Growing 迷迭香 [mídiéxiāng] Rosmarinus officinalis – rosemary
Three beautiful rosemaries are growing in front of my dwelling. Early this year they were covered by a thick pack of snow. They were the first plants that showed their green again once the snow began to melt.
We have been using rosemary for our stews and pasta sauces this winter, and I am happy that I can give it a place on the website. Their emergence from the snow was a great beginning of the year.
The Chinese name of rosemary, 迷迭香 [mídiéxiāng], means literally:
Repeatedly Enchanting Fragrance
Key information from the Chinese materia medica 中药大辞典 [Zhōngyào dà cídiǎn]:
Nature and flavour
acrid; warm (one source says: balanced); non-toxic
Actions and indications
fortifies the stomach
treats (different kinds of) headache
one source says: calms the spirit
“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray, love, remember”
(Ophelia in Shakespeare’s Hamlet).
Rosemary is used ritualistically to remember loved ones that have passed on (see also below).
The use of rosemary to enhance memory has been widely described throughout history and is practiced up to the present. In ancient Greece, scholars wore it around their necks or in their hair and stuffed it under their pillows at night, all to improve their memory. And a friend told me that in Israel, rosemary is planted in the gardens of universities for the same purpose.
Shamanistic usage is related to the plant’s ability to heal and ward off evil spirits. It is often planted in or around a ‘healing circle’.
From Egypt to Dioscorides to Sir Thomas More … & more
Here is a selection of articles that focus on the history of rosemary (I added a citation from each of them):
“Libanotis which the Romans call Rosmarinus & they which plait crowns use it: the shoots are slender, about which are leaves, small, thick, and somewhat long, thin, on the inside white, but on the outside green, of a strong scent. It hath a warming facultie . . .”
<<Citing Dioscorides, De Materia Medica, Book III: 89 A.D.>>
“[…] rosemary was believed to grow only in the gardens of the righteous and
protected one from evil spirits.”
“[…] a universal symbol of remembrance used to honor those who have passed on. The tradition of laying sprigs of rosemary across the coffin or upon a tombstone dates back to ancient Egypt. ”
“[…] a plant that has been grown for over 5000 years (with dried sprigs found in Egyptian tombs from 3000 B.C.E.), […]”
Medicinal – Chinese medicine
For more information in English on the medicinal use of rosemary, especially related to Chinese medicine, please see:
- The Energetics of Western Herbs, by Peter Holmes (pp. 340-342 in the third edition)
- Combining Western Herbs and Chinese Medicine, by Jeremy Ross (pp. 635-650)
- Western Herbs in Chinese Medicine – Methodology and Materia Medica, by Thomas Avery Garran (pp. 285-290)
Here is the (somewhat abbreviated) entry on rosemary from 中药大辞典 :
【拼音】mí dié xiānɡ
【出处】《本草拾遗》<The 本草拾遗 – Běncǎo shíyí was first published in the 開元 period of the Tang dynasty (713—741).>