(adapted from Kitchen MedicineHome Remedies, p152)

Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus) was named for its liking of maritime habitats (ros is Latin for dew and maris for the sea), and perhaps because its blue–white flowers have a misty, luminous appearance when seen from a distance. Its former name, officinalis, indicates the plant’s status as a medicinal herb, approved for use by doctors and apothecaries.

The ancient Greeks knew of rosemary’s stimulating effect on the blood circulation and esteemed it for promoting concentration. To improve their memories, Greek students would wind rosemary strands into their hair when taking examinations; this practice was still current in Elizabethan England.

Try something similar today by burning rosemary oil in a burner by your computer as you fill in your tax return: it will calm you as well as keeping you mentally agile. If you make rosemary wine, you might become as happy as the Strasbourg herbalist Walter Ryff (1500–48): The spirits of the heart and entire body feel joy from this drink, which dispels all despondency and worry.

Seethe [boil in water] much Rosemary, and bathe therein to make thee lusty, lively, joyfull, likeing and youngly.
– William Langham, The Garden of Health (1597)

Sovereignly cephalic [supreme head herb], and for the Memory, Sight and Nerves, incomparable.
– John Evelyn, Acetaria (1699)

Rosemary bath toner

The easiest and least messy way to follow William Langham’s suggestion (see quote) is to cut off some rosemary branches with stalks and bundle them together into a nosegay with a rubber band; submerge this in your bath. It can make for a warming, clarifying and reinvigorating experience.