A silvery evergreen shrub that originated in the Mediterranean region and is now grown
worldwide, rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is prized both as a culinary and healing herb. Many of the current uses of this aromatic plant have been handed down from ancient times.
Historically, Greek and Chinese healers used rosemary as a soothing digestive aid and to relieve intestinal gas (flatulence). In many countries today, rosemary leaf tea is a standard treatment for these purposes. Germany's Commission E, for instance, has even given its official approval to rosemary leaf tea for treating indigestion, gas, bloating, and other digestive symptoms. The tea can be prepared from dried rosemary leaves; alternatively, small amounts of either the tincture or the liquid extract can be mixed with warm water.
The ancient Greeks also believed that the plant could enhance memory, and students were known to take their examinations wearing garlands of rosemary. In Shakespeare抯 Hamlet, Ophelia in her mad scene lists rosemary among the herbs she抯 wearing: "There抯 rosemary, that抯 for remembrance."
The herb's enduring reputation as a memory aid may in part be due to its high concentrations of health-promoting antioxidants. These compounds help to protect the brain and other parts of the body against unstable oxygen molecules, called free radicals, which can damage cells in the body. Rosemary may also sharpen memory by helping to prevent the breakdown of a brain chemical called acetylcholine.
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