Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis, is a popular herb with diverse application in cooking, herbal teas, food preservation, fragrances, and medicine.

Rosemary, while indigenous to the Mediterranean, was coveted throughout Europe and the New Word for its healing prowess. Rosemary is home to an amalgamation of health promoting substances that can grouped in three categories: essential oils, polyphenols, and polyphenolic diterpenes.

Essential oils are fat soluble, volatile compounds that play a key role in the fragrance and culinary attributes of many plants. Research also implies essential oils are principle contributors to rosemary’s antioxidant properties.

Rosemary also contains an array of polyphenols, such as flavonoids and phenolic acids. Polyphenols are natural compounds that support plant health and boost human well being. Polyphenols are thought to be the critical components of nutritious foods like berries, spinach, and kale. An important polyphenol in rosemary is rosmarinic acid.

Unique to rosemary and other similar herbs, such as sage and oregano, are polyphenolic diterpenes. Polyphenolic diterpenes are very intriguing molecules, since they are a combination of 2 different classes of powerful health promoting plant nutrients: polyphenols and terpenes. This dynamic duo, potentially offers more health benefit than either alone. Investigators suggest that the most important polyphenolic diterpenes in rosemary are carnosal and carnosic acid

Potential Benefits of Rosemary for Musculoskeletal Health*

1. Rosemary is an antioxidant*11,12,13,14

Oxidative damage is a key mechanism that causes pre-mature aging of joint, bone, tendon, and muscle tissue.The diverse active ingredients in rosemary display potent antioxidative properties including neutralizing free radical toxins, disarming free radical oxygen species, and defusing free radical metals. In fact, some research has shown rosemary to possess the most antioxidant potential out of all herbs and spices tested.

Chinese researchers examined the effects of rosemary extract on protecting human fat from oxidation. The authors concluded that rosemary helped protect fat in cell walls from lipid peroxidation, an oxidizing chain reaction that severely damages cells.(Zeng HH et al. Antioxidant properties of phenolic diterpenes from Rosmarinus officinalis.Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2001 Dec;22(12):1094-8.)

2. Rosemary is an anti-inflammatory* 15,16,17

Chronic low grade inflammation is a driving force behind chronic joint, bone, tendon, and muscle injury.

  • Rosemary inhibits nuclear factor kappa beta, a critical transcription factor that controls the production of inflammation inducing enzymes and communication molecules that promote inflammation.
  • Rosemary also hinders the activity of enzymes, like COX-2, that boost the synthesis of pain causing substances called prostaglandins. 
  • Rosemary enhances production of  signaling molecules that help re-establish appropriate amounts of inflammation that supports well being.

Brazilian researchers examined the anti-inflammatory effects of rosemary extract on a mouse model of inflammation. The authors concluded that rosemary extract induced a significant  reduction in IL-1 and TNF-α, two markers of inflammation.(Justo OR et al. Evaluation of in vitro anti-inflammatory effects of crude ginger and rosemary extracts obtained through supercritical CO2 extraction on macrophage and tumor cell line: the influence of vehicle type.BMC Complement Altern Med. 2015 Oct 29;15:390.)

3. Rosemary demonstrates anti-fat attributes*18

Obesity is a significant risk factor for chronic joint disease. Rosemary contains a significant concentration of carnosic acid.  Investigation implies carnosic acid impedes pancreatic lipase.

Pancreatic lipase is the principle enzyme your body utilizes to digest fat. Therefore, rosemary may reduce fat absorption.

Researchers in North Carolina examined the effects of rosemary extract on a mouse model of obesity. The researchers found that rosemary extract significantly reduced body weight, percent body fat, and free fatty acids compared to the control group.(Zhao Y et al. Carnosic acid as a major bioactive component in rosemary extract ameliorates high-fat-diet-induced obesity and metabolic syndrome in mice. J Agric Food Chem. 2015 May 20;63(19):4843-52.)



Rosemary is generally recognized as safe when consumed in usual culinary and herbal doses. As with any consideration of any form of supplementation consult your healthcare provide prior to use if you are pregnant, nursing, taking any medications or have any medical conditions. Discontinue use and consult your doctor is any adverse reactions occur.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These statements are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.



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 Lucas J. Bader MD

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