Aromatic Plants; Rosemary and Other Fun Stuff.

Mar 29, 2021

Today we are going to look at Rosemary. We will, for the most part, look at the differences of Rosemary grown under various conditions.
There are a number of different varieties of Rosemary. Each one has their own unique contribution to serving the needs of the various users of the plant material. As to the essential oil aspect I have seen a number of different companies selling Rosemary Essential Oil will tout all Rosemary as the same oil. Without taking into account the different properties, without really understanding the differences between the vanities as to their strengths and weaknesses. Basically they just cut and paste from someone that cut and pasted from someone that cut and pasted from someone.. do you get the picture? With the essential oil of Rosemary this is very important to understand some background on this plant.  Now when it comes to the use of the Herb, it is not quite as important, but still it is important. Another popular use of Rosemary is in cooking and food applications. In this situation it is very important, but many times adjustments of other spices used, will compensate for the different flavoring contributions offered by various varieties of the Rosemary plants. Of course the skill of the Chef can compensate for these variances without much effort. Since I do not claim to be a Chef in any sense of the word, I am not qualified in any way to discuss this aspect and will not be doing so in this discussion. However we will discuss the Rosemary plant, the conditions under which it is grown and the outcome of that growth cycle.

Although there are a long list of varieties of Rosemary, we tend to see only three types being generally offered in essential oils. Those are the Verbenone type, the Camphor type and the 1,8 Cineole type. For the most part, the 1,8 Cineole type is the one used by the majority of the Western Aromatherapy world. Although the Camphor type is also used by a number of aromatherapists as well. The Verenone type is generally more expensive. It used to be that the Camphor type was about 1/2 the price of the 1,8 Cineole type, but before I started typing this discussion, I did a quick check and the Camphor type is actually more than the 1,8 Cineole type, by about 20%. But as with most essential oil prices, if I tell you a certain price range today, maybe by next week the prices will have changed and all over the board, up down and back and forth. So what I have told you as it applies to pricing in this paragraph is just generally, in the present, and in the past.

Based on the propaganda about Rosemary out there, it is supposedly had it's origins around the Mediterranean region. From there it expanded world wide. Rosemary is a plant that is adaptable to it's environment and as such the environment has a huge effect on the plant's expression of components. Around the Mediterranean we see the Rosemary produced in the North African countries as being of the 1,8 Cineole type, is the primary type. In Spain and surrounding areas, we see the Camphor type. The Verbenone type also grows in the Spain/Southern France area as well. But the Verbenone and Camphor types are somewhat different and the 1,8 Cineole being remarkably different than the two previously mentioned types. Although we do see some 1,8 Cineole and the Verbenone being grown in the US.  The majority for essential oil production is grown around the Mediterranean region for all three of the major types. When it comes to the Herbal applications of Rosemary , we see Rosemary being sourced world wide.

When we look at the Herbal use Rosemary, we need to be very careful as many times the type is not listed and in reality the Country of Origin is not always accurate. A big problem with the Herbal used Rosemary is that it may have been grown under conditions of heavy metals being present in the soil, or in an area that is prone to having various pollution problems, for example. However, this is a major concern among all Herbal applications of all plants. Herbalists are always being on the look out for this issue. Aromatherapist are also on the lookout and many times are even more concerned, although it is unwarranted, as a general rule. Here is why; In testing that has been done it has been discovered and shown that the heavy metals, such as Lead, Cadmium, and Mercury does not make the trip over into the essential oil as it does not leave the plant material. So for people using the plant material directly, this can be a concern, where as the essential oil user really should not find this to be a concern. Now when it comes to the various "Cides", such as Herbicides, then it does become a concern as those do come over in the distillation process.

As an Aromatherapist and an Aromacologist, I very seldom use the Camphor type. The Camphor type works great for sore muscles, and issues along these lines. You might say that it is a good oil for short term, acute situations, with external applications. Since I am kinf od cheap, I likely won't be using the Camphor type at all. I can do the same job and get the same outcome by using Cajeput from Vietnam for less money. BTW, I blend primarily by chemical makeup so changing can sometimes be easily done.

Although the Camphor type can be very useful for respiratory issues in certain applications. Rosemary essential oil, in all varieties, is one of many oils that penetrates the Blood/Brain barrier very easily. Since Camphor is a neurotoxin, the Camphor can be a concern if any large amount is used. Rosemary Camphor is not recommended for internal use. Plus, Camphor has that Vicks Vapor Rub aroma and taste, as well. So if you like eating Vicks, then go for it by all means, using Rosemary Camphor type, internally. The next troublesome spot is the stomach, generally Camphor will give you an upset stomach. Need we go further? We must keep in mind that all tress of the major type do contain Camphor. Generally the Rosemary Camphor type will contain over 20% Camphor, where as the 1,8 Cineole is in the 10% range and the Verbenone is in the mid single percent range. Although the differences may not sound like they would have much of an effect, but they do. I actually have seen some Rosemary essential oil listed as "Verbenone" as having a higher Camphor level than any of the other listed Camphor types sold by most suppliers. Maybe it was just a typo, who knows for sure? 

