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Rosemary Extract: Cancer Fighter, Brain Protector, and More!

What is rosemary extract?

The extract is from rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis Linn.), a common household plant that has grown in the Alps since the Middle Ages, and is now found throughout the world. According to folklore, rosemary takes its name from the Virgin Mary, who draped her cloak on a rosemary bush, and then placed a white flower on top of the cloak. The flower turned blue overnight, and the plant became known as the “Rose of Mary.”

Rosemary has been used for thousands of years as a savory spice, food preservative, in cosmetics and hair products, and as an herbal medicine for a variety of health disorders. Until now however, the exact chemical pathways involved in its beneficial effects have remained unknown.

There are hundreds of research papers and studies on the extensive antioxidant capabilities of rosemary. Before retiring from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, botanist Dr. James Duke established the landmark Phytochemical Database that lists all the known chemical compounds in more than 1,000 edible plants, including the most common herbs and spices. According to Duke, rosemary contains more than two dozen antioxidants, and it is the only compound in his database (CRC Handbook of Biologically Active Phytochemicals, 1992) to have immune regulating, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant activities.

Although rosemary extract has been used commercially as an antimicrobial food preservative for years, now we know for certain that it also has a lot to offer as a nutritional supplement, 1 especially in the prevention of some types of cancer, allergies, and the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.2

Why take rosemary extract?

There are lots of excellent antioxidants that combat free radical damage. However, rosemary extract contains more than two dozen antioxidants, and provides potent protection against chronic diseases, including Alzheimer’s, one of the most dreaded diseases of today.

Rosemary extract:

  • Provides powerful antioxidant protection
  • Protects brain cells from the normal effects of aging
  • May slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Protects cells from carcinogens
  • Inhibits growth of cancer cells
  • Helps reduce allergy symptoms, especially to dust mites
  • Increases potency of vitamin E
  • Helps reduce hypertension

What makes rosemary extract so special?

Antioxidants have been proven to deactivate free radicals, but not all antioxidants are equal. In most cases, once an antioxidant has neutralized a free radical it is no longer useful as an antioxidant because it becomes an inert compound. Or even worse, it becomes a free radical itself.

That’s where rosemary extract is significantly different. It has a longer life span of antioxidant activity. Not only that, it contains more than two dozen antioxidants, including carnosic acid, one of the only antioxidants that deactivates free radicals through a multilevel cascade approach.

In vitro studies have shown that as carnosic acid attacks free radicals it is transformed into at least four other antioxidant compounds, each with the ability to neutralize additional free radicals. Most antioxidants do not have this same capacity. Instead, they neutralize a free radical and are transformed into an inert compound, or even worse, they become free radicals themselves.

When rosemary extract is combined with other antioxidants its potency increases. For instance, vitamin E must be re-cycled after quenching a free radical before it can quench another. But when it is combined with rosemary extract, the carnosic acid, which starts the cascade effect, rejuvenates vitamin E back to its original state, so it can attack additional free radicals. 1 3

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Editor's Note:

The natural health solutions described in this article are available through many on-line retailers including those listed below. By clicking these links you help support the important alternative health research we provide.

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This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Always consult with a physician before embarking on a dietary supplement program.


  1. Moreno S, Scheyer T, Romano CS, Vojnov AA Antioxidant and antimicrobial activities of rosemary extracts linked to their polyphenol composition . Free Radic Res. 2006 Feb;40(2):223-31.

  2. al-Sereiti MR, Abu-Amer KM, Sen P. Pharmacology of rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis Linn.) and its therapeutic potentials. Indian J Exp Biol. 1999 Feb;37(2):124-30.

  3. Masuda T, Inaba Y, Takeda Y Antioxidant mechanism of carnosic acid: structural identification of two oxidation products. J Agric Food Chem. 2001 Nov;49(11):5560-5.

  4. Kennedy DO, Scholey AB. The psychopharmacology of European herbs with cognition-enhancing properties. Curr Pharm Des. 2006;12(35):4613-23.

  5. Lipton SA. Pathologically activated therapeutics for neuroprotection. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2007 Oct;8(10):803-8.

  6. Satoh T, Kosaka K, Itoh K, Kobayashi A, Yamamoto M, Shimojo Y, Kitajima C, Cui J, Kamins J, Okamoto S, Izumi M, Shirasawa T, Lipton SA. Carnosic acid, a catechol-type electrophilic compound, protects neurons both in vitro and in vivo through activation of the Keap1/Nrf2 pathway via S-alkylation of targeted cysteines on Keap1. J Neurochem. 2008 Feb;104(4):1116-31. Epub 2007 Nov 6.

