 

Rosemary oil has been shown to remarkably inhibit the growth of infection. It has been reported that when an aqueous emulsion of rosemary oil in water (1:10) is applied with a cotton swab in the mouth, five times a day, patients with different types of cancer and pneumonia having candidiasis which did not respond to treatment with nystatin, the growth of the yeast disappeared completely in 2-4 days.

05

Anti-oxidant Properties of Rosemary

It is well established that the increased formation of oxygen free radicals may cause tissue damage and degeneration and hence may play a role in the pathogenesis of some diseases and acceleration of the aging process.

Evidence suggests that maintaining high intakes of antioxidants such as vitamin E,  vitamin C and some types of food constituents may help to protect against life-threatening diseases such as heart disease and cancer. 

Abundant antioxidants help reduce inflammation and prevent oxidative damage that leads to premature aging.

The accumulated evidence supports that rosemary is one of the important antioxidants which are commonly used in various folk medicine and as a beverage drink.[9] It inhibits lipid peroxidation and prevents carcinogen-DNA adduct formation.

Increasing utilization of this plant, which has been shown to be safe in toxicity studies in animals and when added as an antioxidant to food, can be achieved simply by adding it to food for flavoring and by taking it as a drink.

One of the most important constituents of rosemary is caffeic acid and its derivatives such as rosmarinic acid. These compounds have antioxidant effects. Rosmarinic acid is well absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract and from the skin.

06

Rosemary Oil for Skin – Face & Body Acne

The essential oil of rosemary was the most active in healing diabetic wounds and provided scientific evidence for the traditional use of this herb in wound treatment.

It is also used for scrofulous sores, and wounds, and rubbed into hair for stimulating the hair bulbs to renewed activity and to prevent premature baldness. Its astringent properties also make it an excellent skin toner.

We recommend the essential oil recipes & blends for the skin in the following publications (the links will lead you to the Amazon website):

  1. Aromatherapy Essential Oils & How to Use Them

Bonus: Rosemary Oil for Cats and Dogs

  • Concentrated flea repellent: apply a few drops of rosemary essential oil to your pet’s collar and bedding
  • Improve your cat’s coat: Rosemary oil (1 drop) + Frankincense (1 drop) and Coconut oil (10 drops). Essential oils blends can be applied using a brush for improved penetration. It can also be used in your cat’s training sprays.

More recipes in Amazon’s selection of Essential Oils For Cats.


Safety Precautions and Contraindications of Rosemary Oil

  • Do not apply to or near the face of infants and children, especially if Moroccan or Tunisian sourced.
  • Do not use if pregnant or breastfeeding, have epilepsy, or are prone to seizures.
  • Inhalation can occasionally cause irritation and very rarely laryngospasm.
  • External use may worsen bronchospasm. Rarely do hypersensitivity reactions of the skin may occur.
  • Photoaggravated allergic contact dermatitis and cheilitis have been reported.
  • Many of the above-mentioned studies are from various types used.
  • Rosemary oils are produced in many parts of the world and this summary does not represent every type of commercial oil.

References:

  1. Augustin Scalbert, Ian T Johnson, Mike Saltmarsh, Polyphenols: antioxidants and beyond, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 81, Issue 1, January 2005, Pages 215S–217S, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/81.1.215S
  2. Pietta PG. Flavonoids as antioxidants. J Nat Prod. 2000 Jul;63(7):1035-42. doi: 10.1021/np9904509. PMID: 10924197.
  3. Cardoso, GHS et al. Cytotoxicity of aqueous extracts of Rosmarinus officinalis L. (Labiatae) in plant test system. Brazilian Journal of Biology [online]. 2014, v. 74, n. 4 [Accessed 2 January 2022] , pp. 886-889. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1590/1519-6984.07313. Epub Nov 2014. ISSN 1678-4375. https://doi.org/10.1590/1519-6984.07313.
  4. Naciye Erkan, Guler Ayranci, Erol Ayranci, Antioxidant activities of rosemary (Rosmarinus Officinalis L.) extract, blackseed (Nigella sativa L.) essential oil, carnosic acid, rosmarinic acid and sesamol, Food Chemistry, Volume 110, Issue 1, 2008, Pages 76-82, ISSN 0308-8146, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodchem.2008.01.058. (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308814608001520)
  5. University of Arkansas, Food Safety Consortium. (2008, May 24). To Block The Carcinogens, Add A Touch Of Rosemary When Grilling Meats. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 29, 2021 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080521184129.htm
  6. Kennedy DO, Scholey AB. The psychopharmacology of European herbs with cognition-enhancing properties. Curr Pharm Des. 2006;12(35):4613-23. doi: 10.2174/138161206779010387. PMID: 17168769.
  7. Hay IC, Jamieson M, Ormerod AD. Randomized trial of aromatherapy. Successful treatment for alopecia areata. Arch Dermatol. 1998 Nov;134(11):1349-52. doi: 10.1001/archderm.134.11.1349. PMID: 9828867.
  8. Panahi Y, Taghizadeh M, Marzony ET, Sahebkar A. Rosemary oil vs minoxidil 2% for the treatment of androgenetic alopecia: a randomized comparative trial. Skinmed. 2015 Jan-Feb;13(1):15-21. PMID: 25842469.
  9. Naciye Erkan, Guler Ayranci, Erol Ayranci, Antioxidant activities of rosemary (Rosmarinus Officinalis L.) extract, blackseed (Nigella sativa L.) essential oil, carnosic acid, rosmarinic acid and sesamol, Food Chemistry, Volume 110, Issue 1, 2008, Pages 76-82, ISSN 0308-8146, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodchem.2008.01.058. (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308814608001520)

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Gabrielle Sterin

Beauty and lifestyle editor Gabrielle Sterin has collaborated with several print and digital magazines. She has worked directly with photographers, models, beauty publicists, hairstylists, makeup artists, and nail technicians to bring projects to life. She has also styled still-life beauty shoots and art-directed model & reader fashion shoots.