When it comes to the 1,8 Cineole type, this is the one that is used by most Aromatherapists. The 1,8 Cineole is also known as Eucalyptol. You will recognize the "Eucalyptol" as being close to Eucalyptus, as in Eucalyptus Essential Oil. The Eucalyptus oils, depending on the variety, Will usually be around 65% of Eucalyptol on the low end to as high as 95% on the high end. So very dominated by the one component. In the Rosemary 1,8 Cineole oil, it will usually run from the 10% range to the 65% Eucalyptol in some selected cultivars of the Rosemary, with about 25% to 35% being the normal range for most 1,8 Cineole Rosemary Oil. The 1,8 Cineole or also known as Eucalyptol, is used widely in foods and food flavoring. Generally, the Eucalyptol is component is considered to be safe to use internally. If used within reason.,when used in flavorings and in foods. The amount that would be consumed in a normal consumable setting is not enough to do any harm. But when used in an Essential Oil form/source, then it can be a concern if used outside of reasonably, responsible guidelines. Even when using the 1,8 type internally, more than a drop or two can give a person an upset stomach. Where as the Camphor types are considered "not safe" to use internally as they are considered to be toxic and for the most part a neurotoxin, because of the Camphor. Although all Rosemary Essential oils and even their Herbal forms do contain some Camphor, the amount is not enough to be of concern when used internally with the 1,8 Cineole types. When the higher Camphor types are used topically, then the Camphor is spread out over a longer period of time so that the high amount of Camphor is not hitting various areas of concern, such as the Liver, so as to allow the body to process it in the lower dose amounts. Camphor is really toxic to the Brain in large amounts. Now that we have rode this horse long enough, let us move on to the growing conditions.

Differences due to growing conditions;

So why is there differences in the component expressions among the chemo types of Rosemary?  How does the growing medium influence these components? Generally, the 1,8 Cineole types are grown in higher Alkaline soils. These Alkaline soils typically are in areas of lower rain fall and not a whole lot of organic matter in the soil. The higher Camphor types are usually grown in soils that are more base and below, as in Acidic soil conditions with some organic matter in the soil. They will also be in areas of higher rainfall. Although all Rosemary plants will contain the same basic mineral compositions. There are differences. The 1,8 Cineole will be higher in Boron. Boron is one of the really good components of the Rosemary Oil because of he base influences of this mineral. 1,8 Cineole has a chemical formula of C10H16O, which is the same as the Camphor but the two have a different molecular weight. The 1,8 has a molecular weight of 154 and the Camphor has a molecular weight of 152. Not a whole lot but it does indicate that they are similar but it is in the little things contained in these two constituents that makes up the difference of the two, with the growing conditions influencing those differences. As a note, Boron has a molecular weight of 10.81, so by factoring in the difference in Boron and Camphor weights and a few displacements in the zero sum game, the difference of the 1,8 weight and the Camphor weights can be understood.

Referring back to the first part of this discussion about the origins of Rosemary plant, the Mediterranean area. Spain tends to produce oil's which are much different than other areas of the Mediterranean region. Of course the major aspect of this is the elevated levels of Camphor. Spain and other boarder areas of Spain, such as France and Italy, tend to produce somewhat elevated Camphor levels, but lower than the typical Spain sources. In the areas where Rosemary is grown in Spain, there tends to be warmer temperatures, very seldom, if ever freezing and more organic matter in the soils. These ares also have higher levels of annual rainfall, therefore more washing of the soil and less clay, which leads to less mineral storage. The "Nutrition" for the plants must be more constant throughout the year. This means the plant must be fertilized often throughout the growing season. Another factor with the higher Camphor levels is that the harvesting of the Rosemary plant used for essential oil distillation is usually almost a clear cutting of the plant, so not only the flowers and twigs, but the leaves and more woody parts are also taken and distilled.

As a general rule, Rosemary does not like the commercial fertilizers and prefer to be feed with Bio-mass type nutrients, ie; various forms of compost or with the natural PPM levels in the soil of it's nutritional needs.  The Verbenone type is a little bit different in that it is grown in various areas of Spain, Italy and France where the conditions are somewhat different than the typical Camphor type areas, but kind of in the direction of the 1,8 Cineole type conditions, but with usually with more organic matter in the soil with some clay, but a less overall balanced growing conditions. Although I do not for sure, as the studies did not indicate the Nitrogen sources, but I am thinking that in these areas of higher rainfall, that they might be using Urea as their nitrogen source. If this is the case, then since Urea is very high in Nitrogen, it stands to reason it would push the Camphor levels up. So it will produce an oil that some call produced on ideas of selective starvation. Yet iboth the Verbenone and Camphor do have some unique properties which makes it a sought after oil, with a limited supply which in turn commands a higher price.

