Leave your tic-tacs at home. This medicinal plant provides delicious mouth fresheners to integrate into a balanced healing diet.
When a herb or plant has the designation 'officinalis' it means it has been recognised to have medicinal qualities. 'Rosemarinus', so called because of marine connections (colour of sea - grows by sea e.g. Mediterranean) is possibly the best example of a herb that we commonly grow that has extensive folklore and many attributed medicinal values.
Beloved by the Romans, who bought it to the UK from Turkey, they believed this valuable herb could preserve dead bodies from corruption and it was often strewn or grown in graveyards and around tombs. It was well known to the Tudors as a stimulant to the system. In ‘The Garden of Health’ (1579) William Langham writes:
"Carry the flowers about thee to make thee merry and glad and well beloved of all men...hang the flowers on thy bed and place Rosemary in the bath to make thee lusty, lively, joyful, strong and young. To comfort the heart steep Rosemary flowers in rose water and drink it".
Gerard agrees in his 1636 Herbal. "The flowers of Rosemary, made up into lozenges with sugar and eaten make the heart merry, quicken the spirits and make them more lively". He also notes that Rosemary water acts as a breath freshener.
Rosemary has long been recognised as a valuable heart and liver tonic and its use can help to reduce high blood pressure. It has been used in the treatment of nervous complaints, digestive disorders and menstrual pains.
Rosemary is a symbol of constancy in love because it remains fresh and fragrant when cut, longer most other evergreens. For this reason it was often used for solemn occasions such as weddings or funerals - 'Be it for my bridal or my burial'. As in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Rosemary is for remembrance and in the language of flowers the gift of Rosemary means 'Never will your memory fade'. Ancient myth has it that ‘Where Rosemary flourishes - the woman rules’. Rosemary is sometimes used in psychic work as an aid to concentration, memory and mental steadiness. Under the pillow or over the bed its delicious aroma is said to prevent nightmares.
One word of warning though - excessive use of Rosemary taken internally can cause fatal poisoning, but that is no reason not sample the delicious and invigorating herbal tea or eat a few of the flowers.
Like the raw flowers, Rosemary sugar candies are a tiny taste explosion and quite delicious. Preserving them in sugar helps to extend the amount of time you can experience this uplifting Epicurean event. First of all find a plant with flowers. It often flowers twice a year so this should not be too difficult. You can either pick the whole flower from the plant, or set up some arrangement that catches them as they fall naturally.
In a warm place, such as a sunlit window sill above a radiator, drop the flowers onto dried (even warmed) white sugar. Make sure the receptacle is open enough that moisture can evaporate from the flowers into the sugar and then into the atmosphere. Also make sure that no moisture gets to this mixture at any point as the sugar will ‘clump’ and the flowers will start to rot, spoiling the taste. Shake the mixture now and then to aid the process.
When thoroughly dry, seal the sugar/flower mixture into a moisture-proof receptacle and every now and then - treat yourself !
With thanks to: J. Lust, M. Woodward, D. Conway, C.L. Zalewski, R. Genders.