Monday, July 21, 2014

Rosemary REALLY IS for Remembrance

Shakespeare may have been on to something when he penned the words “rosemary is for remembrance” in a famous scene from Hamlet. 

Actually, the exact words were, “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray, love, remember.”

The words were spoken by an unbalanced Ophelia, who talks, sings and babbles about her father’s death. Shortly afterwards, Ophelia dies, so many interpretations of the scene revolve around a convention at the time of placing rosemary on the bodies of the dead. In this manner. Shakespeare is said to have been foreshadowing Ophelia’s impending demise.

Myths and Folklore

The perrenial herb has a long tradition as a symbol for remembrance during weddings, war commemorations and funerals by ancient Egyptians, early Greeks and Romans. Mourners would throw it into graves as a symbol of remembrance for the dead. 

Greek scholars often wore a garland of the herb on their heads to help their memory during examinations. In the ninth century, Charlemagne insisted that the herb be grown in his royal gardens. The Eau de Cologne that Napoleon Bonaparte used was made with rosemary.

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.'

It was believed that placing a sprig of rosemary under a pillow before sleep would repel nightmares, and if placed outside the home it would repel witches. Somehow, the use of rosemary in the garden to repel witches turned into signification that the woman ruled the household in homes and gardens where rosemary grew abundantly. By the 16th century, men were known to rip up rosemary bushes to show that they, not their wives, ruled the roost.

All of the above looked at somewhat suspiciously by we moderns, right?

But wait! Recent research suggests a connection between rosemary and remembrance in people who are very much alive. Several studies evaluating aromatherapy found that rosemary actually stimulates memory and may preserve some cognitive function. 

If these studies are accurate, a sprig of rosemary is not the harbinger of doom that it was for poor Ophelia. Instead, it may be an aromatic preserver of the thoughts people hold dear. 

From the Telegraph,9 April 2013

"Essential oil of rosemary boosted healthy adults' ability to recall past events and remember to perform future tasks, which could include taking medication or sending a birthday card, at the correct time.


The improvement was unrelated to the participants' mood, suggesting it was having a chemical influence which improved their memory, the study found.


Researchers, who will present their findings at the British Psychological Society's annual conference in Harrogate on Tuesday, said the results could improve the everyday lives of people with age-related memory loss.
Previous studies had already suggested that compounds in rosemary aroma could improve long-term memory and mental arithmetic, by inhibiting enzymes which block normal brain functioning.

Dr Mark Moss, who led the study, said: 'We wanted to build on our previous research that indicated rosemary aroma improved long-term memory and mental arithmetic.

'We focused on prospective memory, which involves the ability to remember events that will occur in the future and to remember to complete tasks at particular times this is critical for everyday functioning.'

Sixty six participants were divided into two groups and asked to wait in different rooms, one of which had been scented with rosemary essential oil.

The volunteers then completed a series of memory tests, which included hiding objects and finding them again at a later stage, or passing a specified object to a researcher at a particular time which had been specified earlier.

People who had been assigned to the rosemary-scented room performed better at both types of test, and were also found to have higher levels of 1,8-cineole, a compound found in rosemary oil, in their blood.

The compound has previously been shown to influence chemical systems in the body which impact on memory.

Jemma McCready, a research intern who carried out the study, said: "These findings may have implications for treating individuals with memory impairments.

'Remembering when and where to go and for what reasons underpins everything we do, and we all suffer minor failings that can be frustrating and sometimes dangerous. Further research is needed to investigate if this treatment is useful for older adults who have experienced memory decline.' ”

So go ahead. Buy a rosemary plant or essential oil, make sachets, take a rosemary aromatheraphy bath.

Add rosemary to the shopping lists, before we forget!



17 comments:

  1. Hello Sanda
    As I write I have a sprig from a friend's garden taking root on my kitchen window. I loved reading your report on rosemary and I have learned.
    You have me giggling with your last comment "put it on the shopping list, lest we forget" Very good

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    1. I hope your cutting takes root and gives you a large, wonderful plant. Isn't it amazing that all the herbs and plants have medicinal uses that were well known to past generations. Knowledge that has been mostly lost in our current day of modern medicine.

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  2. I have rosemary in a pot on the patio now, and I love the way it smells. I hope to over-winter it. Every little memory aid helps. :)

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    1. I too love the smell. They overwinter well if kept in a cool place and not overwatered. I had so many planted outside and they weathered many cold winters until the winter of 2014. Lost all of them. Happens occasionally but I just replace them and carry on because I do love me some rosemary!

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  3. Love rosemary! Have some nice sized plants outside but they may get cut back drastically
    (If I don't forget to bring some inside). Even if it does not help me remember. ..it will smell great. You have made lots of rosemary bags in your lifetime!!

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    1. Lots of stems clipped and brought inside....if I can just remember to keep sniffing them! Yes, I have made my share of rosemary bags in the past. Soon as my plants get large enough I'll be making more!

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  4. I love rosemary too, and have a big plant outside the front door in my little cottage garden. I'll spread it round a little more now: what fascinating research, and a better way to help our memories than strong drugs. Great post, thank you Sanda.

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    1. I occasionally put drops of essential oil in the tub and have a long soak. A diffuser in the house is another way to get the therapeutic effects as well. I think it's so "clean" smelling. There are recipes for making a cleaning solution and I keep meaning to look them up!

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  5. An Irish friend used rosemary in her soda bread,I have used it only in soups/stews.Interesting/informative post.Now where is that shopping list:).

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    1. HAHA! I use rosemary in cooking often; on chicken (when I used to eat it). I make a wonderful herb butter to spread on warm bread, consisting of fresh rosemary, oregano, chives, garlic and a bit of salt.

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  6. We grow rosemary and I use it in cooking quite a bit. I've heard it was for remembrance but it was fun to read the history/myth behind that. My memory has always been questionable so I'm going to cut a few sprigs for scenting the house just in case.

    Darla

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    1. I once made a rosemary pillow (small) to sleep with. I lost all my rosemary this past winter due to extended cold and have had to start anew growing it. Soon as they are large enough, I'm going to make another pillow.

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  7. An informative, important post written well.
    I´ll have to add rosemary on my husband´s shopping list!

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    1. Potted rosemary is sold at Christmas time and they are such a nice addition for the house at that time of year. Unfortunately, they don't do well in a heated house for too many days. I wonder if your climate is too cold to grow them over the winter. But then there's always the essential oil which gives the same effect.

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  8. We have rosemary bushes outside in the front and the back...but I rarely remember to use it in my cooking. Not sure what that signifies - that I need to grow it indoors?

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    Replies
    1. As mentioned above, they don't grow well indoors, unless you can give them an unheated room in winter. Of course, you can bring sprigs indoors to dry and use it dried for cooking; same effect, but less is required when substituting dried herbs for fresh.

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