Nome comune

Scientific name
Rosmarinus officinalis L.

Botanical family
Lamiaceae (sin. Labiatae)

History and origins

Native to Europe, Asia and Africa, Rosemary is now spontaneous to the Mediterranean area.
Its name is derived from the Latin words ros (dew) and maris (sea) associating the bluishness of its flowers to the waves of the sea.
Grown in orchards and gardens since ancient times; the Greeks and Romans burned it to release its characteristic aroma; Greek students placed wreaths of rosemary sprigs on their heads when sitting an exam.
It was believed to possess magical and aphrodisiac powers, was used in love potions, propitiatory recipes, cosmetic solutions (eg. “Acqua Celeste” of Caterina Sforza, XV century) or tonics (eg. Queen of Hungary Water by Isabella of Hungary, the XVII century).
In Medieval Benedictine vegetable gardens, it was one of the 16 salutary plants on which the pharmacopoeia of the time was based.
In folklore, rosemary symbolizes friendship, remembrance and loyalty, and is therefore worn by relatives at funerals, and by a bride on her wedding day.


Rosemary has multiple uses: as an ornamental and medicinal plant, in the cosmetic industry, in perfumery, as insect repellent or deodorant; in addition, rosemary extract is also employed in the food industry as an additive with antioxidant properties.
The essential oil contains pinene, camphorene, limonene, flavonoids, phenolic acids, tannins, resins, camphor and rosmarinic acid which has antioxidant properties.
Rosemary is recognized as having digestive, antispasmodic and carminative properties (it reduces aerophagia and any resulting colic); It stimulates diuresis and perspiration, regulates the menstrual cycle, thins bronchial secretions and calms coughs.
It is used topically as an effective antiseptic.
The essential oil has stimulating and rubefacient properties that are useful for the treatment of bruises, muscle and joint pain, rheumatism and stiff neck; it is widely used in perfumery in the composition of numerous lotions, perfumes, liniments, soaps and mouthwashes. In aromatherapy, it is used for improving memory, depression and relieving migraines.
In the kitchen, it is used as a seasoning ingredient in numerous recipes.
Rosemary flowers, moreover, produce a good deal of nectar that attracts bees: their honey has excellent characteristics and an ambrosial flavor.
Rosemary (in particular the essential oil rich in camphor) is not recommended for people who suffer from epilepsy; in excessive doses, it can cause irritation, convulsions, vomiting and the beginnings of respiratory paralysis.

Diffusion and importance

In Italy rosemary grows spontaneously from sea level on up to 800 m above that. It is a common component and characteristic of the Mediterranean scrub, especially in calcareous soils. It is cultivated on around 50 hectares spread in particular, throughout Piedmont, Lombardy and Liguria.

Botanical characteristics


Biologic type: a woody, perennial evergreen shrub.
Root: very deep and strong.

Stem: ascending or prostrate; highly ramified; grows up to 3 m; gray-green

Leaves: small; linear; 2-3 mm wide and 15-30 mm long; with no stalk; with dark green on top and downy-silver-white tomentose undersides; rich in oil glands.

Inflorescence: flowers are typically blue-violet but also pink and white, gathered in axillary racemes. In Italy, it generally blooms in April-August, but also throughout the year in the south and on the islands. Pollination is entomophilous.


Fruit: tetra-achene; achenes (“seeds”) are oblong, smooth, brownish in color.

Climate and Soil Requirements

Rosemary is a very rustic species that prefers warm temperate climates; young plants are sensitive to frost, though resistance to cold increases considerably in adult plants; plants prefer sunny areas that are protected from cold winds.
It easily adapts to different types of soils, even in loose and rocky soils, with a pH from 4.5 to 8.7; a more “camphoric” essential oil is obtained from calcareous soils; in more fertile soils, the plants grow more vigorously but are less aromatic. Rosemary does not tolerate stagnant water and is moderately drought-tolerant.

Varieties and/or commercial types

Many varieties with different morphological, phenological, agronomic and phytochemical characteristics have been selected to be used for different purposes.
Varieties for ornamental use are classified according to size, form (ascending or prostrate), color of flowers (blue-violet, white, pink) and intensity of flowering.

Fundamentals of cultivation practices

Si Rosemary is propagated by seed, cuttings, division of roots.
Sowing is done in spring to obtain shoots to be transplanted in September.
The most common planting technique is apical cuttings from young shoots taken in spring or late summer from the basal branches of the most vigorous plants.
Root division of the plant is carried out in spring.
Planting is performed in single rows (spaced 100 cm x 50 cm) or double rows (spaced 150 cm between the double rows – 30 cm within the double rows – 20-30 cm between plants along the rows).Fertilization
The incorporation of good compost is recommended for soil preparation (25 t / ha); when planting, apply approximately 60-80 kg / ha of nitrogen, 60-80 kg / ha of phosphorus and 80-100 kg / ha of potassium; in the following years, after cuttings, distribute 60-80 kg / ha of nitrogen.
Irrigation is required after transplantation to create the best conditions for the planted seedlings to take root, after collecting the cuttings or as rescue irrigation in periods of inadequate rainfall.
The average duration of a crop is about 5-6 years (up to 10 years in optimal conditions).


Both the flowers and leaves of rosemary are utilized and they are collected at the beginning of the flowering stage for herbal use (to be dried), and in full bloom for the extraction of the essential oil from the fresh flowering tops.
In professional crop production, the first harvest may take place about 6 months after planting; thereafter, for herbal products, two cuttings are done per year, and only one cutting per year for the production of essential oil.
For herbal use, the sprigs with dried flowers are freshly clipped, hung upside down in a dry and well-ventilated area so that they do not lose their characteristics; once dried, the leaves and flowers are separated from the stem.
Rosemary is best used fresh than when it is dried as it tends to lose much of its active ingredients.
The yield of fresh produce varies from 6 to 9 t / ha equal to 1.2-1.8 t / ha of marketable product; the content of essential oil from flowering tops is about 0.6%.