An Evidence-Based Systematic Review of Rosemary
(Rosmarinus ofﬁcinalis) by the Natural Standard
Catherine Ulbricht, PharmD
Tracee Rae Abrams, PharmD
Ashley Brigham, PharmD
James Ceurvels, PharmD
Jessica Clubb, PharmD
Whitney Curtiss, PharmD
Catherine DeFranco Kirkwood, MPH, CCCJS-MAC
Nicole Giese, MS
Kevin Hoehn, PharmD, MBA, CGP
Ramon Iovin, PhD
Erica Rusie, PharmD
Jill M. Grimes Serrano, PhD
Wendy Weissner, BA
Regina C. Windsor, MPH
ABSTRACT. An evidence-based systematic review of rosemary (Rosmarinus
ofﬁcinalis), including written and statistical analysis of scientiﬁc literature, expert
opinion, folkloric precedent, history, pharmacology, kinetics/dynamics, interactions,
adverse effects, toxicology, and dosing.
Catherine Ulbricht is afﬁliated with the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts;
Tracee Rae Abrams is afﬁliated with the University of Rhode Island, Kingston, Rhode Island; Ashley
Brigham, James Ceurvels, Jessica Clubb, and Whitney Curtiss are afﬁliated with Northeastern Univer-
sity, Boston, Massachusetts; Catherine DeFranco Kirkwood,is afﬁliated with Anderson Cancer Center,
Houston, Texas; Nicole Giese, is afﬁliated with Natural Standard Research Collaboration, Somerville,
Massachusetts; Kevin Hoehn is afﬁliated with Faxton-St. Luke’s Healthcare, Utica, New York;
Ramon Iovin, Richard Isaac, Erica Rusie, Jill M. Grimes Serrano, Minney Varghese, Wendy
Weissner, and Regina C. Windsor are afﬁliated with Natural Standard Research Collaboration,
Journal of Dietary Supplements, Vol. 7(4), 2010
Available online at www.informaworld.com/WJDS
2010 by Informa Healthcare USA, Inc. All rights reserved.
doi: 10.3109/19390211.2010.525049 351
352 JOURNAL OF DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS
KEYWORDS. adverse effects, rosemary (Rosmarinus ofﬁcinalis) dosing, evidence-
based, interactions, pharmacodynamics, pharmacology, pharmacokinetics, systematic
SYSTEMATIC AGGREGATION, ANALYSIS, AND REVIEW OF THE
To prepare this Natural Standard review, electronic searches were conducted in sev-
eral databases, including AMED, CANCERLIT, CINAHL, CISCOM, the Cochrane
Library, EMBASE, HerbMed, International Pharmaceutical Abstracts, Medline, and
NAPRALERT. Search terms included the common name(s), scientiﬁc name(s), and all
listed synonyms. Hand searches were conducted of 20 additional journals (not indexed
in common databases), and of bibliographies from 50 selected secondary references.
No restrictions were placed on language or quality of publications. Researchers in the
ﬁeld of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) were consulted for access to
additional references or ongoing research.
All literature was collected pertaining to efﬁcacy in humans (regardless of study
design, quality, or language), dosing, precautions, adverse effects, use in preg-
nancy/lactation, interactions, alteration of laboratory assays, and mechanism of action
(in vitro, animal research, and human data). Standardized inclusion/exclusion criteria
were utilized for selection.
The data extraction and analysis were performed by healthcare professionals conduct-
ing clinical work and/or research at academic centers, using standardized instruments
that pertained to each review section (deﬁning inclusion/exclusion criteria and analytic
techniques, including validated measures of study quality). The data were veriﬁed by a
A blinded review was conducted by multidisciplinary clinical research faculty at
major academic centers with expertise in epidemiology and biostatistics, pharmacol-
ogy, toxicology, complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) research, and clinical
practice. In cases of editorial disagreement, a three-member panel of the editorial board
addressed conﬂicts, and consulted experts, when applicable. Authors of studies were
contacted when clariﬁcation was required.
Natural Standard Systematic Review (www.naturalstandard.com) Copyright ©2010.
Ulbricht et al. 353
Synonyms/Common Names/Related Substances
(−)-camphene, (−)-methyljasmonate, 1,8-cineole, 3,4,5-trimethoxyphenylmethanol,
(20, 6beta)-olide, 7-beta-methoxyabieta-8,13-diene-11,12-dione-(20,6beta)-olide, 12-
O-methylcarnosic acid, Albus (cultivar), alecrim (Portuguese), alpha-pinene, Arp
(cultivar), Aureus (cultivar), Benenden Blue (cultivar), biberiye (Turkish), Blue Boy
(cultivar), borneol, bornyl acetate, caffeic acid, camphor, carnosic acid, carnosol,
cis-4-glucosyloxycinnamic acid, Colorlife
Rpowdered rosemary concentrate, compass
plant, compass-weed, dendrolivano (Greek), dentrolivano (Greek), dew of the sea,
diosmin, diterpenes, eklil kuhi (Persian), epirosmanol, eriocitrin, eucalyptol, Fierabras,
ﬂavones, genkwanin, Golden Rain (cultivar), harilik rosmariin (Estonian), hasalban
RType O oleoresin rosemary extract, Herbor 025, hesperidin,
hispidulin 7-O-glucoside, honey of rosemary, Hungary water, iklil al-jabal (Arabic),
Incensier (cultivar), Irene (cultivar), isoscutellarein 7-O-glucoside, Ken Taylor
(cultivar), kus¸dili otu (Turkish), l´
a hu‘o’ng thao (Vietnamese), Labiatae (family),
Lamiaceae (family), luteolin, luteolin 3-O-(3-O-acetyl)-beta-D-glucuronide, luteolin
3-O-(4-O-acetyl)-beta-D-glucuronide, luteolin 3-O-beta-d-glucuronide, linalool,
354 JOURNAL OF DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS
Lockwood de Forest (cultivar), Majorca Pink (cultivar), mannenrou (Japanese),
methanol (MeOH), mi die xiang (Chinese), Miss Jessop’s Upright (cultivar),
monoterpenes, old man, oleoresin rosemary, Oxy’less
R, p-cymene, phenols, pilgrim’s
ﬂower, Pinkie (cultivar), polar plant, polyphenolic compounds, Prostratus (cultivar),
Pyramidalis (cultivar), Queen of Hungary water, quinate, ro ju ma ri (Korean), roman´
(Catalan), romarin (French), romarin commun (French), romer (Catalan), romero
(Spanish, Tagalog), romero com´
un (Spanish), roozumari (Japanese), roozumarii
(Japanese), rosemary honey (Miel de La Alcarria, Spain), Roseus (cultivar), rosmanol,
R, rosmaquinone A,rosmaquinone B, rosmariin (Estonian), rosmariini
(Finnish), rosmarin (Danish, German, Norwegian, Swedish), r´
Rosmarini folium, rosmarinic acid, rosmarino (Italian), Rosmarinus acid, Rosmarinus
ofﬁcinalis,Rosmarinus ofﬁcinalis L. var. genuina forma erectus,Rosmarinus tomento-
sus,Rosmarinus tomentosus Huber-Morath & Maire, rosmario (Spanish), rosumarin
(Japanese), rozemarijn (Dutch), rozmari (Greek, Persian), rozmarin (Bulgarian, Hebrew,
Romanian, Russian), rozmar´
ın (Slovakian), roˇ
zmarin (Slovenian), rozmar´
(Slovakian), rozmaring (Hungarian), rozmaryn (Polish, Ukranian), rozmar´
(Czech), rozmaryn spravzhnii (Ukranian), rozmar´
yna (Czech), rozmar´
(Czech), rozumarii (Japanese), ruˇ
zmarin (Croatian, Serbian), sæd¨
seco-hinokiol, Severn Sea (cultivar), Spanish rosemary, Suffolk Blue (cultivar), thymol,
triterpenes, Tuscan blue (cultivar), verbenone.
CLINICIAL BOTTOM LINE/EFFECTIVENESS
•Rosemary (Rosmarinus ofﬁcinalis) is a common aromatic evergreen shrub grown in
many parts of the world. The fresh and dried leaves are frequently used as a food
preservative and in traditional Mediterranean cuisine as a ﬂavoring agent.
•Historically, rosemary has been used medicinally to treat renal colic and dysmenor-
rhea. It has also been used to relieve symptoms caused by respiratory disorders and
to stimulate hair growth. Today, rosemary extracts are often used in aromatherapy to
treat anxiety-related conditions and increase alertness.
•The most well-studied constituents of rosemary are caffeic acid and its derivative,
rosmarinic acid. These compounds are thought to have antioxidant properties and are
under investigation as potential therapies for cancer, hepatotoxicity, and inﬂammatory
•Currently, high-quality human trials investigating rosemary and its possible thera-
peutic applications are lacking. A small number of methodologically weak studies
show some promise in the improvement of mental state (via aromatherapy) and as a
treatment for alopecia.
Scientiﬁc Evidence for Common/Studied Uses
Natural Standard Evidence-based Validated Grading RationaleTM
•Grades reﬂect the level of available scientiﬁc evidence in support of the efﬁcacy of a
given therapy for a speciﬁc indication.
Ulbricht et al. 355
Alopecia areata C
Breast cancer (adjuvant) C
Cognitive performance enhancement C
Rheumatic diseases (pain) C
•Expert opinion and historic/folkloric precedent are not included in this assess-
ment, and are reﬂected in a separate section of each review (“Expert Opinion and
•Evidence of harm is considered separately; the grades given below apply only to
evidence of beneﬁt.
Level of Evidence Grade Criteria
A (strong scientiﬁc evidence) Statistically signiﬁcant evidence of beneﬁt from >2
properly randomized trials (RCTs), or evidence from
one properly conducted RCT and one properly
conducted meta-analysis, or evidence from multiple
RCTs with a clear majority of the properly conducted
trials showing statistically signiﬁcant evidence of
beneﬁt and with supporting evidence in basic science,
animal studies, or theory.
B (good scientiﬁc evidence) Statistically signiﬁcant evidence of beneﬁt from 1–2
properly randomized trials, or evidence of beneﬁt from
>1 properly conducted meta-analysis or evidence of
beneﬁt from >1 cohort/case-control/nonrandomized
trials and with supporting evidence in basic science,
animal studies, or theory.
C (unclear or conﬂicting scientiﬁc evidence) Evidence of beneﬁt from >1 small RCT(s) without
adequate size, power, statistical signiﬁcance, or
quality of design by objective criteria,aor conﬂicting
evidence from multiple RCTs without a clear majority
of the properly conducted trials showing evidence of
beneﬁt or ineffectiveness, or evidence of beneﬁt from
>1 cohort/case-control/nonrandomized trials and
without supporting evidence in basic science, animal
studies, or theory, or evidence of efﬁcacy only from
basic science, animal studies, or theory.
D (fair negative scientiﬁc evidence) Statistically signiﬁcant negative evidence (i.e., lack of
evidence of beneﬁt) from cohort/case-control/
nonrandomized trials, and evidence in basic science,
animal studies, or theory suggesting a lack of beneﬁt.
F (strong negative scientiﬁc evidence) Statistically signiﬁcant negative evidence (i.e., lack of
evidence of beneﬁt) from >1 properly randomized
adequately powered trial(s) of high-quality design by
Lack of EvidencebUnable to evaluate efﬁcacy due to lack of adequate
available human data.
aObjective criteria are derived from validated instruments for evaluating study quality, including the 5-point scale developed
by Jadad et al. (1996), in which a score below 4 is considered to indicate lesser quality methodologically.
bListed separately in reviews in the “Historical or Theoretical Uses Which Lack Sufﬁcient Evidence” section.
356 JOURNAL OF DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS
Historical or Theoretical Uses, Which Lack Sufﬁcient Evidence
•Abortifacient, acne (Weckesser et al., 2007), Alzheimer’s disease (Abascal & Yarnell,
2004a, 2004b; Adams, Gmunder, & Hamburger, 2007), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
(ALS) (Shimojo, Kosaka, Noda, Shimizu, & Shirasawa, 2010), analgesic (Gedney,
Glover, & Fillingim, 2004; Gonzalez-Trujano et al., 2007; Takaki et al., 2008), an-
thelmintic, anti-aging, and antibacterial (Ahn, Grun, & Mustapha, 2004; Bagamboula,
Uyttendaele, & Debevere, 2003; Lee et al., 2007; Oluwatuyi, Kaatz, & Gibbons, 2004;
Santoyo et al., 2005), anticoagulant (Yamamoto, Yamada, Naemura, Yamashita, &
Arai, 2005), antifungal (Angioni et al., 2004; Boyraz & Ozcan, 2005; Daferera,
Ziogas, & Polissiou, 2000; Fenner, Betti, Mentz, & Rates, 2006; Giordani et al., 2004;
Hethelyi, Kaposi, Domonkos, & Kernoczi, 1987; Lopez-Munoz, Alamo, &
Garcia-Garcia, 2006; Ozcan, 2005; Perrucci et al., 1994), anti-inﬂammatory
(Gonzalez-Trujano et al., 2007; Minich et al., 2007), antimicrobial (Alippi, Ringuelet,
Cerimele, Re, & Henning, 1996; Angioni et al., 2004; Lai & Roy, 2004; Larrondo,
Agut, & Calvo-Torras, 1995; Lopez-Munoz et al., 2006; Mangena & Muyima, 1999;
Martinez, Cilla, Beltran, & Roncales, 2006; Montes, Wilkomirsky, Valenzuela, Bello,
& Osses, 1991; Moreno, Scheyer, Romano, & Vojnov, 2006; Panizzi, Flamini, Cioni,
& Morelli, 1993; Ramirez et al., 2006; Rota, Carraminana, Burillo, & Herrera, 2004;
Santoyo et al., 2005; Schelz, Molnar, & Hohmann, 2006), antioxidant (Aruoma,
1999; Choi, Choi, Han, Bae, & Chung, 2002a; Galobart, Barroeta, Baucells, Codony,
& Ternes, 2001; Gladine, Rock, Morand, Bauchart, & Durand, 2007; Gutierrez
et al., 2003, 2009; Haraguchi Saito, Okamura, & Yagi, 1995; Ho, Wang, Wei,
Huang, & Huang, 2000; Ibanez et al., 2000, 2003; Kahkonen et al., 1999; Kaliora &
Andrikopoulos, 2005; Kim & Kim, 2003; Leal et al., 2003; Lee et al., 2007; Lopez-
Bote, Gray, Gomaa, & Flegal, 1998; Makino et al., 2002; Monino, Martinez, So-
tomayor, Lafuente, & Jordan, 2008; Moreno et al., 2006; Nakatani, 2000; Okamura,
Haraguchi, Hashimoto, & Yagi, 1994; Ozcan, 2003; Peng, Yuan, Liu, & Ye, 2005;
Rababah, Hettiarachchy, & Horax, 2004; Ramirez et al., 2006; Saito et al., 2004;
Shukla & Bhattacharya, 2003; Siurin, 1997; Smet et al., 2008; Zeng et al., 2001),
antispasmodic (Aleisa, 2008; Lai & Roy, 2004; Shahidi, 2000; Takaki et al., 2008),
appetite stimulation, and atherosclerosis (Yu, Lin, & Chang, 2008), bronchial asthma,
and cancer (Abascal & Yarnell, 2001; Cheung & Tai, 2007; Esiyok, Otles, & Akcicek,
2004; Ho, Tsai, Tsai, & Lin, 2008; Ho et al., 2000; Huang et al., 1994; Kahkonen
et al., 1999; Lee et al., 2007; Makino et al., 2000; Rau et al., 2006; Sancheti & Goyal,
2006a, 2006b; Scheckel, Degner, & Romagnolo, 2008; Shabtay et al., 2008; Sharabani
et al., 2006; Singletary, MacDonald, & Wallig, 1996; Singletary & Nelshoppen, 1991;
Steiner et al., 2001; Wargovich, Woods, Hollis, & Zander, 2001; Wei, Liu, Wang, Li, &
Luo, 2008; Zunino & Storms, 2009), cardiovascular disease (Hsieh et al., 2007), carmi-
native (Takaki et al., 2008), cataracts, and chemotherapy (adjunct) (Laszczyk, 2009;
Nabekura, Yamaki, Hiroi, Ueno, & Kitagawa, 2009; Wang et al., 2008), cholagogue
(Takaki et al., 2008), colic, and colon cancer (Scheckel et al., 2008), dandruff, and
depression (Machado et al., 2009), diabetes mellitus (Bakirel, Bakirel, Keles, Ulgen,
& Yardibi, 2008; Dearlove, Greenspan, Hartle, Swanson, & Hargrove, 2008; Hsieh
et al., 2007; Prat, Lopez-Gonzalvez, Ruiz, & Barbas, 2009), diagnostic procedure
(cell culture media for candida identiﬁcation) (de Loreto et al., 2008), diaphoretic,
and diuretic (Takaki et al., 2008), drug withdrawal (morphine) (Hosseinzadeh &
Nourbakhsh, 2003), dry skin (Jimenez, Fresno Contreras, & Selles, 2002), dysmen-
orrhea, dyspepsia, and eczema (Weckesser et al., 2007), epilepsy (Abdul-Ghani,
Ulbricht et al. 357
El-Lati, Sacaan, Suleiman, & Amin, 1987; Takaki et al., 2008), expectorant (Takaki
et al., 2008), food additive (animal feed) (Cross, Acamovic, & McDevitt, 2004a,
2004b; Cross, McDevitt, Hillman, & Acamovic, 2007; Hernandez, Madrid, Garcia,
Orengo, & Megias, 2004), food preservative (Ayadi, Grati-Kamoun, & Attia, 2009;
Soler-Rivas et al., 2010), gout, and halitosis (Frackowiak, Fiszer-Kuc, Maliszewska,
Bruziewicz-Mikla-Szewska, & Gancarz, 2003), headache (Yarnell & Abascal, 2007),
hepatoprotection (Amin & Hamza, 2005; Fahim, Esmat, Fadel, & Hassan, 1999;
Gutierrez et al., 2009; Hoeﬂer, Fleurentin, Mortier, Pelt, & Guillemain, 1987; Kitano et
al., 2000; Sotelo-Felix et al., 2002b), herpes labialis (Reichling, Nolkemper, Stintzing,
& Schnitzler, 2008), HIV infection, hypercholesterolemia, and hyperglycemia (Kwon,
Vattem, & Shetty, 2006; Rau et al., 2006), hypertension (Kwon et al., 2006), hyperthy-
roid (Yarnell & Abascal, 2006), immunostimulation, and infections (drug-resistant)
(Luqman, Dwivedi, Darokar, Kalra, & Khanuja, 2007), ischemic heart disease, joint
pain, and lice (Veal, 1996), liver cirrhosis (Harach et al., 2009; Kaziulin, Petukhov,
& Kucheriavyi, 2006; Vitaglione, Morisco, Caporaso, & Fogliano, 2004), memory
enhancement, and metabolic disorders (bone) (Putnam, Scutt, Bicknell, Priestley,
& Williamson, 2007), methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) (Quave,
Plano, Pantuso, & Bennett, 2008; Yarnell & Abascal, 2009), muscle relaxant (smooth
muscle), and nerve regeneration (Hsieh et al., 2007), obesity (Harach et al., 2009;
Lee et al., 2007; Takahashi et al., 2009), osteoporosis (Muhlbauer, Lozano, Palacio,
Reinli, & Felix, 2003; Putnam et al., 2007), paralysis, and Parkinson’s disease (spo-
radic) (Park et al., 2008), peptic ulcer (Dias, Foglio, Possenti, & de Carvalho, 2000;
Mahady et al., 2005), peripheral vascular disease, and photoprotection (Hsu, 2005;
Lee et al., 2007; Martin et al., 2008; Offord, Mace, Rufﬁeux, Malnoe, & Pfeifer,
1995), poor circulation, and psychiatric disorders (Aleisa, 2008), quality of life, renal
colic, and respiratory disorders (Rakover, Ben Arye, & Goldstein, 2008), skin care
(Baumann, 2007; Calabrese et al., 2000, 2001), skin conditions (excessive oil secre-
tion and cellulite), sperm motility, and stomach ulcers caused by Helicobacter pylori
bacteria (Matsubara et al., 2003), tonic, and toxicity (dieldrin-induced neurotoxicity)
(Park et al., 2008), wound healing (Hsu, 2005), and wrinkle prevention.
