Rosemary is a woody, perennial herb with fragrant, evergreen, needle-like leaves and white, pink, purple or blue flowers, native to the Mediterranean region. It is a member of the mint family which includes many other herbs. The name "rosemary" derives from the Latin name rosmarinus, derived from "dew" (ros) and "sea" (marinus), or "dew of the sea" because in many locations it needs no water other than the humidity carried by the sea breeze to live. It is a plant well suited to growing in poor or sandy soil, high salt, high wind areas such as the conditions found by the sea.
Rosemary's symbolic uses are deeply inlaid within many cultural traditions including weddings, funerals, and during religious ceremonies. The herb is seen by many as a gift by the gods and as a symbol of love, friendship, and trust. Rosemary has a long herbal tradition as an herb that improves concentration and memory. Greek students would braid Rosemary into their hair to help them with their exams.
In modern times Rosemary is grown throughout the world and is widely used as a culinary seasoning, a decorative plant in the garden and a medicinal herb. It is used to treat a variety of symptoms and illnesses. The most prominent modern use of rosemary is as an antioxidant. The primary goal of the herb in this use is to prevent the damage caused by oxidative stress that occurs during many diseases. Modern science attributes much of Rosemary's action on the central nervous system to its potent antioxidant, rosemarinic acid.
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