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Full of the Joys of spring

by Barbara Payne(more info)

listed in aromatherapy, originally published in issue 99 - May 2004

When my late mother saw a very happy person she would describe them as, "Full of the joys of spring".

What are the joys of spring? Many of them have to do with nature: warmer, lighter days and fresh energy. Now is the time for feeling joyful, because spring is regarded by many as the time to utilize this upsurge in energy and to 'get things done'. As the leaves open on most trees and shrubs, a haze of light green surrounds the plants and herbs of the garden. This radiance of green reminds us of new beginnings and revives tired spirits. Some plants, often overlooked because their visual appearance seems to remain unchanged, will have been glowing with green leaves all winter long. These are the evergreens. One of which is the very valuable rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis). Why valuable? Rosemary is a wonderful plant and is very useful to us fresh, dried or distilled to extract the oil.

Rosmarinus officinalis. (Lamiaceae family)

The Plant

Rosemary is an easy herb to grow and care for. You can buy the seeds to sow in spring or take cuttings of existing plants at summer's end. Rosemary will also propagate by layering. That is, pushing hanging branches into the soil and pinning them down till they form roots. They live very happily in a pot or, equally well, planted into the ground, but can become large bushes if they are not managed.

I 'manage' mine by pulling pieces off for culinary purposes! The flowers of rosemary are beautiful and range in various shades from white, through pink, to light and dark blue depending on the species. The leaves of rosemary are similar in shape to lavender (Lavandular angustifolia) – linear and leathery with dark green tops and almost silver underneath. The genus of Rosmarinus comes from the Mediterranean coast, hence the Latin name meaning 'dew of the sea'. Because of their warm origin, plants need to be in a sunny spot in well-drained soil. The flowers and leaves are highly scented with a strongly aromatic, woody and camphoraceous fragrance. I could not contemplate having an herb garden without the aroma and beauty of this plant.

Uses of Rosemary

Rosemary has a long tradition of cosmetic and medicinal uses. It is particularly linked to memory and mental alertness. In Shakespeare's play Hamlet in Act 4, Scene 5, Ophelia explains to Laertes the meanings of her posy of flowers. For rosemary, she says, "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance…".[1] In 1653, Culpepper stated in his book, Culpepper's Herbal that rosemary "Helps the weak memory and quickens the senses".[2] In flower language used for tussie mussies (an ancient form of posy with hidden meanings), rosemary's meaning is 'remembrance' or 'your presence revives me'. The empirical knowledge of the stimulating effect of rosemary, which stretches back into antiquity, has now been vindicated due to our understanding the way the molecules of its aroma work. It is now appreciated that it is the natural chemicals present in the essential oil, which imparts the invigorating effect. In the plant, the oils are in tiny glands embedded in the leaves. When the leaf is squeezed the membranes on the glands break and the essence goes on to our fingers giving off its fragrance. For those who find 'sweet' smells too sickly or pungent, the sharp herby, slightly camphoraceous aroma of rosemary is an ideal substitute. If you have a bush of rosemary, which can take some pruning, put the discarded sprigs in a vase in the sick room or the office. This will scent the room delicately and act as a room antiseptic, as well as invigorate the occupant. Rosemary was often burned in early hospital wards to disinfect.

Rosemary the Essential Oil

When Rosmarinus officinalis is distilled, the extracted pure essential oil is at 100% and, when in this form, needs to be diluted – 15 drops to every 30mls of carrier. The natural substance of rosemary's essential oil has high percentages of oxides and monoterpenes, which formulate a stimulating, analgesic, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic material. The distilled essential oil is colourless or tinged very pale yellow so it does not stain. It is particularly useful for the nervous and muscular system. When apathy strikes or when extra mental alertness is called for, simply smelling the oil of Rosmarinus officinalis can be enough. I use a cotton wool ball to hold two drops of the oil and then secrete it in a pocket. The cotton wool holds the aroma longer than a handkerchief and there is no need to keep sniffing it, as it will gently waft from time to time as you move. The oil is also useful in the bath for energizing. Simply put five drops into running water and swish with your hand. This method is excellent for aches and pains, when extra physical exertion has been undertaken.

Oil/Cream for Muscles and Revitalising

• 8 drops of rosemary;
• 7 drops of lavender;
• 30 mls of your favourite carrier oil eg grapeseed (Vitis vinifera).

Blend the essential oils together with the carrier oil by gently shaking.

This recipe can be used to make a revitalizing body cream by adding the essential oils to 30gms of cream instead of oil. Make sure the cream is well stirred.

Either product is best applied after a warm bath but not directly before bed. Remember, rosemary is a stimulant! Yes, rosemary can help you feel mentally and physically on top of the world – full of the joys of spring, in fact.

If you are pregnant or not sure that rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is for you, consult a qualified aromatherapist before using rosemary oil.


1. Culpeper N. Culpeper's Complete Herbal and English Physician. Magna Books. England. ISBN 1-85422-332-1. 1992.
2. Shakespeare W. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. Chancellor Press. London. 1990.


Bown D. The Royal Horticultural Society Encyclopedia of Herbs and Their Uses. Dorling Kindersley. London. 1995.


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About Barbara Payne

Barbara Payne taught clinical aromatherapy in various hospitals in the North of England, for School of Health, University of Hull, and was principal of an IFA and IFPA accredited college of clinical aromatherapy, for many years. She served as an inspector and examiner and was Chair of Education for the ISPA, (now IFPA). Barbara had regular interviews with BBC radio and appeared on national television occasionally and lectured annually for the RHS. Having contributed to Positive Health over many years, Barbara has now decided to retire from her PH Expert Regular Column after Issue 154 in Jan 2009. She can be reached on Tel: 01482 835358;

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