Expert Opinion and Historical/Folkloric Precedent
•Germany’s Commission E has approved rosemary leaf for the treatment of dyspepsia,
and rosemary oil (used externally) for joint pain and poor circulation.
•In folk medicine, rosemary is used for various therapeutic effects (Aggarwal et al.,
2008; Winkler, 2004), including in the alleviation of renal colic, dysmenorrhea, res-
piratory disorders, depression (Machado et al., 2009), and hair loss. Rosemary is an
herb that has been used for its potential to prevent free radical damage (Etter, 2004;
Hasani-Ranjbar, Larijani, & Abdollahi, 2009; Louli, Ragoussis, & Magoulas, 2004;
Peng et al., 2005; Zandi & Ahmadi, 2000) and gastrointestinal disorders caused by
various bacterial strains (Tayel & El Tras, 2009). Some alternative practitioners use
rosemary extract for aromatherapy to promote well-being. Rosemary has been also
used as an aromatherapy agent used in air diffusers, creams, lotions, oils, incense,
and other products. Current cosmetic uses of rosemary include treating cellulite and
wrinkles, and normalizing excessive oil secretion from the skin.
•Based on an ethnopharmacological survey in Morocco and Canada, use of rosemary
was common for gastrointestinal disorders in Morocco but not in Canada (Haddad,
358 JOURNAL OF DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS
Depot, Settaf, Chabli, & Cherrah, 2003). In Morocco, rosemary is also used tradi-
tionally to treat diabetes and hypertension (Tahraoui, El Hilaly, Israili, & Lyoussi,
•According to an ethnobotanical survey of Guatemala done in 1988–1989, Rosmarinus
ofﬁcinalis found in the region is used medicinally among the Carib population (Giron,
Freire, Alonzo, & Caceres, 1991).
Brief Safety Summary
•Likely safe: When rosemary is used orally in amounts commonly found in foods.
•Possibly safe: When used topically in medicinal quantity for up to 7 months (Hay,
Jamieson, & Ormerod, 1998).
•Possibly unsafe: In patients who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, due to
evidence of hormone-altering activity (Lemonica, Damasceno, & di Stasi, 1996; Zhu
et al., 1998) and embryotoxic effects (Lemonica et al., 1996; Zhu et al., 1998), as
well as its traditional use as an abortifacient. In patients who are at risk for iron
deﬁciency, as rosemary has been shown to decrease iron absorption (Samman et al.,
2001). In patients with coagulation disorders or taking anticoagulation or anti-platelet
agents, as rosemary has shown antithrombotic activity and may increase the risk
of bleeding (Yamamoto et al., 2005). In patients with blood pressure disorders or
who are using hypotensive agents, as rosemary may inhibit angiotensin I-converting
enzyme (ACE) (Kwon et al., 2006). In patients with diabetes or those who are using
hypoglycemic agents, as rosemary has been shown to increase and decrease glucose
levels (al Hader, Hasan, & Aqel, 1994; Kwon et al., 2006; Rau et al., 2006). In
patients receiving ciproﬂoxacin, as based on laboratory study rosemary essential oils
may antagonize the effects of ciproﬂoxacin (van Vuuren, Suliman, & Viljoen, 2009).
In patients taking cyclosporine, as rosemary may potentially interact with this agent
(Beaulieu, 2001). In patients taking drugs that are metabolized by cytochrome P450
pathways, as results from in vitro and rat study suggest that rosemary may selectively
induce P450 enzymes, particularly CYP 2B, CYP 1A1, CYP 2B1/2, and CYP 2E1
(Debersac et al., 2001a; Debersac, Vernevaut, Amiot, Suschetet, & Siess, 2001b;
Offord, Mace, Avanti, & Pfeifer, 1997). In patients using salicylates, as based on
in vitro evidence, rosemary contains high levels of salicylates (Swain, Dutton, &
Truswell, 1985). In patients predisposed to seizures or epilepsy, as seizures have been
associated with rosemary use in human case report (Burkhard, Burkhardt, Haenggeli,
& Landis, 1999).
•Likely unsafe: In patients who have a known allergy or hypersensitivity to rosemary,
its constituents, or other members of the Lamiaceae family. In patients taking lithium,
as rosemary may precipitate lithium toxicity due to its diuretic properties (Pyevich &
•Doses are based on those most commonly used in available trials or in histori-
cal practice. However, with natural products, it is often not clear what the optimal
doses are to balance efﬁcacy and safety. Preparation of products may vary from
Ulbricht et al. 359
manufacturer to manufacturer, and from batch to batch within one manufacturer.
As it is often not clear what the active components of a product are, standardiza-
tion may not be possible, and the clinical effects of different brands may not be
•There is no widely available standard extract of rosemary.
•Active constituents are thought to be caffeic acid and its derivatives, such as rosmarinic
Adult (age ≥18 years)
•Anxiety/stress: Four drops of pure rosemary essential oil (Tisserand Aromatherapy,
Newtown Road, Hove, Sussex, UK) applied to an aromatherapy diffuser pad 5 min
before a single test period has been used (Moss, Cook, Wesnes, & Duckett, 2003).
Three drops of rosemary (from Rosmarinus ofﬁcinalis with a camphor phenotype)
essential oil were used in an inhaler prior to the start and during the single test; a
piece of cotton with the saturated oil was placed in the inhaler 3 min before usage
(McCaffrey, Thomas, & Kinzelman, 2009).
•Cognitive performance enhancement: Four drops of pure rosemary essential oil
(Tisserand Aromatherapy, Newtown Road, Hove, Sussex, UK) applied to an aro-
matherapy diffuser pad 5 min before a single test period has been used (Moss et al.,
•General: 4–6 g daily has been used (anecdotal); brand and duration were not noted.
Children (age <18 years)
•Insufﬁcient available evidence to recommend.
•Known allergy/hypersensitivity to rosemary, its constituents, or members of the Labi-
atae or Lamiaceae families.
•Contact dermatitis has been reported in a small number of persons exposed to rosemary
(Armisen, Rodriguez, & Vidal, 2003; Fernandez et al., 1997; Guin, 2001; Hjorther,
Christophersen, Hausen, & Menne, 1997).
360 JOURNAL OF DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS
•According to a case report, a 56-year-old man, working in a food-processing factory,
developed contact dermatitis on his hands, forearms, and face following introduction
of a new herb extract (Rosmanox R) made from the leaves of rosemary (Rosmarinus
ofﬁcinalis) (Hjorther et al., 1997). He reacted to carnosol, the main constituent of
•In a case report, a 23-year-old woman using various cosmetics and a cleansing gel
containing rosemary leaf extract developed an itchy erythema on her face (Inui &
Katayama, 2005). She reacted positively to rosemary leaf extract (0.1% in distilled
water) in patch tests.
•In a case report, an instance of occupational asthma caused by several aromatic
herbs, including thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, and garlic, was described (Lemiere,
Cartier, Lehrer, & Malo, 1996). The diagnosis was conﬁrmed by inhalation challenges.
Although all of the herbs had immediate skin reactivity, a radioallergosorbent test
(RAST) showed that garlic was the most potent allergen by weight, with rosemary
and the other constituent herbs showing less reactivity. Concomitant allergic dermatitis
from rosemary and thyme has also been observed (Martinez-Gonzalez, Goday Bujan,
Martinez, & Fonseca, 2007).
Adverse Effects/Post-Market Surveillance
•General: Based on historical usage and the available research, it appears that rosemary
is well tolerated with few documented cases of adverse events. Contact dermatitis has
been noted in select case reports (Armisen et al., 2003; Fernandez et al., 1997; Guin,
2001; Hjorther et al., 1997). According to secondary sources, ingestion of rosemary
oil may be toxic.
•Dermatologic: Allergic contact dermatitis and cheilitis have been reported in re-
sponse to rosemary (Armisen et al., 2003; Fernandez et al., 1997; Guin, 2001; Inui &
•Endocrine: In rabbit study, the intramuscular (i.m.) administration of rosemary leaf
volatile oil (25 mg/kg) produced 20% (p<.05), 27% (p<.01), and 55% (p<.001)
increase in plasma glucose levels in normal rabbits at 60-, 90- and 120-min intervals,
respectively (al Hader et al., 1994). This injection also decreased serum insulin by
30% at a 30-min interval (p<.002), in comparison with control rabbits. In alloxan
diabetic rabbits, rosemary volatile oil increased fasting plasma glucose levels by 17%
(p<.05) when compared with the controls (Bakirel et al., 2008).
•One animal study suggests that rosemary may increase the rate at which the liver
deactivates estrogen, which may lead to estrogen-deﬁcient conditions (Zhu et al.,
•Gastrointestinal: Ingestion of a rosemary twig resulted in the perforation of the
gastric antrum, followed by migration to the liver, complicated by hepatic abscess
and Staphylococcus aureus sepsis, as reported in a 59-year-old male (Karamarkovic
et al., 2007).
•Hematologic: Rosemary ingestion has been shown to decrease absorption and uti-
lization of dietary iron (Samman et al., 2001), which may theoretically result in iron
•Immunological: In rat study, injection of 1,8-cineole, a rosemary constituent, produced
inﬂammatory edema in the hind paw, which may be due to the involvement of mast
cells (Santos & Rao, 1997).
Ulbricht et al. 361
•Neurologic/CNS: Seizures or epilepsy associated with rosemary have been reported
(Burkhard et al., 1999).
•Pulmonary/respiratory: In a case report, occupational asthma caused by several aro-
matic herbs, including thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, and garlic, was observed (Lemiere
et al., 1996). The diagnosis was conﬁrmed by inhalation challenges. Although all of
the herbs had immediate skin reactivity, RAST showed that garlic was the most potent
allergen by weight, with rosemary and the other herbs showing less reactivity.
•Avoid in patients who have a known allergy or hypersensitivity to rosemary, its
constituents, or other members of the Lamiaceae or Labiatae family.
•Avoid in patients taking lithium, as rosemary may precipitate lithium toxicity due to
its diuretic properties (Pyevich & Bogenschutz, 2001).
•Use cautiously in patients who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, due to
evidence of hormone-altering activity (Lemonica et al., 1996; Zhu et al., 1998) and
embryotoxic effects (Lemonica et al., 1996; Zhu et al., 1998), as well as its traditional
use as an abortifacient.
•Use cautiously in patients who are at risk for iron deﬁciency, as rosemary has been
shown to decrease iron absorption (Samman et al., 2001).
•Use cautiously in patients with coagulation disorders or taking anticoagulation or
anti-platelet agents, as rosemary has shown antithrombotic activity and may increase
the risk of bleeding (Yamamoto et al., 2005).
•Use cautiously in patients with blood pressure disorders or those who are using
hypotensive agents, as rosemary may inhibit ACE (Kwon et al., 2006).
•Use cautiously in patients with diabetes or those who are using hypoglycemic agents,
as rosemary has been shown to increase and decrease glucose levels (al Hader et al.,
1994; Kwon et al., 2006; Rau et al., 2006).
•Use cautiously in patients receiving ciproﬂoxacin, as based on laboratory study rose-
mary essential oils may antagonize the effects of ciproﬂoxacin (van Vuuren et al.,
•Use cautiously in patients taking cyclosporine, as rosemary may potentially interact
with this agent (Beaulieu, 2001).
•Use cautiously in patients taking drugs that are metabolized by cytochrome P450
pathways, as results from in vitro and rat study suggest that rosemary may induce
P450 enzymes, particularly CYP 2B, CYP 1A1, CYP 2B1/2, and CYP 2E1 (Debersac
et al., 2001a, 2001b; Offord et al., 1997).
•Use cautiously in patients using salicylates, as based on in vitro evidence rosemary
contains high levels of salicylates (Swain et al., 1985).
•Use cautiously in individuals predisposed to seizures or epilepsy, as seizures have
been associated with rosemary usage in human case report (Burkhard et al., 1999).
Pregnancy and Lactation
•Based on its hormone-altering activity (Lemonica et al., 1996; Zhu et al., 1998),
preliminary evidence showing embryotoxic effects and its traditional use as an
362 JOURNAL OF DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS
abortifacient, rosemary should be used cautiously by pregnant women or women
who wish to become pregnant.
•In rats, ingestion of 500 mg/kg of rosemary for 63 days resulted in a decline in
spermatogenesis and decrease in sperm motility and density in male rats (Nusier,
Bataineh, & Daradkah, 2007). Following impregnation by males fed with 500 mg/kg
of rosemary, there were a markedly increased number of fetal resorptions.
•Information concerning the use of rosemary during pregnancy or lactation is currently
lacking in the U.S. National Library of Medicine Drugs and Lactation Database
•Aminophylline: Based on in vitro evidence, rosemary may increase skin permeability
and percutaneous absorption of aminophylline in human skin (Wang, Wang, & Kuo,
•Analgesics: Based on human evidence, inhalation of the essential oil of rosemary
may affect subjective perception of pain, although without reducing pain sensitivity
(Gedney et al., 2004).
•Antianxiety drugs: In clinical study, inhalation of rosemary essential oil reduced
anxiety (Burnett, Solterbeck, & Strapp, 2004; Diego et al., 1998; McCaffrey et al.,
2009; Moss et al., 2003; Park & Lee, 2004).
•Antibiotics: On the basis of laboratory study, rosemary essential oil may act antago-
nistically with ciproﬂoxacin (van Vuuren et al., 2009). Incorporation of 10 mcg/ml
carnosic acid and carnosol into the growth medium caused a 32- and 16-fold poten-
tiation of activity of erythromycin against an erythromycin-efﬂuxing strain, respec-
tively (Oluwatuyi et al., 2004). Rosemary and several of its constituents, including
carnosic acid and carnosol, have exhibited antibacterial effects against various Gram-
positive and Gram-negative bacteria in vitro, including oral planktonic bacteria (Silva,
Silva, Higino, Pereira, & Carvalho, 2008), Bacillus subtilis, Escherichia coli, Entero-
coccus faecalis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, MRSA, HO-producing lactobacilli,
Bacillus brevis FMC3, Bacillus megaterium DSM32, Micrococcus luteus LA 2971,
Mycobacterium smegmatis RUT, Listeria monocytogenes SCOTT A, Streptococcus
thermophilus, Pseudomonas ﬂuorescens, Yersinia enterocolitica O:3 P 41797, Pro-
pionibacterium acnes (ATCC 6919), Staphylococcus epidermidis, Propionibacterium
acnes, and Staphylococcus aureus ME/GM/TC resistant (ATCC 33592) (Abdel-Fatah,
El-Hawa, Samia, Rabie, & Amer, 2002; Angioni et al., 2004; Antonio et al., 2009;
Bogdadi et al., 2007; Bozin, Mimica-Dukic, Samojlik, & Jovin, 2007; Cordeiro,
do Sacramento, Correa, Pizzolitto, & Bauab, 2006; Elgayyar, Draughon, Golden, &
Mount, 2001; Erdogrul, 2002; Fu et al., 2007b; Gutierrez, Barry-Ryan, & Bourke,
2008a; Jirovetz et al., 2005; Klancnik, Guzej, Kolar, Abramovic, & Mozina, 2009;
Larrondo et al., 1995; Lopez, Sanchez, Batlle, & Nerin, 2005; Luqman et al., 2007;
Oskay & Sari, 2007; Panizzi et al., 1993; Quave et al., 2008; Ramirez et al., 2006;
Rasooli, Shayegh, Taghizadeh, & Astaneh, 2008b; Santoyo et al., 2005; Schwiertz,
Duttke, Hild, & Muller, 2006; Scollard, Francis, & O’Beirne, 2009; Tada, Ohkanda,
& Kurabe, 2010; Verluyten, Leroy, & De Vuyst, 2004; Watt, Christoﬁ, & Young,
2007; Weckesser et al., 2007).