  7. Alkam T, Nitta A, Mizoguchi H, Itoh A, Nabeshima T. A natural scavenger of peroxynitrites, rosmarinic acid, protects against impairment of memory induced by Abeta (25-35). Behav Brain Res. 2007 Jun 18;180(2):139-45. Epub 2007 Mar 1.

  8. Pereira P, Tysca D, Oliveira P, da Silva Brum LF, Picada JN, Ardenghi P. Neurobehavioral and genotoxic aspects of rosmarinic acid. Pharmacol Res. 2005 Sept; 52(3):199-203.

  9. Takano H, Osakabe N, Sanbongi C, Yanagisawa R, Inoue K, Yasuda A, Natsume M, Baba S, Ichiishi E, Yoshikawa T. Extract of Perilla frutescens enriched for rosmarinic acid, a polyphenolic phytochemical, inhibits seasonal allergic rhinoconjunctivitis in humans. Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2004 Mar;229(3):247-54.

  10. Inoue K, Takano H, Shiga A, Fujita Y, Makino H, Yanagisawa R, Ichinose T, Kato Y, Yamada T, Yoshikawa T. Effects of volatile constituents of a rosemary extract on allergic airway inflammation related to house dust mite allergen in mice. Int J Mol Med. 2005 Aug;16(2):315-9.

  11. Sanbongi C, Takano H, Osakabe N, Sasa N, Natsume M, Yanagisawa R, Inoue KI, Sadakane K, Ichinose T, Yoshikawa T.Rosmarinic acid in perilla extract inhibits allergic inflammation induced by mite allergen, in a mouse model. Clin Exp Allergy. 2004 Jun;34(6):971-7.

  12. Lo AH, Liang YC, Lin-Shiau SY, Ho CT, Lin JK. Carnosol, an antioxidant in rosemary, suppresses inducible nitric oxide synthase through down-regulating nuclear factor-kappaB in mouse macrophages. Carcinogenesis. 2002 Jun;23(6):983-91.

  13. Singletary K, MacDonald C, Wallig M. Inhibition by rosemary and carnosol of 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene (DMBA)-induced rat mammary tumorigenesis and in vivo DMBA-DNA adduct formation. Cancer Lett. 1996 Jun 24;104(1):43-8.

  14. Cheung S, Tai J Anti-proliferative and antioxidant properties of rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis Oncol Rep. 2007 Jun;17(6):1525-3.

  15. Steiner M, Priel I, Giat J, Levy J, Sharoni Y, Danilenko M.Carnosic acid inhibits proliferation and augments differentiation of human leukemic cells induced by 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 and retinoic acid. Nutr Cancer. 2001;41(1-2):135-44.

  16. Offord EA, Macé K, Avanti O, Pfeifer AM. Mechanisms involved in the chemoprotective effects of rosemary extract studied in human liver and bronchial cells. Cancer Lett. 1997 Mar 19;114(1-2):275-8.

  17. Tahraoui A, El-Hilaly J, Israili ZH, Lyoussi B. Ethnopharmacological survey of plants used in the traditional treatment of hypertension and diabetes in south-eastern Morocco (Errachidia province). J Ethnopharmacol. 2007 Mar 1;110(1):105-17. Epub 2006 Sep 23.

  18. Zeng HH, Tu PF, Zhou K, Wang H, Wang BH, Lu JF.Antioxidant properties of phenolic diterpenes from Rosmarinus officinalis. Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2001 Dec;22(12):1094-8.

  19. Lee JJ, Jin YR, Lee JH, Yu JY, Han XH, Oh KW, Hong JT, Kim TJ, Yun YP. Antiplatelet activity of carnosic acid, a phenolic diterpene from Rosmarinus officinalis. Planta Med. 2007 Feb;73(2):121-7.


Is eating the herb Rosemary just as effictive as the extract?

Could you please tell where can I buy this Rosemary Extract?

Even though I was using various cosmetic items and food stuffs, I had no idea on what the Rosemary extract was. It was a very useful read that you had posted here. Good work. This read can help in my studies too as I am preparing a report on natural extracts that are useful to human life.
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Good day

I have read several articles about Dr James Duke - and what a master!!

I want to use Rosemary as a preservative in food that I bottle - because the preservatives that they currently use is so harmfull.

Do you have any articles about that maybe?  Or could there be tests done by Dr Duke about this?

I would really love for you to get back to me?  I tried to google Dr Duke and maybe find him on FB or so - but I was not successful - I wanted to ask him myself?

Kindest regards and thank you for an amazing site!

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Extract? Do you mean tincture? If not would tinctures have the same benefits? I would assume so, the alcohol simply draws out the compounds.

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