‘Dew of the sea’ is the meaning of the latin term rosmarinus. A name which has recently been the centre of a debate as the scientific world announced that our beloved Rosemary is actually a sage (pertaining to the Genus Salvia) … This confusing name change from Rosmarinus officinalis to Salvia rosmarinus was the result of studies on the plant’s DNA.
Rosemary in Malta is indigenous but has sadly become quite rare to come by. In one of the few places where it grows in the wild, some old specimens reach even 2metres in height and often produce flowers throughout the year. Bees love the welcoming flowers of this aromatic shrub, and the honey produced from it is quite special. Although Rosemary is mostly viewed as a culinary herb, it has a long history of medicinal uses as well as many mentions in folklore.
Maltese naturalist and folklorist Guido Lanfranco describes some of its uses locally in his book “Ħxejjex Mediċinali u Oħrajn fil-Gżejjer Maltin (Malta, 1993): from being used in the bathing water of babies to acting as a tonic to strengthen the hair and even to help against the spread of disease and keep away pests. In many countries it was considered a powerful protective herb to ward off evil spirits. Its essential oil is often recommended for use for headaches and migraines and to clear the mind. Some scientific studies are confirming what had been known for a long time about its properties in aiding memory. This has been impressed in literature as well with a famous phrase quoted from Shakespeare’s Hamlet:
“There’s Rosemary, that’s for remembrance;”
Photos by Annalise Falzon