Ulbricht et al. 363
•Anticoagulants/anti-platelet drugs: Rosemary has shown signiﬁcant in vitro and in
vivo antithrombotic activity in mice (Naemura, Ura, Yamashita, Arai, & Yamamoto,
2008; Yamamoto et al., 2005). The antithrombotic mechanism may involve a direct
inhibitory effect on platelets. In rat study, oral rosmarinic acid decreased ﬁbronectin
and ﬁbrin in the glomerulus (Makino et al., 2002). Theoretically, concurrent use may
increase the risk of bleeding.
•Antidiabetic agents: Based on animal study, rosemary extract may increase blood
sugar levels in both diabetics and non-diabetics (al Hader et al., 1994). However, lab-
oratory studies have indicated that rosemary extracts may theoretically lower glucose
levels (Kwon et al., 2006; Rau et al., 2006), a hypothesis substantiated in animal study
(Bakirel et al., 2008; Erenmemisoglu, Saraymen, & Ustun, 1997).
•Antihypertensive drugs: On the basis of in vitro study, water extracts of rosemary may
inhibit ACE (Kwon et al., 2006).
•Anti-inﬂammatory drugs: On the basis of in vitro study, rosemary may have anti-
inﬂammatory activity (Chan, Ho, & Huang, 1995; Englberger et al., 1988). However,
in rat study, injection of 1,8-cineole, a rosemary constituent, produced inﬂammatory
edema in the hind paw (Santos & Rao, 1997).
•Antineoplastic agents: On the basis of in vitro study, rosemary may increase the
intracellular accumulation of commonly used chemotherapeutic agents, including
doxorubicin and vinblastine, in cancer cells that express P-glycoprotein (Nabekura
et al., 2009; Plouzek, Ciolino, Clarke, & Yeh, 1999). However, rosemary extract
probably does not affect accumulation or efﬂux of doxorubicin in cells that lack
P-glycoprotein. An increase in the activation of caspase-3 in high-risk pre-B acute
lymphoblastic leukemia cells has been observed in vitro during coadministration of
carnosol and chemotherapeutic agents high-risk pre-B acute lymphoblastic leukemia
has been observed in vitro (Zunino & Storms, 2009). Furthermore, a lower percentage
of caspase-3 positive cells progressed to an apoptotic phenotype during coadminis-
tration compared to treatment with chemotherapeutics alone.
•Antiobesity agents: In mice fed with a high-fat diet, rosemary leaf extract induced a
signiﬁcant reduction of weight and fat mass gain, an effect that may be related to the
inhibition of pancreatic lipase activity, as determined in vitro (Harach et al., 2009).
Carnosic acid and carnosol from rosemary inhibited the in vitro differentiation of
mouse preadipocytes, 3T3-L1 cells, into adipocytes, possibly mediated by the acti-
vation of the antioxidant-response element (ARE) and induction of phase-2 enzymes
(Takahashi et al., 2009).
•Antispasmodic agents: Rosemary oil produced spasmolytic effects in circular smooth
muscle strips of the guinea pig stomach accompanied by agonistic effects on alpha(1)
and alpha(2) adrenergic receptors in vitro (Sagorchev, Lukanov, & Beer, 2009). The
antispasmodic effects of alcoholic extracts of Rosmarinus ofﬁcinalis have also been
evaluated in isolated guinea pig ileum using acetylcholine and histamine as spasmo-
gens (Forster, Niklas, & Lutz, 1980).
•Cyclosporine: Rosemary may potentially interact with cyclosporine (Beaulieu, 2001).
•Cytochrome P450-metabolized agents: Results from in vitro and rat study suggest
that rosemary may selectively induce P450 enzymes in the liver, particularly CYP
2B, CYP 1A1, CYP 2B1/2, and CYP 2E1 (Debersac et al., 2001, 2001b; Offord
et al., 1997).
•Diuretics: In animal study, rosemary demonstrated diuretic effects, decreasing elec-
trolytes (Haloui, Louedec, Michel, & Lyoussi, 2000). Rosemary has been shown to
increase the permeability of furosemide in vitro (Laitinen et al., 2004).
364 JOURNAL OF DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS
•Hormonal agents: On the basis of human evidence, a combination of botanical sup-
plements (i.e., Curcuma longa,Cynara scolymus,Rosmarinus ofﬁcinalis,Schisandra
chinensis,Silybum marinum,andTaraxacum ofﬁcinalis) decreased dehydroepiandros-
terone, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate, androstenedione, and estrone sulfate levels
in women (Greenlee, Atkinson, Stanczyk, & Lampe, 2007). On the basis of evidence
from mouse study, rosemary may enhance the liver’s rate of deactivating estrogen in
the body (Zhu et al., 1998).
•Iron salts: Rosemary has been shown to decrease iron absorption (Samman et al.,
•Lithium: According to case reports, rosemary may precipitate lithium toxicity due to
its diuretic properties (Pyevich & Bogenschutz, 2001).
•Salicylates: On the basis of in vitro evidence, rosemary may contain high levels of
salicylates (Swain et al., 1985).
•Analgesics: Based on human evidence, inhalation of the essential oil of rosemary
may affect subjective perception of pain although without reducing pain sensitivity
(Gedney et al., 2004).
•Antibacterials: Based on laboratory study, rosemary essential oils may act antago-
nistically with ciproﬂoxacin (van Vuuren et al., 2009). Rosemary and several of its
constituents, including carnosic acid and carnosol, have exhibited antibacterial ef-
fects against various Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria in vitro, including
oral planktonic bacteria (Silva et al., 2008), Bacillus subtilis, Escherichia coli, Entero-
coccus faecalis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, MRSA, HO-producing lactobacilli,
Bacillus brevis FMC3, Bacillus megaterium DSM32, Micrococcus luteus LA 2971,
Mycobacterium smegmatis RUT, Listeria monocytogenes SCOTT A, Streptococcus
thermophilus, Pseudomonas ﬂuorescens, Yersinia enterocolitica O:3 P 41797, Pro-
pionibacterium acnes (ATCC 6919), Staphylococcus epidermidis, Propionibacterium
acnes, and Staphylococcus aureus ME/GM/TC Resistant (ATCC 33592) (Abdel-
Fatah et al., 2002; Angioni et al., 2004; Antonio et al., 2009; Bogdadi et al., 2007;
Bozin et al., 2007; Cordeiro et al., 2006; Elgayyar et al., 2001; Erdogrul, 2002; Fu
et al., 2007b; Gutierrez et al., 2008a; Jirovetz et al., 2005; Klancnik et al., 2009;
Larrondo et al., 1995; Lopez et al., 2005; Luqman et al., 2007; Oskay & Sari, 2007;
Panizzi et al., 1993; Quave et al., 2008; Ramirez et al., 2006; Rasooli et al., 2008b;
Santoyo et al., 2005; Schwiertz et al., 2006; Scollard et al., 2009; Tada et al., 2010;
Verluyten et al., 2004; Watt et al., 2007; Weckesser et al., 2007).
•Anticoagulants and anti-platelets: Rosemary has shown signiﬁcant antithrombotic
activity in vitro and in vivo in mice (Naemura et al., 2008; Yamamoto et al., 2005).
The antithrombotic mechanism may involve a direct inhibitory effect on platelets.
In rat study, oral rosmarinic acid decreased ﬁbronectin and ﬁbrin in the glomerulus
(Makino et al., 2002). Theoretically, concurrent use may increase the risk of bleeding.
•Anti-inﬂammatory herbs: Based on in vitro study, rosemary may have anti-
inﬂammatory activity (Chan et al., 1995; Englberger et al., 1988). However, in rat
study, injection of 1,8-cineole, a rosemary constituent, produced inﬂammatory edema
in the hind paw (Santos & Rao, 1997).
•Antiobesity herbs and supplements: In mice fed with a high-fat diet, rosemary leaf
extract induced a signiﬁcant reduction of weight and fat mass gain, an effect that
Ulbricht et al. 365
may be related to the inhibition of pancreatic lipase activity, as determined in vitro
(Harach et al., 2009). Carnosic acid and carnosol from rosemary inhibited the in
vitro differentiation of mouse preadipocytes, 3T3-L1 cells, into adipocytes, possibly
mediated by the activation of the ARE and induction of phase-2 enzymes (Takahashi
et al., 2009).
•Antispasmodics: Rosemary oil produced spasmolytic effects in circular smooth mus-
cle strips of the guinea pig stomach accompanied by agonistic effects on alpha(1) and
alpha(2) adrenergic receptors in vitro (Sagorchev et al., 2009). The antispasmodic
effects of alcoholic extracts of Rosmarinus ofﬁcinalis have also been evaluated in
isolated guinea pig ileum using acetylcholine and histamine as spasmogens (Forster
et al., 1980).
•Anxiolytics: In clinical study, inhalation of essential oil of rosemary reduced anxiety
(Burnett et al., 2004; Diego et al., 1998; McCaffrey et al., 2009; Moss et al., 2003;
Park & Lee, 2004.
•Cardiovascular herbs and supplements: In laboratory study, water extracts of rose-
mary inhibited rabbit lung ACE by 90.5% (Kwon et al., 2006).
•Cytochrome P450 substrates: Results from in vitro and rat study suggest that rosemary
may selectively induce P450 enzymes in liver, particularly CYP 2B, CYP 1A1, CYP
2B1/2, and CYP 2E1 (Debersac et al., 2001a, 2001b; Offord et al., 1997).
•Diuretics: In vitro evidence suggests that rosemary may enhance the effects of herbal
agents used for diuresis (Laitinen et al., 2004; Pyevich & Bogenschutz, 2001). In
animal study, rosemary demonstrated diuretic effects, decreasing electrolytes (Haloui
et al., 2000). Rosemary has been shown to increase the permeability of furosemide in
vitro (Laitinen et al., 2004).
•Hormonal herbs and supplements: On the basis of human evidence, a combination
of botanical supplements (i.e., Curcuma longa,Cynara scolymus,Rosmarinus ofﬁci-
nalis,Schisandra chinensis,Silybum marinum,andTaraxacum ofﬁcinalis) decreased
dehydroepiandrosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate, androstenedione, and es-
trone sulfate levels in women (Greenlee et al., 2007). On the basis of evidence from
mouse study, rosemary may enhance the liver’s rate of deactivating estrogen in the
body (Zhu et al., 1998); and based on another in vitro demonstration, rosemary may
decrease cortisol levels (Atsumi & Tonosaki, 2007).
•Hypoglycemics: On the basis of animal study, rosemary extract may increase blood
sugar levels in both diabetics and non-diabetics (al Hader et al., 1994). However,
laboratory study has theoretically indicated that rosemary extracts may lower glucose
levels (Kwon et al., 2006; Rau et al., 2006), a hypothesis substantiated in animal study
(Bakirel et al., 2008; Erenmemisoglu et al., 1997).
•Iron: On the basis of clinical study, rosemary may decrease iron absorption (Samman
et al., 2001).
•Lycopene: In laboratory study, the polyphenols rosmarinic acid and carnosic
acid (derived from rosemary) interacted synergistically with lycopene, inhibiting
low-density lipoproteins (LDL) oxidation in a dose-dependent manner (Fuhrman,
Volkova, Rosenblat, & Aviram, 2000).
•Iron-containing foods: On the basis of clinical study, rosemary may decrease iron
absorption (Samman et al., 2001).
366 JOURNAL OF DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS
•Lycopene-containing foods: In laboratory study, the polyphenols rosmarinic acid
and carnosic acid (derived from rosemary) interacted synergistically with lycopene,
thereby inhibiting LDL oxidation in a dose-dependent manner (Fuhrman et al., 2000).
•Blood glucose: On the basis of animal study, rosemary extract may increase blood
sugar levels in both diabetics and non-diabetics (al Hader et al., 1994). However, lab-
oratory studies have indicated that rosemary extracts theoretically may lower glucose
levels (Kwon et al., 2006; Rau et al., 2006), a hypothesis substantiated in animal study
(Bakirel et al., 2008; Erenmemisoglu et al., 1997).
•Blood pressure: In laboratory study, water extracts of rosemary inhibited rabbit lung
ACE by 90.5% (Kwon et al., 2006).
•Chloride: In rat study, aqueous extracts of rosemary signiﬁcantly increased urinary
excretion of chloride (Haloui et al., 2000).
•Coagulation panel: Rosemary has shown signiﬁcant antithrombotic activity in vitro
and in vivo in mice (Naemura et al., 2008; Yamamoto et al., 2005). The antithrombotic
mechanism may involve a direct inhibitory effect on platelets. In rat study, oral
rosmarinic acid decreased ﬁbronectin and ﬁbrin in the glomerulus (Makino et al.,
•Cortisol: On the basis of in vitro evidence, rosemary may decrease cortisol levels
(Atsumi & Tonosaki, 2007).
•Creatinine clearance: In rat study, aqueous extracts of rosemary signiﬁcantly de-
creased creatinine clearance (Haloui et al., 2000).
•Electroencephalogram (EEG): Human study investigating the effects of rosemary
aromatherapy on alertness and EEG activity found that patients showed decreased
frontal alpha- and beta-power, suggesting increased alertness (Diego et al., 1998). In
another research, subjects with a greater baselines relative to the right frontal EEG
activation shifted left during exposure to rosemary aroma, while those with greater
baselines relative to left frontal EEG activation shifted right (Sanders et al., 2002).
•Estrogen levels: On the basis of evidence from mouse study, rosemary may enhance
the liver’s rate of deactivating estrogen in the body (Zhu et al., 1998).
•Iron: On the basis of clinical study, rosemary may decrease iron absorption (Samman
et al., 2001).
•Lithium concentrations: According to case reports, rosemary may result in increased
lithium serum concentrations due to its diuretic properties (Pyevich & Bogenschutz,
•Liver function tests: In animal study, rosemary normalized the increase in bilirubin
level and alanine aminotransferase activity in plasma induced by CCl4(Gutierrez
et al., 2009).
•Potassium: In rat study, aqueous extracts of rosemary signiﬁcantly increased urinary
excretion of potassium (Haloui et al., 2000).
•Sodium: In rat study, aqueous extracts of rosemary signiﬁcantly increased urinary
excretion of sodium (Haloui et al., 2000).
•Triglycerides: In animal study, hepatic triglyceride levels were decreased following
rosemary extract administration (Harach et al., 2009).
Ulbricht et al. 367
•Antioxidants: Research has shown that the antioxidant capacity of rosemary may be
reduced when grilling and stir-frying or storing in cold vinegar (Chohan, Forster-
Wilkins, & Opara, 2008).
•Glucose: On the basis of animal study, rosemary extract may increase blood sugar
levels in both diabetics and non-diabetics (al Hader et al., 1994). However, laboratory
studies have indicated that rosemary extracts theoretically may lower glucose levels
(Kwon et al., 2006; Rau et al., 2006), a hypothesis substantiated in animal study
(Bakirel et al., 2008; Erenmemisoglu et al., 1997).
MECHANISM OF ACTION
•Constituents: The active constituents of rosemary are caffeic acid, rosmarinic acid,
carnosol, and carnosic acid, which are thought to have antioxidant activity (al
Sereiti, Abu-Amer, & Sen, 1999; Bassani, Casadebaig, Jacob, Menut, & Lamaty,
1990; Herrero, Plaza, Cifuentes, & Ibanez, 2009; Hsieh et al., 2007; Luis, Martin,
Frias, & Valdes, 2007; Nabekura et al., 2009; Perez-Fons, Garzon, & Micol, 2010;
Takahashi et al., 2009). The essential oil also contains alpha-pinene, borneol, (-)-
camphene, 1,8-cineole, camphor, verbenone, and bornyl acetate (Angioni et al., 2004;
Flamini, Cioni, Morelli, Macchia, & Ceccarini, 2002; Granger, Passet, Arbousset, &
Girard, 1970; Martinez et al., 2009; Santoyo et al., 2005; Waliwitiya, Kennedy, &
Lowenberger, 2009). Rosemary also contains phenolic diterpenes (carnosic acid,
carnosol, and 12-O-methylcarnosic acid), caffeoyl derivatives (rosmarinic acid),
triterpenes (lupane, oleanane, and ursane triterpenes, ursolic acid, and rofﬁcerone),
monoterpenes (e.g., myrcene and camphor), and ﬂavones (isoscutellarein 7-O-
glucoside and genkwanin) (Backleh, Leupold, & Parlar, 2003; Bassani et al., 1990;
Benhabiles, Ait-Amar, boutekdjiret, & Belabbes, 2001; Brieskorn & Zweyrohn, 1970;
del Bano et al., 2003; Doolaege et al., 2007; Ganeva, Tsankova, Simova, Apostolova, &
Zaharieva, 1993; Grayer et al., 2003; Herrero et al., 2009; Hosny, Johnson, Ueltschy,
& Rosazza, 2002; Hsieh et al., 2007; Huang, Huang, Lin-Shiau, & Lin, 2009;
Jager, Trojan, Kopp, Laszczyk, & Schefﬂer, 2009; Karlsen & Svendsen, 1968;
Kreis, Dietrich, & Mosandl, 1994; Laszczyk, 2009; Masuda, Kirikihira, & Takeda,
2005; Masuda et al., 2002; Munne-Bosch, Schwarz, & Alegre, 1999a; Munne-
Bosch & Alegre, 2000, 2001; Munne-Bosch, Schwarz, & Alegre, 1999b; Nabekura
et al., 2009; Ormeno, Fernandez, & Mevy, 2007a; Ormeno et al., 2007b; Ormeno,
Baldy, Ballini, & Fernandez, 2008; Papageorgiou, Mallouchos, & Komaitis, 2008b;
Pertino and Schmeda-Hirschmann, 2009; Rasmussen, Rasmussen, & Baerheim, 1972;
Schwarz & Ternes, 1992b; Steinmetz, Vial, & Millet, 1987; Tada et al., 2010; Tamaki,
Tabuchi, Takahashi, Kosaka, & Satoh, 2009; Thorsen & Hildebrandt, 2003; Yassaa &
Williams, 2005). Other studies have also characterized the chemical characteristics
of rosemary (Proenca da Cunha & Roque, 1986).
