Every year I look forward to my rosemary bushes flowering in March, April and May. Although evergreen and always available, rosemary is at its best with the highest content of essential oil just behind and in the flowers. Since the times of the famed rejuvenating Queen Hungary’s Water, recorded in the fourteenth century as restoring the health and beauty of the ageing queen, rosemary has been known as a support for the ageing skin, hair, and brain.
A definite aid to beauty, memory and digestion through action on the circulatory system it is an important herb to harvest and enjoy in cookery, cosmetics and home medicine.
For cookery I like to gather the flowers and pound these with sugar which then adds powerful flavour and keeps well. I grind the fresh or dried herb to powder as a seasoning and preservative and infuse the herb in wine or vinegar.
The cut branches can be placed in a hanging net dryer away from sunshine, and when dry stripped of their leaves and flowers while out of doors, as the scent is intense and will otherwise clear your head in more ways than one. Dried rosemary can be stored for pot-pourri, or sachet mixes. Fresh rosemary is best used in the recipe below for a tonic shampoo.
Rosemary, Mint and Nettle Shampoo
25g (1 oz) fresh herbs (about 4 sprigs of rosemary, 3 of mint and 5 or 6 nettle tops)
1.2 litres (2 pints) water
50g (2oz) soapwort root, (better fresh but can be used dried).
2 drops essential oil of rosemary or essential oil of tea tree
Wear rubber gloves for protection when gathering and preparing the nettles.
Choose only perfect leaves and pick flowering rosemary.
Rinse the herbs in cold water and pound the rosemary on a board with the rolling pin, or in a mortar, before tearing or chopping the sprigs into a non-aluminium pan.
Add 600ml (1 pint) of cold water, set over a moderate heat and simmer for 10 minutes, partly covered with a lid.
Set aside – covering the pan and leave overnight to steep.
Next morning put 50g (2oz) of fresh soapwort root which has been washed clean and chopped into short lengths, into a second pan with 600ml (1 pint) of cold water.
Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes, again partly covered with a lid.
Add to the strained herb infusion and boil gently until the liquor is reduced to 600ml (1 pint) – about 15 minutes.
Pour into a sterilised bottle and when cool add the essential oil of rosemary or tea-tree if preferred.
Seal and shake to disperse the oil.
The shampoo can now be decanted into smaller bottles if liked. Keep in a cool place.
Recipe taken from pages 48/49 of Herb Sufficient. For rosemary in cookery see Herbwise Naturally. Detailed medicinal uses and more on rosemary can be found in The Tree Dispensary. It is also an important herb for the brain in Ageing Successfully.