•P-cymene (44.02%), linalool (20.5%), gamma-terpinene (16.62%), thymol (1.81%),
beta-pinene (3.61%), alpha-pinene (2.83%), eucalyptol (2.64%), linoleic acid, ros-
mariquinone, monoterpenic hydrocarbons, oxygenated monoterpenes, sesquiter-
pene hydrocarbons, and (-)-methyl jasmonate have been also isolated (Croteau &
368 JOURNAL OF DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS
Kolattukudy, 1974; Cuppett, Hall, Conway, Birt, & Lawson, 1995; Ozcan & Chalchat,
2008; Ruiz Del Castillo & Blanch, 2007). Isoﬂavonoids have been isolated from rose-
mary (Bajer, Adam, Galla, & Ventura, 2007; Bezanger & Guilbert, 1965), including
eriocitrin, luteolin 3-O-beta-d-glucuronide, hesperidin, diosmin, isoscutellarein 7-O-
glucoside, hispidulin 7-O-glucoside, and genkwanin (del Bano et al., 2004).
•Rosemary leaves contain 5-hydroxy-7,4-dimethoxyﬂavone (Brieskorn & Domling,
1967), seco-hinokiol (Cantrell, Richheimer, Nicholas, Schmidt, & Bailey, 2005), and
alpha-tocopherol (Munne-Bosch et al., 1999a; Torre, Lorenzo, Martinez-Alcazar,
& Barbas, 2001). Rosemary leaves also contain luteolin, luteolin 3-O-beta-D-
glucuronide, luteolin 3-O-(4-O-acetyl)-beta-D-glucuronide, luteolin 3-O-(3-O-
acetyl)-beta-D-glucuronide, and hesperidin (Lopez-Lazaro, 2009; Okamura et al.,
•7-Beta-methoxyabieta-8,13-diene-11,12-dione-(20,6beta)-olide (rosmaquinone A)
and 7-alpha-methoxyabieta-8,13-diene-11,12-dione-(20,6beta)-olide (rosmaquinone
B) have been isolated from the aerial parts of Rosmarinus ofﬁcinalis L.
(Mahmoud, Al Shihry, & Son, 2005). Quinate, cis-4-glucosyloxycinnamic acid, and
3,4,5-trimethoxyphenylmethanol have been also isolated from rosemary (Xiao, Dai,
Liu, Wang, & Tang, 2008).
•Various drying methods altered the mineral content (K, Ca, Na, Mg, and P) in samples
of rosemary leaves (Arslan & Musa Ozcan, 2008). Growing conditions (i.e., sunlight
vs. shaded) may affect protein and soluble sugar contents of various plants; higher
soluble sugar contents were observed for rosemary, which is grown in sunlight con-
ditions with no differences between sunlight or shade for protein content (Castrillo,
Vizcaino, Moreno, & Latorraca, 2005). Irradiation of rosemary has been shown to
result in a decrease in carotenoid content (Calucci et al., 2003). Drought conditions
have not been shown to affect carotenoid concentrations in rosemary leaves (Nogues,
Munne-Bosch, Casadesus, Lopez-Carbonell, & Alegre, 2001).
•Microencapsulation procedures of essential oils of rosemary have been developed and
described (Ribeiro, Arnaud, Frazao, Venancio, & Chaumeil, 1997). Various methods,
including a method based on headspace solid-phase microextraction (HS-SPME)
and gas chromatography and a capillary electrophoresis-electrospray ionization-mass
spectrometry method, have been proposed for the determination of volatile com-
pounds from rosemary (Arraez-Roman, Gomez-Caravaca, Gomez-Romero, Segura-
Carretero, & Fernandez-Gutierrez, 2006; Carrillo & Tena, 2005; Lemberkovics et al.,
2004; Mastelic & Kustrak, 1997).
•The combination of laser-induced acoustic desorption and electrospray ionization
mass spectrometry (LIAD/ESI/MS) (Cheng, Huang, & Shiea, 2009) and a method
based on capillary electrophoresis-electrospray-mass spectrometry (CE-ESI-MS)
(Herrero et al., 2005) have been used to detect components of rosemary essential oils.
Ultrasound techniques have been used to extract carnosic acid from rosemary (Albu,
Joyce, Paniwnyk, Lorimer, & Mason, 2004). Among tested isolation techniques,
microwave distillation demonstrated several advantages over other approaches (i.e.,
traditional hydrodistillation, supercritical ﬂuid extraction, organic solvent extraction)
in the extraction of rosemary essential oil (Presti et al., 2005).
•Analgesic effects: On the basis of human study, rosemary aromatherapy had no anal-
gesic effect (Gedney et al., 2004).
•Antibacterial effects: In vitro, rosemary and several of its constituents, including
rosmarinic acid, carnosic acid, and carnosol, have exhibited antibacterial effects
against various Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, including oral planktonic
Ulbricht et al. 369
bacteria (Silva et al., 2008), Bacillus subtilis, Escherichia coli, Enterococcus faecalis,
Pseudomonas aeruginosa, MRSA, HO-producing lactobacilli, Bacillus brevis
FMC3, Bacillus megaterium DSM32, Micrococcus luteus LA 2971, Mycobacterium
smegmatis RUT, Listeria monocytogenes SCOTT A, Streptococcus thermophilus,
Pseudomonas ﬂuorescens, and Yersinia enterocolitica O:3 P 41797, Propionibac-
terium acnes (ATCC 6919), Staphylococcus epidermidis, Propionibacterium acnes,
Helicobacter pylori, and Staphylococcus aureus ME/GM/TC resistant (ATCC 33592)
(Abdel-Fatah et al., 2002; Angioni et al., 2004; Antonio et al., 2009; Bogdadi et al.,
2007; Bozin et al., 2007; Cordeiro et al., 2006; Elgayyar et al., 2001; Erdogrul, 2002;
Fu et al., 2007b; Gutierrez et al., 2008a; Jirovetz et al., 2005; Klancnik et al., 2009;
Larrondo et al., 1995; Lopez et al., 2005; Luqman et al., 2007; Matsubara et al.,
2003; Moreno et al., 2006; Oskay & Sari, 2007; Panizzi et al., 1993; Quave et al.,
2008; Ramirez et al., 2006; Rasooli et al., 2008b; Santoyo et al., 2005; Schwiertz
et al., 2006; Scollard et al., 2009; Tada et al., 2010; Verluyten et al., 2004; Watt
et al., 2007; Weckesser et al., 2007). In laboratory research, essential oils of rosemary
with the highest quantity of camphor, borneol, and verbenone were found to exert
the highest levels of antimicrobial activity (Santoyo et al., 2005). On the basis of
in vitro study, the antibacterial effects of rosemary may be attributed to its ability
to prevent cell adhesion (Sandasi, Leonard, & Viljoen, 2010) or bioﬁlm production
(Quave et al., 2008; Rasooli et al., 2008b). Rosemary oil exhibited potent quorum
sensing inhibition, which may reduce the pathogenicity, antibiotic resistance, and
bioﬁlm formation during infection (Szabo et al., 2009). Rosemary oil signiﬁcantly
damaged Propionibacterium acnes bacterial bodies, as evidenced by reductions in the
length, width, and height of the bacteria, loss of shape, and leakage of cytoplasm out
of the bacterial body (Fu et al., 2007a).
•The major components of a chloroform extract of the aerial parts of Rosmari-
nus ofﬁcinalis had minimum inhibitory concentrations ranging from 16–64 mcg/ml
against strains of Staphylococcus aureus possessing efﬂux mechanisms of resistance
(Oluwatuyi et al., 2004). A methanol extract of Rosmarinus ofﬁcinalis leaf had a
Helicobacter pylori minimal inhibitory concentration (MIC) of 25 mcg/ml (Mahady
et al., 2005).
•Rosemary essential oil exhibited some inhibition against sheep and deer rumen mi-
croorganisms in vitro (Oh, Jones, & Longhurst, 1968). Oleoresin rosemary (1%)
resulted in an approximately 1-log CFU/g reduction in the populations of Es-
cherichia coli O157:H7, Salmonella typhimurium, and Listeria monocytogenes in
ground beef after nine days of refrigerated storage (Ahn et al., 2004). Rosemary at
1% (weight/volume) in Mueller-Hinton (MH) agar showed antimicrobial effects on
Shigella, with an MIC ranging from 0.5 to 1% (weight/volume) depending on the
used Shigella strain (Bagamboula et al., 2001). In food safety tests, rosemary ex-
tracts also inhibited common pathogenic microorganisms signiﬁcant in food hygiene
(Bagamboula, Uyttendaele, & Debevere, 2003; Bentayeb, Rubio, Batlle, & Nerin,
2007; Brooks et al., 2008; Carraminana, Rota, Burillo, & Herrera, 2008; da Silva
et al., 2008; Del Campo, Amiot, & Nguyen-The, 2000; Fabio, Corona, Forte, &
Quaglio, 2003; Fan, Sommers, & Sokorai, 2004; Gutierrez et al., 2008a; Gutierrez,
Rodriguez, Barry-Ryan, & Bourke, 2008b; Ismail, Dea, Abd El-Rahman, Yassien, &
Beuchat, 2001; Karpinska-Tymoszczyk, 2008; Keokamnerd, Acton, Han, & Dawson,
2008; Lee, Gwon, Kim, & Moon, 2009; Lee, Williams, Sloan, & Littell, 1997; Lopez-
Munoz et al., 2006; Mangena & Muyima, 1999; Martinez et al., 2006; Pozo-Insfran,
Follo-Martinez, Talcott, & Brenes, 2007; Rasooli et al., 2008a; Rota et al., 2004; Ruiz,
370 JOURNAL OF DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS
Williams, Djeri, Hinton, & Rodrick, 2009; Sasse, Colindres, & Brewer, 2009; Scollard
et al., 2009; Seyfert et al., 2005; Suhr & Nielsen, 2003; Tovar, Salafranca, Sanchez, &
Nerin, 2005; Valero & Salmeron, 2003). It has been suggested that rosemary’s food
preservation effects may be attributed to its phenolic constituents (Schwarz & Ternes,
1992a), including carnosol and carnosic acid (Smith, Halliwell, & Aruoma, 1992).
This preservative effect may be due to rosemary’s antioxidant capability (Baardseth,
1989; Bhale, Xu, Prinyawiwatkul, King, & Godber, 2007; Botsoglou, Govaris,
Giannenas, Botsoglou, & Papageorgiou, 2007; Campbell, Drake, & Larick, 2003;
Gramza-Michalowska, Korczak, & Regula, 2007; Jaswir, Che Man, & Hassan, 2005;
Martinez-Tome et al., 2001; Negroni, D’Agostina, & Arnoldi, 2001; Nissen, Mansson,
Bertelsen, Huynh-Ba, & Skibsted, 2000; Pezo, Salafranca, & Nerin, 2008; Rudzinska,
Korczak, Gramza, Wasowicz, & Dutta, 2004; Talcott, Brenes, Pires, & Pozo-Insfran,
2003), possibly through the maintenance of alpha-tocopherol (Beddows, Jagait, &
Kelly, 2000) or the inhibition of lipid peroxidation (LPO) (Chang & Chen, 1998).
•Anticancer effects: Rosemary and its constituents may exert anticancer effects through
a variety of mechanisms, including the induction of apoptosis and inhibition of tumor
formation. Alcohol extracts of rosemary have shown strong antitumorigenic activity
(Ho et al., 2000; Kahkonen et al., 1999). In mice, topical rosemary extract prolonged
the latency period of 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene (DMBA)-induced tumor oc-
currence, and decreased tumor incidence, tumor burden, and tumor yield (Sancheti &
Goyal, 2006a, 2006b), possibly due to the extract’s ursolic acid content (Huang et al.,
1994). Ursolic acid, a constituent of rosemary, reduced interleukin-1 beta (IL-1beta) or
tumor necrosis-alpha (TNF-alpha)-induced rat C6 glioma cell invasion in vitro with no
effects on cell proliferation or cell cytotoxicity (Huang et al., 2009). Activity and ex-
pression of matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) (the target gene of the transcription
factor nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB)) was also eliminated by ursolic acid, and
the upregulated levels of IkappaBalpha attenuated the nuclear translocation of p65,
and suppressed IL-1beta- or TNF-alpha-induced activation of protein kinase C-zeta
(PKC-zeta). However, in another research, intraperitoneally injected carnosol from
rosemary inhibited DMBA-induced tumors, whereas ursolic acid did not (Singletary
et al., 1996). In leukemia laboratory study, carnosic acid inhibited proliferation of hu-
man myeloid leukemia without induction of apoptotic or necrotic cell death (Steiner
et al., 2001). Carnosic acid decreased viability of the human promyelocytic leukemia
cell line HL-60 and induced G(1) arrest and apoptosis in vitro (Wang et al., 2008).
This effect was augmented by the addition of arsenic trioxide, which resulted in the
upregulation of p27 and activation of caspase-9, possibly mediated by the induction
of phosphatase and tensin homologue (PTEN) expression. Rosemary essential oil
reduced the expression of the gene bcl-2 and increased the expression of bax in the
liver cancer cell line HepG2 in vitro (Wei et al., 2008). Crude ethanolic rosemary
extract exhibited antiproliferative effects on human leukemia and breast cancer cells
in vitro (Cheung & Tai, 2007). Rosmarinic acid inhibited cytokine-induced mesangial
cell proliferation and suppressed platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) and c-myc
mRNA expression in PDGF-stimulated mesangial cells in vitro (Makino et al., 2000).
•Rosemary extracts demonstrated tumor inhibition in vitro as well as in animal study
(Arican, 2009; Singletary & Nelshoppen, 1991). When combined with 1 alpha, 25-
dihydroxyvitamin D(3) (1,25D(3)), rosemary extract increased the survival of mice
with acute myeloid leukemia and exhibited strong antiproliferative and differentiation
effects (Shabtay et al., 2008). The results of a study conducted by Steiner et al. (2001)
indicate that carnosic acid is capable of antiproliferative action in leukemic cells
Ulbricht et al. 371
and can cooperate with other natural anticancer compounds in growth-inhibitory and
differentiating effects. Rosemary extracts have been shown to induce quinine reduc-
tase activity and glutathione-S-transferase in vitro and in animal study (Singletary &
Rokusek, 1997; Tawﬁq et al., 1994). Tumor development (secondary sources) may be
reduced by decrease in the expression of the proinﬂammatory gene cyclooxygenase-
2 (COX-2). In colon cancer, HT-29 cells in vitro, rosmarinic acid, a constituent
of rosemary, reduced 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA)-induced COX-2
promoter activity (p<.05) and protein levels (p<.05), reduced TPA-induced tran-
scription from a control activator protein-1 (AP-1) promoter-luciferase construct, and
repressed binding of the AP-1 factors c-Jun (p<.01) and c-Fos (p<.05) to COX-
2 promoter oligonucleotides harboring a cAMP-response element (CRE) (Scheckel
et al., 2008). Furthermore, in a nonmalignant breast epithelial cell line (MCF10A),
rosmarinic acid antagonized the stimulatory effects of TPA on COX-2 protein expres-
sion, the recruitment of c-Jun and c-Fos, and activation of the extracellular signal-
regulated protein kinase-1/2. Supercritical ﬂuid SF-CO2 treatment of Rosmarinus
ofﬁcinalis L. fresh leaves exhibited viability suppression and tumor necrosis fac-
tor alpha (TNF-alpha) production in Hep 3B cells (Peng et al., 2007). In a mouse
model of colonic tumorigenesis, dietary administration of carnosol, a constituent of
rosemary, decreased intestinal tumor multiplicity (Moran, Carothers, Weyant, Red-
ston, & Bertagnolli, 2005). Treatment of intestinal tissue from tumorigenic mice with
carnosol restored both E-cadherin and beta-catenin to these enterocyte membranes
in vitro, resulting in a phenotype typical of wild-type mice. Furthermore, treatment
of wild-type mouse intestine with the phosphatase inhibitor pervanadate removed
E-cadherin and beta-catenin from the lateral membranes of enterocytes, resulting in
tissues that resembled the tumorigenic mice.
•In a mouse model, carnosic acid and 1 alpha, 25-dihydroxyvitamin D(3), a powerful
differentiation agent, resulted in a strong cooperative antitumor effect, without in-
ducing hypercalcemia (Sharabani et al., 2006). Rosemary extract’s antiproliferative
effects may be due to its concentration-dependent capability of selectively activating
a fusion receptor of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma, a ligand-
activated transcription factor (Rau et al., 2006).
•Carnosol phenolic compound extracted from rosemary has been reported to have
anticancer activity against B-lineage leukemias, and possibly other types of cancers
that express high levels of the protective protein, Bcl-2 (Dorrie, Sapala, & Zunino,
2001). On the basis of cell line research, an ethanol extract from rosemary reduced
genotoxic activity and appeared to exhibit a protective effect against oxidative damage
to DNA as a consequence of the scavenging of both ∗OH radicals and singlet oxygen
(Slamenova, Kuboskova, Horvathova, & Robichova, 2002). Furthermore, rosemary
extracts inhibited benzo(a)pyrene- or aﬂatoxin B1-induced DNA adduct formation by
strongly inhibiting CYP450 activities and inducing the expression of glutathione S-
transferase (Mace, Offord, Harris, & Pfeifer, 1998). These results in human cell models
give some insight into the different mechanisms involved in the chemopreventive
action of both natural and synthetic compounds in relation to phase-I and phase-II
enzymes. Based on laboratory study, carnosic acid (2.5–10 mcM) has been shown to
inhibit some myeloid lymphomas (Steiner et al., 2001).
•Potential mechanisms of rosemary’s chemoprotective action include inhibition of the
metabolic activation of procarcinogens catalyzed by the phase-I cytochrome P450
enzymes and induction of the detoxiﬁcation pathway catalyzed by the phase-II en-
zymes, such as glutathione S-transferase (Offord et al., 1997). Carnosol suppresses
372 JOURNAL OF DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS
nitric oxide (NO) production and inducible NO synthase gene expression, possibly
by inhibiting NF-kappaB activation (Lo, Liang, Lin-Shiau, Ho, & Lin, 2002). These
effects may be related to the chemopreventative effects of rosemary.
•An increase in the activation of caspase-3 during coadministration of carnosol and
chemotherapeutic agents in high-risk pre-B acute lymphoblastic leukemia has been
observed in vitro (Zunino & Storms, 2009). It was further observed that a lower
percentage of caspase-3 positive cells progressed to an apoptotic phenotype during
coadministration compared to the treatment with chemotherapeutics alone. Phyto-
chemicals found in rosemary, such as carnosic acid, carnosol, rosmarinic acid, and
ursolic acid, stimulated the ATPase activity of P-glycoprotein in P-glycoprotein-
overexpressing human carcinoma KB-C2 cells (Nabekura et al., 2009). In addition,
KB-C2 cells were sensitized to vinblastine cytotoxicity by carnosic acid, indicating
reversal of multidrug resistance by carnosic acid.
•In laboratory tests, rosemary extracts have been observed to exhibit anticancer ac-
tivities (Leal et al., 2003). Speciﬁcally, carnosol from rosemary extract inhibited the
invasion of highly metastatic mouse melanoma B16/F10 cells in vitro (Huang, Ho,
Lin-Shiau, & Lin, 2005). Further study indicates that carnosol targets MMP-mediated
cellular events in cancer cells. In rat study, oral administration of rosemary essential
oil prior to the administration of mutagenic compounds signiﬁcantly inhibited mu-
tagenesis, which may be due to rosemary essential oil’s relatively high percentage
of highly antioxidant phenolic compounds (Fahim et al., 1999). Various constituents
of rosemary, including rosmariquinone, inhibited the mutagenicity of N-methyl-N-
nitrosourea (MNU) and N-Nitroso-bis-(2-hydroxy-propyl) amine (BHP) in V79 cells
and inhibited ornithine decarboxylase activity in mouse skin (Cuppett et al., 1995).
Antimutagenic effects of carnosic acid and carnosol have been demonstrated in Ames
tester strain TA102 (Minnunni, Wolleb, Mueller, Pfeifer, & Aeschbacher, 1992).
Oleoresin rosemary reduced 2-amino-1-methyl-6-phenylimidazo[4,5-b]pyridine for-
mation in fried beef patties and other foods (Awney & Sindi, 2010; Balogh et al.,
2000; Persson, Graziani, Ferracane, Fogliano, & Skog, 2003; Zochling, Murkovic, &
•Anti-diabetic effects: In rabbit study, the i.m. administration of the rosemary leaf
volatile oil (25 mg/kg) produced 20% (p<.05), 27% (p<.01), and 55% (p<
.001) increase in plasma glucose levels in normal rabbits at 60-, 90- and 120-min
intervals, respectively (al Hader et al., 1994). This injection also decreased serum
insulin by 30% (p<.002) in comparison with that of control rabbits at the 30-min
interval. In alloxan diabetic rabbits, rosemary volatile oil increased fasting plasma
glucose levels by 17% (p<.05) when compared with controls (Bakirel et al., 2008).
However, in another animal study, administration of rosemary extract signiﬁcantly
lowered blood glucose levels and increased serum insulin concentrations (Bakirel
et al., 2008; Erenmemisoglu et al., 1997).
•In laboratory tests, water extracts of three different clonal lines of rosemary (rose-
mary LA (71.4%), rosemary 6 (68.4%), and rosemary K-2 (67.8%)) showed signiﬁ-
cant alpha-glucosidase inhibitory activity; rosmarinic acid had an alpha-glucosidase
inhibitory activity of 85.1% (Kwon et al., 2006).
•Rosemary extract prepared with 80% aqueous ethanol is capable of selectively ac-
tivating Gal4-PPARgamma fusion receptor, in a concentration-dependent manner,
with an EC50 value of 22.8 ±8.4 mg/L (Rau et al., 2006). The phenolic diterpene
compounds, carnosol and carnosic acid, are the active principles of these extracts,
showing EC50 values of 41.2 ±5.9 mcM and 19.6 ±2.0 mcM, respectively. These
Ulbricht et al. 373
ﬁndings suggest that the glucose-lowering effect of rosemary may be attributed to
•The metabolism of essential elements in the liver, including Zn, Cu, Fe, Mg, and Mn,
may play a role in the pathogenesis and progress of diabetes (secondary sources). In
diabetic rats, rosemary extract decreased Mn level in the liver (Prat et al., 2009).
•Rosemary extract inhibited glycation of albumin in vitro; this effect may be related
to its high phenolic content (Dearlove et al., 2008; Hsieh et al., 2007).
•Antifungal effects: In several in vitro studies, rosemary has shown weak antifungal
activity (Angioni et al., 2004; Boyraz & Ozcan, 2005; Daferera et al., 2000; Durakovic
& Durakovic, 1979; Giordani et al., 2004; Karanika, Komaitis, & Aggelis, 2001;
Lopez-Munoz et al., 2006; Luqman et al., 2007; Ozcan, 2005; Ozcan & Chalchat,
2008; Pozzatti et al., 2008; Shin, 2003; Steinmetz, Moulin-Traffort, & Regli, 1988;
Tantaoui-Elaraki & Beraoud, 1994). An inductive effect has been observed on fungal
growth, especially toward Fusarium graminearum (Angioni et al., 2004). Rosemary
essential oils had some inhibitory effect on the radial growth and conidial germination
of Penicillium digitatum, though conidial production was not affected by the oil at
concentrations up to 1,000 mcg/ml (Daferera et al., 2000). In contrast, other research
has shown that rosemary extract can act as a substrate for mycelial growth, sporulation,
and aﬂatoxin production (Llewellyn, Burkett, & Eadie, 1981).
•Anti-inﬂammatory effects: Various rosemary extracts have exhibited anti-
inﬂammatory effects in animal models (Altinier et al., 2007). Rosemary has been
shown to interrupt the pathway that activates nuclear transcription factor kappaB
in vitro (Aggarwal & Shishodia, 2004). Carnosic acid and carnosol from rosemary
have been shown to activate peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma, in-
hibit the formation of pro-inﬂammatory leukotrienes in intact human polymorphonu-
clear leukocytes, potently antagonize intracellular Ca(2+) mobilization induced by a
chemotactic stimulus, and attenuate the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS)
and the secretion of human leukocyte elastase (Poeckel et al., 2008). Rosmanol, a
phenolic constituent of rosemary, suppressed the lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced
phosphorylation of ERK1/2, p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and phos-
phatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt signaling (Lai et al., 2009). As a result, it may
downregulate inﬂammatory iNOS and COX-2 gene expression by inhibiting the acti-
vation of NF-kappaB and STAT3 through interfering with the activation of PI3K/Akt
and MAPK signaling. Carnosic acid from rosemary inhibited TNF-alpha-induced
migration of human aortic smooth muscle cells in vitro, accompanied by inhibition
of MMP-9 activity and expression and suppression of TNF-alpha-induced production
of ROS and the nuclear translocation of NF-kappaB p50 and p65 (Yu et al., 2008).
•Carnosol from rosemary inhibited LPS- and interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma)-induced
nitrite production by mouse peritoneal cells by more than 50% at 2.5–10 mcM (Chan
et al., 1995). Rosemary extract inhibited the enzymatic activity of human leukocyte
elastase HLE in vitro (Baylac & Racine, 2004). Rosemary essential oil signiﬁcantly
reduced the volume of pleural exudate and slightly decreased the number of cells that
had migrated during the carrageenan-induced edema testing (Takaki et al., 2008).
•Rosmarinic acid isolated from Rosmarinus ofﬁcinalis inhibited the in vitro immuno-
hemolysis of antibody-coated sheep erythrocytes by guinea pig serum because of
the inhibition of the C3-convertase of the classical complement pathway (Englberger
et al., 1988). Rosmarinic acid (0.316–3.16 mg/kg, i.m.) also reduced paw edema
induced by cobra venom factor in rat, and, at 1–100 mg/kg, orally, inhibited pas-
sive cutaneous anaphylaxis in rat. In addition, at 10 mg/kg, i.m., rosmarinic acid
374 JOURNAL OF DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS
impaired in vivo activation by heat-killed Corynebacterium parvum (intraperi-
toneally) of mouse macrophages. Rosmarinic acid (0.1–10 mg/kg, i.m.) did not
inhibit t-butyl hydroperoxide-induced paw edema in the rat, indicating selectivity
for complement-dependent processes.
•In mice, intratracheal exposure to volatile constituents of rosemary inhibited the
increase in the number of eosinophils, neutrophils, and mononuclear cells around
airways and those in the bronchoalveolar lavage ﬂuid, and suppressed the expression
of interleukin (IL)-13 (Inoue et al., 2005).
•Antinociceptive effects: In animal study, rosemary produced signiﬁcant antinocicep-
tive effects on different types of induced pain through various mechanisms of action
(Gonzalez-Trujano et al., 2007; Martinez et al., 2009). Rosemary oil extract ad-
ministration in mice reduced the number of writhing movements induced by the
intraperitoneal administration of acetic acid solution and inhibited licking and shak-
ing behaviors in both the early (neurogenic pain) and the late (inﬂammatory pain)
phases of the formalin test (Gonzalez-Trujano et al., 2007). These effects may be
modulated by the serotonin system (i.e., 5-HT1A receptors) or the endogenous opioid
system (Martinez et al., 2009).
•Anti-obesity effects: In mice fed with a high-fat diet, rosemary leaf extract induced
a signiﬁcant reduction of weight and fat mass gain, an effect that may be related
to the inhibition of pancreatic lipase activity, as determined in vitro (Harach et al.,
2009). Administration of the lower dose of rosemary extract (20 mg/kg of body
weight) was ineffective on all the measured parameters. Carnosic acid and carnosol
from rosemary inhibited the in vitro differentiation of mouse preadipocytes, 3T3-L1
cells, into adipocytes, possibly mediated by the activation of the ARE and induction
of phase-2 enzymes (Takahashi et al., 2009). Using cDNA microarray analysis, it
was shown that phase-2 enzymes (Gsta2, Gclc, Abcc4, and Abcc1), all of which are
involved in the metabolism of glutathione (GSH), constituted four of the top ﬁve
carnosic acid-induced genes.
•Antioxidant effects: Rosemary’s oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) value
was reported as 1.66 (Bentayeb, Vera, Rubio, & Nerin, 2009). Numerous laboratory
tests indicate that rosemary and its extracts have antioxidant properties (Choi et al.,
2002a; Dragan et al., 2007; Galobart et al., 2001; Ho et al., 2000; Ibanez et al., 2000,
2003; Kahkonen et al., 1999; Kaliora & Andrikopoulos, 2005; Kim & Kim, 2003;
Kim, Han, Moon, & Rhee, 1995; Lamaison, Petitjean-Freytet, & Carnat, 1991; Leal
et al., 2003; Makino et al., 2002; Mirshekar, Dastar, & Shabanpour, 2009; Moreno
et al., 2006; Nakatani, 2000; Okamura et al., 1994; Ozcan, 2003; Pukalskas, van
Beek, & de Waard, 2005; Rababah et al., 2004; Ramirez et al., 2006; Siurin, 1997;
Stashenko, Puertas, & Martinez, 2002). In addition, a number of constituents have
been noted for their high antioxidant properties, including carnosol (Aruoma, 1999;
Haraguchi et al., 1995; Masuda et al., 2005; Saenz-Lopez, Fernandez-Zurbano, &
Tena, 2002; Zeng et al., 2001), carnosic acid (Aruoma, 1999; Aruoma, Halliwell,
Aeschbach, & Loligers, 1992; Costa et al., 2007; Geoffroy, Lambelet, & Richert,
1994; Haraguchi et al., 1995; Hosny et al., 2002; Lee & Shibamoto, 2002; Masuda,
Inaba, & Takeda, 2001; Masuda et al., 2002; Munne-Bosch et al., 1999a; Perez-Fons
et al., 2010; Saenz-Lopez et al., 2002; Wellwood & Cole, 2004), rosmanol (Haraguchi
et al., 1995; Zeng et al., 2001), epirosmanol (Haraguchi et al., 1995; Zeng et al., 2001),
hesperidin (Okamura et al., 1994), 1,8-cineole (Saito et al., 2004), and select pheno-
lic diterpenes (Gobert et al., 2009; Munne-Bosch et al., 1999b; Schwarz, Ternes, &
Ulbricht et al. 375
Schmauderer, 1992c; Yesil-Celiktas, Nartop, Gurel, Bedir, & Vardar-Sukan, 2007).
Rosemary extract decreased antioxidant enzyme activity, LPO and ROS levels (sig-
niﬁcantly in the heart and brain), nitric oxide synthase (NOS) in the heart, and LPO
and ROS levels in different brain tissues in aged rats (Posadas et al., 2009). Rosemary
exhibited 1,1-diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) radical-scavenging activity in vitro
(Bhale et al., 2007; Monino et al., 2008; Topal, Sasaki, Goto, & Otles, 2008), an effect
that may be related to its carnosic acid, carnosol, and, in particular, rosmarinic acid
content (Kuhlmann & Rohl, 2006; Papageorgiou, Gardeli, Mallouchos, Papaioannou,
& Komaitis, 2008a; Papageorgiou et al., 2008b). Diterpenes and genkwanin from
rosemary have shown membrane-rigidifying effects, which may contribute to their
antioxidant capacity through hindering diffusion of free radicals (Perez-Fons, Aranda,
Guillen, Villalain, & Micol, 2006).
•The rosemary extract (Herbor 025) inhibited peroxidation of phospholipid liposomes
with 50% inhibition concentration values of 0.0009% (volume/volume, v/v) (Aruoma,
1999; Aruoma et al., 1996). Herbor 025 reacted with trichloromethylperoxyl radical
with calculated rates of 2.7 ×104/s. The main active components in the herbal
preparation, carnosol and carnosic acid, at 0.05% (v/v), reacted with a rate constant of
(1–3) ×106/M s. Rosemary extract showed good antioxidant activity in the Rancimat
test, especially in lard. Carnosic acid and carnosol reduced membrane damage in Cac
o-2 cells by 40–50% in vitro when stressed by oleic acid hydroperoxide (OAHPx) as a
means to measure oxidative stress (Wijeratne & Cuppett, 2007). Furthermore, carnosic
acid and carnosol inhibited lipid peroxidation by 88–100% and 38–89%, respectively,
under oxidative stress conditions and signiﬁcantly lowered DNA damage induced by
OAHPx. Rosemary also showed DNA protective effects against H2O2-induced DNA
damage in vitro (Aherne, Kerry, & O’Brien, 2007).
•Rosemary extracts have demonstrated NO- and iNOS expression-suppressing effects
in vitro without any evidence of NO-scavenging ability (Tsai, Tsai, Yu, & Ho, 2007).
The antioxidant effects of rosmarinic acid have also been noted to be partly due to its
ability to chelate heavy metals, such as iron, and result in decreased nonheme-iron
absorption and utilization (Samman et al., 2001).
•Rosemary’s scavenging effects are stronger than vitamin C, but are weaker than vi-
tamin E, as shown in a comparison study conducted by Zhao, Li, He, Cheng, and
Xin (1989). Crude fresh rosemary extracts were found to have excellent antioxi-
dant activity, which was almost identical to that of pure delta-tocopherol and higher
than that of butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT); extracts prepared from distilled rose-
mary showed the lowest activity (Almela, Sanchez-Munoz, Fernandez-Lopez, Roca,
& Rabe, 2006). The drying or distillation treatments used with the plant material
strongly affected the content of rosmarinic acid and carnosic acid, two compounds
with higher antioxidant activity. Treatment with supercritical CO2is proposed for
deodorizing antioxidant rosemary extracts obtained by steam distillation and Soxhlet
extraction (Lopez-Sebastian et al., 1998). Of a number of investigated processes, it
was determined that ideal extraction (maximizing yield and antioxidant capacity)
was obtained at 5000 psi and 80◦C (Chang et al., 2008). Research has shown that
cooking and storage can signiﬁcantly affect antioxidant uptake in various culinary
herbs, including rosemary (Chohan et al., 2008). Laboratory study has indicated that
rosmarinic acid also has antioxidant capabilities at stomach acidity levels (pH 2)
(Cervellati, Renzulli, Guerra, & Speroni, 2002).
376 JOURNAL OF DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS
•Rosemary extract may inhibit cholesterol oxidation product formation from the nu-
cleus and the lateral chain of the cholesterol molecule (Valenzuela, Sanhueza, &
Nieto, 2003; Valenzuela, Sanhueza, Alonso, Corbari, & Nieto, 2004).
•In rat study, a spice mixture, including rosemary, lowered phospholipid hydroper-
oxides in red blood cells (65–74% of the non-supplemented control mice) (Asai,
Nakagawa, & Miyazawa, 1999). During a screening for toxic quinoid species, rose-
mary was found to produce glutathione adducts (Johnson, Bolton, & van Breemen,
•Antiparasitic effects: In turkey poults, an oral herbal product with extracts from
cinnamon, garlic, lemon, and rosemary reduced the mortality of birds infected with
the protozoan parasite Histomonas meleagridis (Hafez & Hauck, 2006). A mixture
of carvacrol, cassia oil, an essential oil mixture containing thyme and rosemary,
and a Quillaja saponaria saponin exerted antiparasitic effects in vitro (Grabensteiner,
Arshad, & Hess, 2007). The methanol extract rosemary leaves completely inhibited the
motility of cultured epimastigotes of Trypanosoma cruzi at a concentration of 2 mg/ml
after 2 hr of incubation (Abe et al., 2002). The activity-guided fractionation of the
MeOH extract resulted in the isolation of three triterpene acids: betulinic, oleanolic,
and ursolic acids. Ursolic acid stopped the movement of all T. cruzi epimastigotes at
the minimum concentration (MC100)of40mcg/ml(88mcM)after48hrofincubation.
Oleanolic acid was less active (MC100) at 250 mcg/ml (550 mcM), and betulinic acid
was practically inactive.
•Antispasmodic effects: The antispasmodic effects of alcoholic extract of Rosmarinus
ofﬁcinalis on isolated guinea pig ileum using acetylcholine and histamine as spasmo-
gens have been examined (Forster et al., 1980); however, the results were not clearly
described in the abstract.
•Antiviral activity: A liquid, deodorized rosemary extract (Herbor 025) inhibited hu-
man immunodeﬁciency virus (HIV) infection in vitro at very low, though cytotoxic,
concentrations (Aruoma, 1999). However, puriﬁed carnosol from rosemary extract
exhibited anti-HIV activity at a concentration of 8 mcM, which was not cytotoxic.
Herbor 025 promoted some DNA damage in the copper–phenanthroline and the
bleomycin–iron systems. The inhibitory activity of the diterpenes carnosic acid and
carnosol (isolated from rosemary), rosmanol, and semisynthetic derivatives were
tested against HIV-1 protease, with carnosic acid showing the strongest inhibitory ef-
fect (IC90 =0.08 mcg/ml) (Paris et al., 1993). The same compound was also assayed
against HIV-1 virus replication (IC90 =0.32 mcg/ml). The cytotoxic TC90 on H9
lymphocytes was 0.36 mcg/ml, which is very close to the effective antiviral dose. In
addition, the tested compounds did not inhibit cellular aspartic proteases cathepsin D
and pepsin at concentrations ranging up to 10 mcg/ml.
•In vitro study has indicated that aqueous rosemary extract has high and time-
dependent antiviral activity against herpes simplex type 1, herpes simplex type
2, and an acyclovir-resistant strain of herpes simplex type 1 ( Mancini, Torres,
Pinto, & Mancini, 2009; Nolkemper, Reichling, Stintzing, Carle, & Schnitzler, 2006;
Reichling et al., 2008). These results indicate that the extract affects herpes simplex
before adsorption, but has no effect on intracellular virus replication. However, rose-
mary essential oil showed only partial antiviral activity against herpes simplex at
higher concentrations (Vijayan, Raghu, Ashok, Dhanaraj, & Suresh, 2004).
•Biliary effects: Rosemary may exert pharmacological activity on Oddi’s sphincter
(Giachetti, Taddei, & Taddei, 1986); however, the details were not described in the
Ulbricht et al. 377
•Bone effects: Rosemary, rosemary essential oil, and their monoterpene components
inhibited bone resorption when added to rat food (Muhlbauer et al., 2003).
•Cardiovascular effects: The water extracts of rosemary inhibited rabbit lung ACE by
90.5% in vitro (Kwon et al., 2006).
•Coagulation effects: Rosemary has shown signiﬁcant antithrombotic activity in vitro
and in vivo in mice, but was not observed to affect ﬂow-mediated vasodilation
(Yamamoto et al., 2005). The antithrombotic mechanism may involve a direct in-
hibitory effect on platelets. A Western diet containing 0.55% and 5% dried rosemary
signiﬁcantly inhibited arterial thrombus formation in mice; 5% rosemary exerted a
signiﬁcant antithrombotic effect and inhibited platelet reactivity (though no effect
on bleeding time was observed); however, it enhanced ﬂow-mediated vasodilation
(Naemura et al., 2008). Carnosic acid signiﬁcantly inhibited collagen-, arachi-
donic acid-, U46619- and thrombin-induced washed rabbit platelet aggregation in
a concentration-dependent manner, while it failed to inhibit PMA- (a direct PKC ac-
tivator) and ADP-induced platelet aggregation (Lee et al., 2007). However, carnosic
acid had no effect on the formation of arachidonic acid-mediated thromboxane A2
and prostaglandin D2.
•In a study on rats injected with rabbit anti-rat thymocyte serum, oral rosmarinic acid
decreased ﬁbronectin and ﬁbrin in the glomerulus (Makino et al., 2002).
•Dermatologic effects: In patients with experimentally induced contact dermatitis,
rosemary extracts induced a protective effect against dermatitis (Fuchs, Schliemann-
Willers, Fischer, & Elsner, 2005).
•A water-soluble extract of rosemary inhibited the ultraviolet (UV)-induced upregu-
lation of matrix metalloproteinase-1 (MMP-1) gene transcription in vitro, a process
that has been shown to be involved in the development of skin photodamage and
inhibited the release of cytokines IL-1-alpha and IL-6, which participate in the up-
regulation of MMP-1 induced by the UV exposure (Martin et al., 2008). This effect
may be modulated, at least in part, by carnosic acid, a rosemary constituent (Of-
ford et al., 2002). At a concentration of 2 mcL/ml, rosemary extracts demonstrated
high levels of absorption in the UV B region during a test of their effectiveness as
potential sunscreen agents (Garcia, Dos Santos, Da Salva, Di Giacomo, & Soares,
•Treatment with a natural antioxidant from rosemary extract provided notable pro-
tection against stress-induced modiﬁcations of cellular sulfdryl and carbonyl con-
tent in human skin ﬁbroblasts, maintaining functional levels of cytoprotective heat
shock protein 70 (Calabrese et al., 2001). These results point to the possible in-
volvement of redox mechanisms in the heat shock signal transduction pathway,
which may play an important regulatory role in the genetic mechanisms of tol-
erance to oxidative stress. In both in vitro and in vivo experiments, an alcoholic
extract of rosemary leaves, Rosm1, had a strong antioxidant activity and was ca-
pable of inhibiting oxidative alterations to skin surface lipids (Calabrese et al.,
•Diuretic effects: In vitro evidence suggests that rosemary may enhance the effects
of herbal agents used for diuresis (Laitinen et al., 2004; Pyevich & Bogenschutz,
•Food microbiology: Rosemary essential oil exhibited some inhibition against sheep
and deer rumen microorganisms in vitro (Oh et al., 1968). Oleoresin rosemary
(1%) resulted in an approximately 1-log CFU/g reduction in the populations of Es-
cherichia coli O157:H7, Salmonella typhimurium, and Listeria monocytogenes in
378 JOURNAL OF DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS
ground beef after nine days of refrigerated storage (Ahn et al., 2004). Rosemary
at 1% (weight/volume, w/v) in MH agar showed antimicrobial effects on Shigella,
with an MIC ranging from 0.5–1% (w/v) depending on the used Shigella strain
(Bagamboula et al., 2001). In food safety tests, rosemary extracts also inhibited com-
mon pathogenic microorganisms that are signiﬁcant in food hygiene (Bagamboula
et al., 2003; Bentayeb et al., 2007; Brooks et al., 2008; Carraminana et al., 2008; da
Silva et al., 2008; Del Campo et al., 2000; Fabio et al., 2003; Fan et al., 2004; Gutierrez
et al., 2008a, 2008b; Ismail et al., 2001; Karpinska-Tymoszczyk, 2008; Keokamnerd
et al., 2008; Lee et al., 2009, 1997; Lopez-Munoz et al., 2006; Mangena & Muyima,
1999; Martinez et al., 2006; Pozo-Insfran et al., 2007; Rasooli et al., 2008a; Rota
et al., 2004; Ruiz et al., 2009; Sasse et al., 2009; Scollard et al., 2009; Seyfert et al.,
2005; Suhr & Nielsen, 2003; Tovar et al., 2005; Valero & Salmeron, 2003). It has been
suggested that the food preservation effects of rosemary may be attributed to its phe-
nolic constituents (Schwarz & Ternes, 1992a), including carnosol and carnosic acid
(Smith et al., 1992). This preservative effect may be due to the antioxidant capability
of rosemary (Baardseth, 1989; Bhale et al., 2007; Botsoglou et al., 2007; Campbell
et al., 2003; Gramza-Michalowska et al., 2007; Jaswir et al., 2005; Martinez-Tome
et al., 2001; Negroni et al., 2001; Nissen et al., 2000; Pezo et al., 2008; Rudzinska
et al., 2004; Talcott et al., 2003), possibly through the maintenance of alpha-tocopherol
(Beddows et al., 2000) or the inhibition of lipid peroxidation (Chang & Chen,
•In cooked ground beef, oleoresin rosemary (Herbalox R) retarded the formation of
thiobarbituric acid-reactive substances (TBARS) by 92% after nine days, and sig-
niﬁcantly lowered the hexanal content throughout the storage period (Ahn, Grun,
& Mustapha, 2007). Dietary supplementation of rosemary and sage in addition to
alpha-tocopheryl acetate to broilers resulted in decrease in TBARS (Lopez-Bote et
al., 1998; Smet et al., 2008) and smaller concentations of total cholesterol oxidation
products (COPS) (Lopez-Bote et al., 1998). Rosemary has also been shown to delay
the oxidation of the lipid fraction of products, such as minced meat and sausage, to
prevent the onset of rancid taste due to aging (Du & Ahn, 2002; Karpinska, Borowski,
& Danowska-Oziewicz, 2000).
•Gastrointestinal effects: In various experimental models, Rosmarinus ofﬁcinalis L.
crude hydroalcoholic (70%) extract decreased the ulcerative lesion index in rats, with
a pharmacological mechanism of likely no relation to NO or prostaglandins (Dias
et al., 2000). However, the activity may be due to substances that increase the mucosal
non-protein sulfhydryl group’s content or the activity of antioxidant compounds found
in the crude hydroalcoholic extract, which can react with N-ethylmaleimide. No
antisecretory activity was observed on pyloric ligation model.
•Germination inhibitory effects: The essential oils obtained from rosemary
(Rosmarinus ofﬁcinalis L.), thyme (Thymus vulgaris L.), and savory (Satureja mon-
tana L.) demonstrated inhibitory effects on weed germination (Angelini et al.,
•Growth-enhancement effects (in animals): Rosemary has been added to animal
feed in order to improve digestibility of the feed and growth and intestinal ﬂora
status of broiler chicks (Cross et al., 2007). Labiatae extract from rosemary has
been also found to enhance growth rates of broiler chickens (Hernandez et al.,
Ulbricht et al. 379
•Hepatic effects: Rosemary has demonstrated hepatoprotective effects in animal study
(Amin & Hamza, 2005; Fahim et al., 1999; Hoeﬂer et al., 1987; Sotelo-Felix
et al., 2002b). Animals pretreated with water extracts retained livers that, for the
most part, were found to be histologically normal. In addition, rosemary blocked the
induced elevated levels of alanine aminotransferase and aspartate aminotransferase in
serum, likely by preventing malonaldehyde formation and lacticodehydrogenase and
aspartate aminotransferase leakage. Other proposed mechanisms of action for the hep-
atoprotective effects of rosemary may be related to its antioxidant properties (Fahim
et al., 1999). In rats, rosemary’s oral administration fully prevented CCl4effect on hep-
atic lipid peroxidation after 24 hr of CCl4administration (Sotelo-Felix et al., 2002b).
Rosemary’s effects on CCl4-induced hepatotoxicity may be a result of the prevention
of free radicals during CCl4metabolism by carnosol (Sotelo-Felix, Martinez-Fong,
& Muriel, 2002a). In a study on female mice, a 2% rosemary diet increased the liver
microsomal oxidation and glucuronidation of estradiol and estrone, and inhibited their
uterotropic action (Zhu et al., 1998). In rat, rosemary ethanol extracts prepared from
young sprouts showed signiﬁcant dose-related choleretic activity and were more ac-
tive than the total plant extract (Hoeﬂer et al., 1987). Rosemary completely normalized
the increase in bilirubin level and alanine aminotransferase activity in plasma induced
by CCl4(Gutierrez et al., 2009). The dietary intake of rosemary and its constituent
carnosol in female rats signiﬁcantly increased liver glutathione-S-transferase (GST)
and liver NAD(P)H-quinone reductase (QR) activities (Singletary, 1996). In rat study,
rosemary extract nonsigniﬁcantly decreased the number and area of GST placental
form-positive foci after initiation by diethylnitrosamine (Kitano et al., 2000). In mice,
an extract from rosemary leaves decreased (but did not prevent) post-irradiation in-
creases in alkaline contents in the liver (Soyal, Jindal, Singh, & Goyal, 2007). Both
sprouts and whole plant aqueous extracts have been found to have no hepatoprotective
effects (Hoeﬂer et al., 1987).
•Hormonal effects: Greenlee et al. (2007) conducted a placebo controlled, parallel-arm
trial to examine the effects of a combination of botanical supplements containing
rosemary on sex hormones and metabolic markers in healthy premenstrual women
and found that the supplement decreased dehydroepiandrosterone (p=.02), dehy-
droepiandrosterone sulfate (p=.07), androstenedione (p=.05), and estrone sulfate
(p=.08) compared with controls.
•Immunomodulatory effects: According to a review, rosemary has been shown to
increase the production of prostaglandin E2 and reduce the production of leukotriene
B4 in human polymorphonuclear leucocytes, as well as inhibit the complement system
(al Sereiti et al., 1999). In rats, rosemary extract in combination with a casein-enriched
diet induced spleen cell proliferation in response to concanavalin A (Con A) and
phytohemagglutinin (PHA) (at 10% dietary casein and 200 ppm of rosemary) (Babu,
Wiesenfeld, & Jenkins, 1999).
•Insecticidal effects: Rosemary essential oils alone or in combination with other
essential oils have demonstrated insecticidal activity in vitro (Ariana, Ebadi, &
Tahmasebi, 2002; Cloyd, Galle, Keith, Kalscheur, & Kemp, 2009a; Cloyd, Timmons,
Goebel, & Kemp, 2009b; Erkr, Erdemir, Ceylan, & Toker, 2009; Katerinopoulos,
Pagona, Afratis, Stratigakis, & Roditakis, 2005; Khater, Ramadan, & El Madawy,
2009; Ranger, Reding, Oliver, Moyseenko, & Youssef, 2009; Yang, Lee, Clark, &
Ahn, 2004). Camphor, isolated from rosemary, was most toxic for armyworm (Isman,
Wilson, & Bradbury, 2008). In a laboratory test, Hexacide R(5% rosemary oil) caused
380 JOURNAL OF DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS
signiﬁcant mortality in red ﬂour beetles (Akbar, Lord, Nechols, & Loughin, 2005).
Rosemary has demonstrated larvicidal activity and repellant activity against Aedes
aegypti L. as evidenced by oviposition deterrent or repellent activities (Gillij, Gleiser,
& Zygadlo, 2008; Waliwitiya et al., 2009). Repellant activities of rosemary have also
been determined against Culex pipiens pallens (Choi, Park, Ku, & Lee, 2002b). This
effect may be related to the alpha-terpinene content in rosemary.
•Lipid effects: In animal study, hepatic triglyceride levels were decreased following
the administration of rosemary extract (Harach et al., 2009).
•Memory-enhancing effects: In human study, rosemary aromatherapy improved the
quality of memory recall and secondary memory factors (though speed of recall
was reduced), as well as elicited signiﬁcantly higher levels of contentment rela-
tive to control (Moss et al., 2003). Using the Ellman colorimetric method, rose-
mary, an herb used in Danish folk medicine to treat memory dysfunction, has
been found to moderately inhibit acetylcholinesterase (deﬁned as more than 15%
at 0.1 mg/ml) (Adsersen, Gauguin, Gudiksen, & Jager, 2006). Rosemary also pro-
duced an environmental context-dependent memory (ECDM) effect in humans and
produced a more unpleasant mood in participants compared with lemon usage
(Ball, Shoker, & Miles, 2009). Rosemary’s ability to promote ECDM may be re-
lated to its distinctive aroma and ability to evoke a notion of unpleasantness in
•Neurological effects: In clinical study, inhalation of rosemary essential oil increased
alertness, improved recall, and reduced anxiety (Burnett et al., 2004; McCaffrey
et al., 2009; Moss et al., 2003; Park & Lee, 2004). Two studies investigating the
effects of rosemary aromatherapy on alertness and the EEG activity found that pa-
tients showed decreased frontal alpha- and beta-power, suggesting increased alert-
ness (Diego et al., 1998). Patients also had lower state anxiety scores, reported
feeling more relaxed and alert, and were faster, though not more accurate, at com-
pleting the math computations after the aromatherapy session. The second study
evaluated the frontal EEG symmetry shift following exposure to rosemary (Sanders
et al., 2002). In the rosemary experimental group, those with a greater baselines
relative to the right frontal EEG activation shifted left, while those with greater
baselines relative to left frontal EEG activation shifted right during the aroma. In
other human study, rosemary aromatherapy improved the quality of memory recall
and secondary memory factors (though speed of recall was reduced), as well as
elicited signiﬁcantly higher levels of contentment relative to control (Moss et al.,
•The locomotor effects of oral administration or inhalation of rosemary oil in mice
(Kovar, Gropper, Friess, & Ammon, 1987) and the actions of rosemary essential oils
on the cerebral cortex in rat brain (in vitro) have been examined (Steinmetz et al.,
•Intraperitoneal administration of rosemary extract or rosmarinic acid from the
presymptomatic stage of ALS signiﬁcantly delayed motor dysfunction in paw grip
endurance tests, attenuated the degeneration of motor neurons, and extended the life
span of ALS model mice (Shimojo et al., 2010), although the mechanism of action is
•Neuroprotective effects: In in vitro study, a rosemary extract enhanced the production
of nerve growth factor in T98G human glioblastoma cells (Kosaka & Yokoi, 2003).
Furthermore, the results indicated that carnosic acid and carnosol, both major com-
ponents of the rosemary extract, were able to promote markedly enhanced synthesis
Ulbricht et al. 381
of nerve growth factor. Rosemary extract was not found to exert a protective effect
against L-glutamate-induced neurotoxicity in vitro (Mazzio, Huber, Darling, Harris,
& Soliman, 2001). However, carnosic acid and carnosol from rosemary demonstrated
enhancement of total glutathione levels, transcriptional activation, and neuroprotective
effects in cortical neurons in vitro (Tamaki et al., 2009). Carnosic acid also demon-
strated protective effects in a concentration-related manner and prevented dieldrin
(10 mM)-induced caspase-3 activation, Jun N-terminal kinase phosphorylation, and
caspase-12 activation in cultured dopaminergic cells (Park et al., 2008). Furthermore,
the dieldrin-induced downregulation of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor produc-
tion was signiﬁcantly attenuated by carnosic acid. Carnosic acid has also been shown
to activate the Keap1/Nrf2 transcriptional pathway by binding to speciﬁc Keap1
cysteine residues, thereby protecting neurons from oxidative stress and excitotoxic-
ity (Satoh et al., 2008). Carnosic acid also strongly promoted neurite outgrowth of
PC12h cells (Kosaka et al., 2010). Carnosic acid activated Nrf2, an effect that was
suppressed following Nrf2 gene knockdown, and also activated TrkA-downstream
kinase Erk1/2 independently of Nrf2. These results suggest that carnosic acid induc-
tion of p62/ZIP by Nrf2 enhances TrkA signaling, which subsequently potentiates
Nrf2 pathway. In cerebrocortical cultures, carnosic acid–biotin accumulates in non-
neuronal cells at low concentrations and in neurons at higher concentrations. It has
been suggested that this distribution may contribute to carnosic acid’s neuroprotective
•Psychiatric effects: In animal study, rosemary produced antidepressant-like effects
reducing immobility time likely mediated by the monoaminergic system (Machado
et al., 2009). On the basis of human study, rosemary scent may have the potential
to moderate different aspects of mood following an anxiety-provoking task (Burnett
et al., 2004). In humans, free radical scavenging activity (as measured by DPPH
activity) increased and cortisol levels decreased by smelling high concentrations
(10 times dilution) of rosemary (Atsumi & Tonosaki, 2007).
•Reproductive effects: In adult rats, ingestion of rosemary (250 and 500 mg/kg
of body weight for 63 days) did not affect body weight or absolute and rel-
ative teste weights but did decrease the average weights of epididymides, ven-
tral prostates, seminal vesicles, and preputial glands (Nusier et al., 2007). In the
500-mg/kg group, signiﬁcant decrease in spermatogenesis in the testes, as well
as sperm motility and density, were observed. Female rats that were impregnated
with sperm from affected rats experienced an increase in the number of fetal
•Respiratory effects: In vivo pharmacological magnetic resonance imaging detected
a secretory response in the rat trachea following rosemary essential oil inhalation
(Nicolato, Boschi, Marzola, & Sbarbati, 2009).
•Smooth muscle effects: Rosemary oil produced spasmolytic effects accompanied by
agonistic effects on alpha(1) and alpha(2) adrenergic receptors in vitro in circular
smooth muscle strips of the guinea pig stomach (Sagorchev et al., 2009).
•In in vitro study, the volatile oil of rosemary leaves inhibited the contractions of rabbit
tracheal smooth muscle induced by acetylcholine stimulation and the contractions
of guinea pig tracheal smooth muscle induced by histamine stimulation, as well
as the contractions of rabbit and guinea pig tracheal smooth muscle induced by
high potassium (K+) solution (Aqel, 1991). This inhibition was dose-dependent and
reversible. In addition, the volatile oil inhibited the contractions of rabbit and guinea
382 JOURNAL OF DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS
pig tracheal smooth muscles induced by acetylcholine and histamine stimulation,
respectively, in Ca(2+)-free solution.
•Absorption: Rosmarinic acid is well absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and from
the skin. Upon topical administration of rosmarinic acid in the form of a w/o ointment
(25 mg/kg, 50 cm2) in rat, the absolute bioavailability was 60% (Ritschel, Starzacher,
Sabouni, Hussain, & Koch, 1989).
•The supplementation of rosemary extract with sunﬂower oil and lecithin (37 mg/g)
resulted in a 50% reduction in bioaccessibility in terms of antioxidant activity in vitro
(bioavailability was 31%) (Soler-Rivas et al., 2010). This effect was not attributed to
the original levels of carnosol, carnosic acid, and methyl carnosate (of which only
47% remained after digestion) but due to their derivatives and digestion products.
•Distribution: Distribution of rosmarinic acid following intravenous (i.v.) administra-
tion in rat has been described by a two-compartment open model: t1/2 =1.8 hr, and t1/2
alpha =0.07 hr, V tau =2.3 L/kg, V beta =15.3 L/kg for rat (Ritschel et al., 1989).
After 30 min of injection, rosmarinic acid was detected and measured in brain, heart,
liver, lung, muscle, spleen, and bone tissue, showing the highest concentration in lung
tissue (13 times the blood concentration), followed by spleen, heart, and liver tissue
(Ritschel et al., 1989). After 41
2hr (peak time) of topical administration of about 3 mg
on the hind leg, over 20 cm2of rosmarinic acid was measured in blood, skin, muscle,
and bone tissue.
•Metabolism: Rosmarinic acid is metabolized by gut microﬂora into caffeic acid and
derivatives (secondary sources). In one study, verbenone (a component of the es-
sential oil from rosemary) was found to be converted to 10-hydroxyverbenone by
rat and human liver microsomal cytochrome P450 (CYP450) enzymes (Miyazawa,
Sugie, & Shindo, 2002; Miyazawa, Sugie, & Shimada, 2003). There was a
good correlation between activities of coumarin 7-hydroxylation and (-)-verbenone
10-hydroxylation catalyzed by liver microsomes in 16 human samples, indi-
cating that CYP2A6 is a principal enzyme in (-)-verbenone 10-hydroxylation
•In a study conducted on rat, rosemary essential oil selectively induced CYP, particu-
larly CYP2B (Debersac et al., 2001a). Rosemary water-soluble extract enhanced both
CYP 1A1, 2B1/2, 2E1, and glutathione S-transferase (GST) (especially rGST A3/A5,
M1, and M2), quinone reductase, and UDP-glucuronosyltransferase (UGT), whereas
a dichloromethane extract acted as a monofunctional inducer, inducing glutathione
S-transferase, quinone reductase, and UGT, in particular UGT1A6 (Debersac et al.,
2001a, 2001b). Rosemary inhibited P-glycoprotein activity and caused reversal of
multi-drug resistance (MDR) in vitro (Plouzek et al., 1999).
•Kinetic analysis showed that the Km and Vmax values for (-)-verbenone hydroxylation
were 1.1 mM and 4.8 nmol/min/nmol P450, 0.6 mM and 2.1 nmol/min/nmol P450, and
2.8 mM and 4.6 nmol/min/nmol P450 (from three human samples: HG-70, HG-56,
and HG-23, respectively).
•Elimination half-life: Following the i.v. administration of rosmarinic acid in animal
study, the elimination half-life was 1.8 hr (Ritschel et al., 1989)
Ulbricht et al. 383
•The botanical name Rosmarinus is believed to be derived from old Latin for “dew
of the sea,” a reference to the plant’s pale blue, dew-like ﬂowers and the fact that
it often grows near the sea. Rosemary has been used medicinally for centuries (Al
Qura’n, 2009; Artico, Cervoni, Nucci, & Giuffre, 1996; Heinrich, Kufer, Leonti, &
Pardo-de-Santayana, 2006; Lev, 2007; Parada, Carrio, Bonet, & Valles, 2009;
Selmi, 1967), and has appeared in various medieval texts (Boot & Mayer, 1990;
•Traditionally, rosemary has been used for improving memory, and, as such, gained
notoriety as a symbol of remembrance and friendship. In Shakespeare’s Hamlet,
Ophelia refers to the herb: “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance.” In Greek
tradition, songs about rosemary are sung at New Year. In other European cultures, the
bride or bridal couple would carry or wear rosemary as a symbol of love and ﬁdelity.
•Examples of historical usage include a concoction of rosemary, “Queen of Hungary
water,” so named as it was invented as a topical cure for the paralysis of a Hungarian
monarch. In a French custom, rosemary and juniper berries were burnt to purify
the air and prevent disease. The ancient Greeks burned rosemary to drive away evil
spirits and illnesses. In a similar tradition, a fresh twig placed beneath a pillow was
thought to prevent nightmares. In Don Quixote de la Mancha (ﬁrst volume, chapter
XVII), Don Quixote claims, he knows the recipe of the miraculous balm of Fierabras,
a mixture of oil, wine, salt, and rosemary, which was used on the corpse of Jesus
Christ (Lopez-Munoz, Garcia-Garcia, & Alamo, 2007; Lopez-Munoz et al., 2006).
Rosemary is often associated with mourning, and in some customs, mourners carry
sprigs of rosemary at funerals and place them on the cofﬁn in the grave. It is reported
that the internal organs of Prince Joseph Habsburg (1776–1847) and his ﬁrst wife,
Alexandra Pavlovna Romanova (1783–1801), were stored in rosemary oil (Jozsa,
•According to a Spanish legend, the Virgin Mary took shelter beneath a rosemary bush
during her ﬂight to Egypt. Thus rosemary’s Spanish name is romero, or “pilgrim’s
ﬂower.” In another Christian legend, rosemary is said to grow for 33 years, until it
reaches the height of Jesus Christ, when he was cruciﬁed, and then perishes.
•The prayer book of Mihailo Plamenac, an orthodox priest living in Montenegro at
the turn of the 18th Century, contains several medical recipes of herbs, including
rosemary (Milovic, 1998).
•Rosemary wood has also been used in the construction of ﬂutes and other musical in-
struments. Rosemary has also been used to make honey (de la, Martinez-Castro,
& Sanz, 2005; Fernandez-Torres et al., 2005; Gonzalez-Miret, Terrab, Hernanz,
Fernandez-Recamales, & Heredia, 2005; Nozal Nalda, Bernal Yague, Diego Calva,
& Martin Gomez, 2005).
•Rosemary has been discussed as a solution to prevent desertiﬁcation and rapid
soil erosion because of its good resistance to adverse environmental conditions
(Olmos, Sanchez-Blanco, Ferrandez, & Alarcon, 2007). Rosemary has also been
used by researchers to gauge air quality by analyzing the amount of poly-
cyclic aromatic hydrocarbons present in leaves (Culotta, Melati, & Orecchio,
Type/Design Author, Year
=good 5 =
strong is the
# of Patients
Treat for One
Burnett et al.,
73 Yes 1 NA NA NA Rosemary aroma had no effect on
physiological measures but
signiﬁcantly increased mood
ratings related to tension–anxiety
Moss et al.,
144 Mixed 1 Mixed NA NA Aromatherapy improved quality of
memory recall, though decreased
speed. Control group also
reported signiﬁcantly lower levels
Moss et al.,
144 Yes 1 Small NA NA Aromatherapy improved quality of
memory recall, though decreased
speed. Compared with the control
(water) group, rosemary produced
small improvements that were
only statistically signiﬁcant for two
of the ﬁve tests. When compared
to lavender, statistical signiﬁcance
was reached for three of the ﬁve
Ulbricht et al. 385
Explanation of Columns in Natural Standard Evidence Table Condition
Refers to the medical condition or disease targeted by a therapy.
Common types include the following:
•Randomized controlled trial (RCT): An experimental trial in which participants are
assigned randomly to receive either an intervention being tested or placebo. Note
that Natural Standard deﬁnes RCTs as being placebo-controlled, while studies using
active controls are classiﬁed as equivalence trials (see below). In RCTs, participants
and researchers are often blinded (i.e., unaware of group assignments), although
unblinded and quasi-blinded RCTs are also often performed. True random allocation
to trial arms, proper blinding, and sufﬁcient sample size are the basis for an adequate
•Equivalence trial: It is an RCT that compares two active agents. Equivalence trials
often compare new treatments to usual (standard) care, and may not include a placebo
•Before and after comparison: A study that reports only the change in outcome in each
group of a study, and does not report between-group comparisons. This is a common
error in studies that claim to be RCTs.
•Case series: A description of a group of patients with a condition, treatment, or
outcome (e.g., 20 patients with migraine headache underwent acupuncture and 17
reported feeling better afterwards). Case series are considered weak evidence of
•Case-control study: A study in which patients with a certain outcome are selected
and compared to similar patients (without the outcome) to see if certain risk fac-
tors/predictors are more common in patients with that outcome. This study design is
not common in the complementary and alternative medicine literature.
•Cohort study: It is a study that assembles a group of patients with certain baseline
characteristics (e.g., use of a drug), and follows them forward in time for outcomes.
This study design is not common in the complementary and alternative medicine
•Meta-analysis: A pooling of multiple trials to increase statistical power (often used to
pool data from a number of RCTs with small sample sizes, none which demonstrates
signiﬁcance alone, but in aggregate can achieve signiﬁcance). Multiple difﬁculties
are encountered when designing/reviewing these analyses; in particular, outcome
measures or therapies may differ from study to study, hindering direct comparison.
•Review: An author’s description of his or her opinion based on personal, non-
systematic review of evidence.
•Systematic review: A review conducted according to pre-speciﬁed criteria in an attempt
to limit bias from the investigators. Systematic reviews often include a meta-analysis
of data from the included studies.
•P: Pending veriﬁcation.
Identiﬁes the study being described in a row of the table.
386 JOURNAL OF DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS
The total number of subjects included in a study (treatment plus placebo groups).
Some studies initially recruit a larger number of subjects, but do not use all of them
because they do not meet the study’s entry criteria. In this case, it is the second, smaller
number that qualiﬁes as N. It includes all subjects that are part of a study at the start date,
even if they drop out, are lost to follow-up, or are deemed unsuitable for analysis by the
authors. Trials with a large number of dropouts that are not included in the analysis are
considered to be weaker evidence for efﬁcacy. (For systematic reviews, the number of
studies included is reported. For meta-analyses, the number of total subjects included
in the analysis or the number of studies may be reported.) P =pending veriﬁcation.
Results are noted as being statistically signiﬁcant if a study’s authors report statistical
signiﬁcance, or if quantitative evidence of signiﬁcance is present (such as p-values).
Quality of Study
A numerical score between 0–5 is assigned as a rough measure of study de-
sign/reporting quality (0 being the weakest and 5 being the strongest). This number
is based on a well-established and validated scale developed by Jadad et al. (1996). This
calculation does not account for all study elements that may be used to assess quality
(other aspects of study design/reporting are addressed in the “Evidence Discussion”
section of reviews).
•The Jadad score is calculated using the seven items given in the table, “Jadad Score
Calculation.” The ﬁrst ﬁve items are indications of good quality, and each counts as
one point toward an overall quality score. The ﬁnal two items indicate poor quality,
and a point is subtracted for each if its criteria are met. The range of possible scores
is 0 to 5.
JADAD SCORE CALCULATION
Was the study described as randomized (this includes words, such as randomly, random, and
Was the method used to generate the sequence of randomization described and appropriate
(table of random numbers, computer-generated, etc)?
Was the study described as double-blind? 0/1
Was the method of double blinding described and appropriate (identical placebo, active placebo,
Was there a description of withdrawals and dropouts? 0/1
Deduct one point if the method used to generate the sequence of randomization was described
and was inappropriate (patients were allocated alternately, or according to date of birth,
hospital number, etc).
Deduct one point if the study was described as double-blind but the method of blinding was
inappropriate (e.g., comparison of tablet vs. injection with no double dummy).
Ulbricht et al. 387
Magnitude of Beneﬁt. This summarizes how strong a beneﬁt is: small, medium, large,
or none. If results are not statistically signiﬁcant “NA” for “not applicable” is entered.
In order to be consistent in deﬁning small, medium, and large beneﬁts across different
studies and reviews, Natural Standard deﬁnes the magnitude of beneﬁt in terms of the
standard deviation (SD) of the outcome measure. Speciﬁcally, the beneﬁt is considered
•large, if >1SD,
•medium, if 0.5 to 0.9 SD,
•small, if 0.2 to 0.4 SD,
In many cases, studies do not report the SD of change of the outcome measure.
However, the change in the SD of the outcome measure (also known as effect size)
can be calculated, and is derived by subtracting the mean (or mean difference) in the
placebo/control group from the mean (or mean difference) in the treatment group and
dividing that quantity by the pooled SD, i.e.,
Effect size =(mean treatment – mean placebo)/SDp.
Absolute Risk Reduction (ARR)
This describes the difference between the percentage of people in the control/placebo
group experiencing a speciﬁc outcome (control event rate) and the percentage of people
in the experimental/therapy group experiencing that same outcome (experimental event
rate). Mathematically, ARR equals experimental event rate minus control event rate.
ARR is better able to discriminate between large treatment effects and small treatment
effects than relative risk reduction (RRR), a calculation that is often cited in studies, i.e.,
(control event rate) −(experimental event rate)
control event rate
Many studies do not include adequate data to calculate the ARR; in such cases, “NA”
is entered into this column. P =pending veriﬁcation.
Number Needed to Treat
This refers to the number of patients who would need to use the therapy under
investigation for the period of time described in the study, in order for one person to
experience the speciﬁed beneﬁt. It is calculated by dividing the ARR into 1 (1/ARR).
When appropriate, this brief section may comment on design ﬂaws (inadequately
described subjects, lack of blinding, brief follow-up, no intention to treat, etc.), notable
study design elements (crossover etc.), dosing, and/or speciﬁcs of study group/sub-
groups (age, gender, etc). More detailed description of studies is found in the “Evidence
Discussion” section that follows the “Evidence Table” in Natural Standard reviews.
388 JOURNAL OF DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS
•Summary: Rosemary has been reported to increase circulation in the scalp and possibly
promote hair growth, based on historical use. Limited research has indicated some
small beneﬁt with the use of essential oils of rosemary, thyme, lavender, and Atlas
cedar for the treatment of alopecia areata; however, additional study of higher rigor
is necessary before any ﬁrm assessment can be made.
•Select combination study (not included in the Evidence Table): Hay et al. (1998)
conducted a randomized, double-blind, controlled trial to investigate the effect of
aromatherapy on alopecia areata. Subjects were 84 patients with alopecia areata.
Subjects with a medical history of hypertension, epilepsy, or pregnancy were excluded.
Two of the originally recruited patients were excluded because they had androgenic
alopecia. Medication for alopecia was stopped before beginning the study. Subjects
were randomized into two groups: the active group, which received a mixture of oils
of rosemary (3 drops (114 mg) of Rosmarinus ofﬁcinalis), Thyme vulgaris (2 drops
(88 mg)) and Lavandula angustifolia (3 drops (108 mg)) mixed with carrier oil (a
combination of 3 ml of jojoba and 20 ml of grapeseed oil), or control, which consisted
of just the carrier oil. Each treatment was self-applied and massaged into the scalp for
a minimum of 2 min followed by a warm towel, which was wrapped around the head to
facilitate the absorption of the oils. Subjects performed this technique every night for
7 months. Treatment success was evaluated on sequential photographs independently
by two dermatologists (blinded). Improvement was also measured using a six-point
scale as well as computer analysis of affected areas. Of the subjects receiving the
active treatment (N =43), 19 (44%) showed improvement compared with six (15%)
of the patients in the control group (N =41; p=.008). Photographic assessment of
improvement was also signiﬁcant (p=.05). It should be noted that this study suffered
from a number of methodological weaknesses. ARR of 2.6 (95% CI: 1.2–5.6) was
calculated for improving on active therapy. Sample size was not adequate to detect
a signiﬁcant difference. In addition, the process of randomization was not described.
It is also not clear if the differences in baseline characteristics were adjusted. The
investigators state that results were statistically signiﬁcant, although the number of
participants was not adequate to detect a 20% improvement with a 5% signiﬁcance
level as they originally described. Furthermore, the use of a combination product
precludes conclusions regarding any speciﬁc oil. Further considerations include that;
although the trial design was described as double-blind, the smell of the treatment oil
may have been identiﬁable.
•Summary: Rosemary extract is frequently used in aromatherapy for its purported
beneﬁts in mental health, such as relieving anxiety, enhancing mood, altering pain
perception, and increasing alertness and improving recall. Studies have reported
improvements in stress and alertness, feelings of contentment, as well as quality of
memory recall and secondary memory factors. Other research has noted increases
in measures of tension–anxiety and confusion–bewilderment. In general, available
Ulbricht et al. 389
studies remain limited and of generally low methodological rigor. Additional inquiry
•Evidence: Burnett et al. (2004) conducted a randomized controlled trial to investigate
the effects of water, lavender, or rosemary scent on physiology and mood state follow-
ing an anxiety-provoking task. A total of 73 nonsmoking patients were included in
the study, aged between 18 and 30 years (42 women and 31 men). Subjects performed
an anxiety-provoking task and then completed the “Proﬁle of Mood States” to assess
mood. Temperature and heart rate were assessed before and after the task. Participants
also rated the pleasantness of the received scent. When pleasantness ratings of scent
were covaried, physiological changes in temperature and heart rate were found not
to differ based on scent exposure, though mood ratings varied by scent condition.
Participants in the rosemary condition scored higher on measures of tension–anxiety
and confusion–bewilderment relative to the lavender and control conditions. The
lavender and control conditions showed higher mean vigor–activity ratings relative
to the rosemary group, while both rosemary and lavender scents were associated with
lower mean ratings on the fatigue–inertia subscale, relative to the control group. The
authors suggest that when controlling for the individual perception of scent pleasant-
ness, aromatherapy has the potential to moderate different aspects of mood following
an anxiety-provoking task.
•Moss et al. (2003) conducted a randomized controlled trial to evaluate the aromather-
apeutic efﬁcacy of the essential oils of rosemary and lavender on cognitive perfor-
mance and mood swings in adults. Subjects were 144 healthy adults who performed
the Cognitive Drug Research (CDR) computerized cognitive assessment battery in
an experimental space containing the aroma of rosemary, lavender, or no aroma as a
control. Mood questionnaires (visual analogue) were administered before and after
the assessment. Subjects were misled as to the purpose of the experiment to prevent
expectancy effects. Outcome measures included CDR and mood questionnaire re-
sults. Analysis of these measures indicated that rosemary aromatherapy improved the
quality of memory recall and secondary memory factors (though speed of recall was
reduced), as well as signiﬁcantly higher levels of alertness (F (2,141) =5.43, p=.005)
and contentedness (F (2,141) =9.72, p=.0001) in the treatment group. A signiﬁcant
difference between groups was reported for quality of memory (F (2,141) =4.80,
p=.01). Rosemary produced signiﬁcantly higher scores than the lavender condition
(mean =326.61, p<.05). Statistical analysis revealed no other signiﬁcant difference.
A between-group analysis, however, revealed no statistically signiﬁcant differences
between groups in calmness scores (F (2,141) =0.73, p=.481). Limitations of this
study include a failure to describe dropouts and the method of randomization.
•Studies of lesser methodological rigor: McCaffrey et al. (2009) conducted a quasi-
experimental study using pre- and post-test measures to examine the effects of laven-
der or rosemary on test-taking stress in graduate nursing students. Forty students
participated in the study. During the semester each student completed four examina-
tions, which were averaged for a ﬁnal grade in the class. Primary outcome measures
included the test anxiety scale (TAS), a 10-item self-report measurement, used to
measure perceived stress. Blood pressure and radial pulse were used as measures
of physical stress and anxiety. The ﬁrst examination served as a baseline with no
intervention given. During the second and third interventions, students received a
lavender or rosemary essential oil inhaler, respectively, and were asked to breathe in
the aroma prior to and after the test. Students were asked to record the number of
times they used the inhaler during the test period. The rosemary essential oil used
390 JOURNAL OF DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS
was of Rosmarinus ofﬁcinalis with a camphor phenotype; a cotton insert was used to
apply 3 drops of the oil to the inhaler. The use of lavender and rosemary essential oils
reduced test-taking stress in graduate nursing students, as evidenced by lower scores
on test anxiety measure (p<.003 and p<.01, respectively), personal statements
(signiﬁcance not assessed), and pulse rates (p<.000 and p<.033, respectively), but
not blood pressure. Due to the nature of the study, blinding was not possible. Each
student served as his or her own control and therefore the study was not randomized.
•Park and Lee (2004) conducted a controlled, quasi-experimental trial using a
nonequivalent pre- and post-design to identify the effect of aroma inhalation on stress
responses (physical symptoms, levels of anxiety, and perceived stresses) of nursing
students. The subjects consisted of 77 junior nursing students, who were divided into
39 experimental group members and 38 control group members. In the experimen-
tal group, lavender, peppermint, rosemary, and Clary-Sage aromas were given using
an aroma lamp. In the control group, the treatment was not administered. Students
receiving the experimental treatment experienced decreased physical symptoms and
had lower anxiety and perceived stress scores.
Breast Cancer (Adjuvant)
•Summary: A limited research has indicated that a diet consisting of balsamic vinegar
from apples and honey, with seabuckthorn berry, rosemary, sage, and basil extracts,
whole wheat bread with 2.5% of the nutraceutical mixture VITAPAN, and grape seed
extract is capable of reducing oxidative stress and improving well-being in women
with breast cancer. However, the effects of rosemary alone are unclear. Additional
research is required.
•Select combination study (not included in the Evidence Table): Dr˘
agan et al. (2007)
conducted a randomized controlled trial to examine the effects of diet consisting of
balsamic vinegar from apples and honey, with seabuckthorn berry, rosemary, sage, and
basil extracts, whole wheat bread with 2.5% of the nutraceutical mixture VITAPAN,
and grape seed extract on oxidative stress and various well-being scales in women
with stages IIIB and IV breast cancer. Thirty-four female patients with histologically
conﬁrmed stages IIIB and IV breast cancer were put on a special diet consisting of the
following: 15 ml of daily balsamic vinegar from apples and honey, with seabuckthorn
berry, rosemary, sage, and basil extracts, to be used in salads and vegetable soups, 150
g daily of whole wheat bread with 2.5% of the nutraceutical mixture VITAPAN, and 15
ml of daily grape seed extract (N =17) or a control diet (unspeciﬁed) (N =17). All
the patients ﬁlled the “Quality of Life” (QOL) questionnaire, FACT-B version 4.
Outcome measures at baseline and after 3 months of treatment included serum
lipids and IR-HOMA insulin resistance index (measured parameters of metabolic
syndrome), free oxygen radical test (FORT) as a measure of oxidative stress, and
total hydro- and liposoluble antioxidants (ACW and ACL) in serum measured by
chemoluminometry. Patients also completed the Physical Well-Being subscale score
of the QOL, FACT-B version 4 questionnaire; the Functional Well-Being subscale;
FACT-G; FACT-B; the Breast Cancer Score (Additional Concerns); the Social/Family
Well-Being subscale; and the Emotional Well-Being subscale. Scores of the physical
well-being subscale of the QOL, FACT-B version 4 questionnaire (p=.001), the
functional well-being subscale (p=.004), FACT-G (p=.003), and FACT-B (p=
.002) showed signiﬁcant differences between the two groups. The breast cancer score
Ulbricht et al. 391
(additional concerns) displayed a borderline signiﬁcant difference between the two
groups (p=.057), whereas the social/family well-being subscale and emotional well-
being subscale scores showed no signiﬁcant difference. At baseline, radical activity
>310 FORT units (indicative of increased oxidative stress) were present in 95.1% of
the cases. After 3 months of treatment, radical activity >310 FORT units was present
in 52.8% of the cases in the treatment group.
Cognitive Performance Enhancement
•Summary: Limited research has indicated that aromatherapy with essential oils from
rosemary may enhance cognitive performance. More well-designed trials are needed
before a deﬁnitive assessment can be made.
•Evidence: Moss et al. (2003) conducted a randomized controlled trial to evaluate the
aromatherapeutic efﬁcacy of the essential oils of rosemary and lavender on cognitive
performance and mood in adults. Subjects were 144 healthy adults, who performed the
CDR computerized cognitive assessment battery in an experimental space containing
the aroma of rosemary and lavender, and no aroma as a control. Mood question-
naires (visual analogue) were administered before and after the assessment. Subjects
were misled as to the purpose of the experiment to prevent expectancy effects. Out-
come measures included CDR and mood questionnaire results. A signiﬁcant differ-
ence between all the groups was reported for quality of memory (F (2,141) =4.80,
p=.01). Overall, rosemary produced signiﬁcantly higher scores than the lavender
condition (mean =326.61, p<.05). In the analysis of the individual tests, rosemary
was associated with small and statistically signiﬁcant improvements in two of the ﬁve
memory tests when compared with the control group. When compared to lavender,
however, statistical signiﬁcance was reached for three of the ﬁve individual tests.
Limitations of this study included a failure to describe dropouts or the method of
•Summary: Based on limited research, aromatherapy with essential oils from rosemary,
lemon, and peppermint, combined with abdominal massage, may alleviate constipa-
tion in the elderly. More well-designed trials are needed before a deﬁnitive assessment
can be made.
•Select combination studies (not included in the Evidence Table): Kim, Sakong, Kim,
Kim, & Kim (2005a) conducted a randomized, controlled, pre- and post-test trial to
examine the effects of aromatherapy massage on constipation in the elderly. Partic-
ipants received abdominal massage using essential oils from rosemary, lemon, and
peppermint for 10 days. Placebo consisted of massage without essential oils. The
degree of constipation was measured using the constipation assessment scale (CAS)
and the number of bowel movements per week. The CAS score of the experimental
group was signiﬁcantly lower than that of the control group. In addition, the average
number of bowel movements in the experimental group was higher than that of the
control group. This effect lasted for 2 weeks following the cessation of treatment,
while the placebo effect lasted for 7–10 days.
392 JOURNAL OF DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS
•Summary: On the basis of limited research, the combination of marigold and rosemary
extracts may exert a signiﬁcant protective effect in a model of experimentally induced
contact dermatitis. Additional research examining the effect of rosemary alone is
•Select combination studies (not included in the Evidence Table): Fuchs et al. (2005)
conducted a study to examine the effects of a cream containing seven different types of
marigold and rosemary extracts on experimentally induced irritant contact dermatitis
(ICD) in healthy volunteers. Twenty volunteers were included in the study. The
use of detergents or emollients was not allowed during the study period, nor was
sunbathing or excessive sun exposure. Inclusion criteria included the absence of any
major internal or dermatological diseases. Exclusion criteria included pregnancy or
lactation, immunosuppressive therapy, topical dermatological treatment within last 2
weeks, and very fair complexion. Marigold and rosemary extracts in a base cream
Deutscher Arzneimittel-Codex (DAC; German Pharmaceutical Codex) were tested
in a four-day repetitive irritation test using sodium lauryl sulfate. The effect was
evaluated visually and quantiﬁed by noninvasive methods (i.e., chromometry and
tewametry). When the test products were applied parallel to the induction period
of ICD, a statistically signiﬁcant protective effect of all cream preparations was
observed by all methods (p<.001–0.05). The sequential treatment (post-irritation)
once a day for ﬁve days displayed no effect. The inﬂuence of rosemary alone cannot
be determined from this study.
Rheumatic Diseases (Pain)
•Summary: In a rat model of arthritic pain, the essential oil of rosemary exhibited
antinociceptive effects, which may be modulated by the serotonin system (i.e., 5-
HT1A receptors) or the endogenous opioid system (Martinez et al., 2009). Several
clinical trials have attempted to examine the effects of rosemary, in combination with
other essential oils, on pain associated with rheumatic diseases in humans; however,
research remains limited. Additional study is required before a deﬁnitive assessment
can be made.
•Select combination studies (not included in the Evidence Table): Minich et al. (2007)
conducted a multicenter trial to examine the clinical safety and efﬁcacy of NG440, a
phytochemical-based anti-inﬂammatory formula consisting of a combination of rho
iso-alpha acids from hops, rosemary, and oleanolic acid in patients with arthritis pain.
Sixty subjects were recruited, of which 56 were included in the analysis. As early
as 2 weeks following the start of the therapy, a signiﬁcant improvement in visual
analog scale (VAS) scores (p<.001) was observed. At study closeout, VAS scores
were 66.2% lower compared to the baseline score (p<.001). A 30% reduction in
clinical symptoms associated with joint distress was also observed. This study is
limited by a lack of blinding and randomization, as well as the use of a combination
•Lukaczer et al. (2005) conducted an open-label, 8-week observational trial to inves-
tigate the efﬁcacy of Meta050 (a proprietary, standardized combination of reduced
iso-alpha acids from hops, rosemary extract, and oleanolic acid) on pain in patients
with rheumatic disease. Fifty-four subjects with rheumatic disease completed the
trial. Subjects were men and women aged between 18 and 65 years with ongoing
Ulbricht et al. 393
pain, who met the criteria for rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, or ﬁbromyalgia.
Exclusion criteria included abnormal complete blood count (CBC), blood glucose, or
kidney or liver function markers; allergy to an ingredient in Meta050, nonsteroidal
anti-inﬂammatory (NSAID) medications, or aspirin; a history of peptic ulcer, gas-
tritis, esophagitis, or liver, kidney, or heart disease; current pregnancy or lactation;
uncontrolled hypertension (BP >140/90); diabetes; HIV or acquired immunodeﬁ-
ciency syndrome (AIDS); history of or active cancer (excluding skin cancer); use of
oral corticosteroids in the preceding 4 weeks; history of untreated endocrine, neuro-
logical, or infectious disorders; or a history of serious mental illness or episode of
attempted suicide within the preceding 5 years. Patients were given a dose of 440
mg of Meta050 thrice a day for 4 weeks, which was increased to 880 mg twice a
day for the subsequent 4 weeks (in the majority of patients). Pain and condition-
speciﬁc symptoms were assessed using a standard VAS, an abridged arthritis impact
measurement scale (AIMS2), and the ﬁbromyalgia impact questionnaire. Following
treatment, a statistically signiﬁcant decrease in pain of 50% and 40% was observed
in arthritic subjects using the VAS (p<.0001) and AIMS2 (p<.0001), respectively.
Fibromyalgia subject scores did not improve signiﬁcantly. A decreasing trend of C-
reactive protein, a marker for inﬂammation, was also observed in the subjects who
presented with elevated C-reactive protein. No serious side effects were observed.
The effects of rosemary alone cannot be determined from this study. This study was
limited by a lack of randomization and blinding.
•Kim, Nam, and Paik (2005b) conducted a quasi-experimental pre- and post-test study
to examine the effect of aromatherapy on pain, depression, and feeling of satis-
faction in life of arthritis patients. Forty patients were included in the trial. The
essential oils used were lavender, marjoram, eucalyptus, rosemary, and peppermint
blended in proportions of 2:1:2:1:1, mixed with a carrier oil consisting of almond
(45%), apricot (45%), and jojoba oil (10%), diluted to 1.5% after blending. Aro-
matherapy signiﬁcantly decreased both the pain and the depression scores of the
experimental group compared with the control group. However, aromatherapy did
not increase the feeling of satisfaction in life of the experimental group compared
with the control group. The effects of rosemary alone cannot be determined from this
Brands Used in Human Studies
•Tisserand pure rosemary essential oil (Tisserand Aromatherapy, Newtown Road,
Hove, Sussex, UK) (Moss et al., 2003).
•Botanical supplement formula (combination is as follows: 100 mg of C. longa
(turmeric) root extract standardized to 95% curcumin; 100 mg of C. scolymus (arti-
choke) leaf 6:1 extract; 100 mg of R. ofﬁcinalis (rosemary) leaf 5:1 extract; 100 mg
of S. marianum (milk thistle) seed extract standardized to 80% silybin, silichristin,
silidianin, and silymarin; 100 mg of T. ofﬁcinalis (dandelion) root 4:1 extract; and
50 mg of S. chinensis (schisandra) berry 20:1 extract) (Vital Nutrients) (Greenlee
et al., 2007).
•Meta050 (standardized combination is as follows: reduced iso-alpha acids from hops,
rosemary extract, and oleanolic acid) (Lukaczer et al., 2005).
394 JOURNAL OF DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS
Brands Shown to Contain Claimed Ingredients Through Third-Party Testing
•Consumer Laboratory: Not applicable.
•Consumer Reports: Consumer Reports Health presented a list of products containing
•Natural Products Association:Not applicable.
•NSF International: Not applicable.
•US Pharmacopeia: Not applicable.
Select Patents Outside the United States
•JP2009132662 Glutathione production promoter.
•MX2007010360 herbal composition for the treatment of psoriasis.
•JP2008303165 hair improving agent.
•US5939050: Antimicrobial compositions.
•US6060061: Method for preventing or treating disorders involving an inﬂammatory
•US6248309: Gums containing antimicrobial agents.
Declaration of Interest: The authors report no conﬂict of interest. The authors alone
are responsible for the content and writing of this paper.
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