Overall the 1,8 Cineole type has become the dominate Rosemary essential oil of the Western world for most aromatherapy applications. The 1,8 Cineole type is usually grown on the south side of the Mediterranean region, in Northern Africa. As you may recall these countries run along the Northern edge of the Sahara Desert. The Sahara Desert has a huge influence on the weather conditions of the area and that in turn influences the other conditions such as soil pH and organic matter in the soil. Overall, 1,8 Cineole Rosemary appears to like this situation very well. In these type of desert areas, the plant has to work very hard to get it's nutrients and in some weird way to us, it seems to produce a very good Rosemary Essential Oil that has a broad spectrum use applications. One of the reasons, at least in my opinion, is that several minerals are present in these dry, desert, high pH situations. Boron is one of the first ones that come to mind. Boron is one of the minerals that is thought to be present when life first started to take form way back eons of years ago. Boron is one of those controlling and directing of other minerals, mineral. Also, Boron is one of the minerals that is easily leached from the soil by water. Remember the Boron is 10.81 in molecular weight and the Camphor is 152 in Molecular weight. Boron can be moved by water and by wind, much more easily than Camphor can.  Since there is not a whole lot of water in these desert areas, not a lot of leaching takes place. At least in the present conditions of the deserts we are associated with and within out life time. Were as the soils with the Camphor type and the Verberone types of Rosemary has soil conditions that are leached of many minerals by heavy rainfall.

Another factor in the influencing of the Rosemary plant and how it works in expressing the types, is the whole Photosynthesis process. With the 1,8 Cineole type, the sun shines almost all year long, in the areas growing the 1,8 stuff, with an average of maybe 1 or 2 days per month of having cloudy days. Also, the extremes in temperatures of typical deserts with in the 24 hour cycle and through out the yearly seasonal cycles. This idea is also supported through out the world with 1,8 Cineole or the Eucalyptol component. As a side note, you can take a Cajeput EO from Australia, and it has a very Eucalyptus aroma and it also behaves much like any oil that contains the Eucalyptol, even though it is from the Tea Tree family. Which is consistent with the development of the 1,8 Cineole/Eucalyptol element. Now when you take the same Cajeput from Vietnam, you would not think they were from the same Tea Tree plant. The Vietnam Cajeput oil has a stronger terpinen aroma, much like the typical Tea Tree oil grown in the wetter areas of Australia. Another factor that influences the difference among the Rosemary types and by the same token with Tea Tree and Cajeput is the Iodine factor. In these areas of Spain, Vietnam and Australia, the oceans blow in Iodine that is caught up in the sea breezes and deposits them on the plant, and on the soil and by extension the water. This and other minor factors tends to push down certain influences, such as Boron, and Selenium. This tends to elevate the Camphors and Terpinens in some plants.

Again we see the Nitrogen levels in an elevated position in these wetter areas, rather by human application or by Nature in the form of rotting bio-mass pushing the non-Eucalyptol levels up and Eucalyptol levels down. Iodine will also influence this aspect with elevated Nitrogen levels. This is one of the main aspects of the differences within these essential oils among the same types of plants. This does not mean one oil is better than another oil, in no way. What it does mean is that for you, the user of one of these oils is that the proper diagnosis of the issue takes place and the appropriate essential oil is used for the indicated/end use purpose.

Summary; I hope that I have conveyed a picture to you of some various aspects to the Rosemary oil as well as the Tea Tree and Cajeput essential oils and to point out some of the background as to the various differences between and similarities of some of the influences that makes up the differences. This is why it is important to understand the background of the various country of origin of many oils.  As mentioned this does not mean an oil from one country is bad and another country is good based on the county of origin only. The most important key is to understand the attributes of each oil and properly match it with the issue being worked with, as the first step. The you can take it to the next step and look for adulteration of poor quality oil in and of its self. Or for that matter a high quality production of that particular oil.

Now I want to top this discussion off with a little story to reinforce the drive of this discussion, at least the part with the Boron connection. As a general rule Boron is a very effective anti fungal element. It is also anti a number of other aspects, but this story applies to the Boron aspect. Refer back to the story in the new testament about Jesus healing the blind man. Lets keep this general, OK? The narrative goes somewhat as follows; A blind man catches Jesus's attention. He wants to be healed. So Jesus spits in his hand, ,picks up some dirt, makes a semi liquid mud of sorts and then rubs it in the man's eyes. Then he tells the man to go to some particular well and wash his eyes in the water. As a result of this encounter, the man is healed of his eye issue. Without the benefit if more information than is presented in the narrative, it s hard to define it on that basis more thoroughly. But based on the research that has been done into the conditions at the time, it is safe to assume that the guy had an eye infection. Many eye infections are fungal based. The soil in that area had/has a high level of Boron. The spring is considered to have high levels of various mineral properties, as it was an interment spring, meaning that it does not run continually through out the year. Boron was not the only mineral involved, but it was a driving mineral and likely the pinnacle mineral in the entourage of the Boron complex of minerals. I think it would be safe to label Jesus as a very good "Natural Medicine" Doctor, would it not? In modern religious views we hear of that being called a miracle. A miracle in Latin is defined as "Wonderment". The people in general were talking among themselves about what happened and "wondered" how this guy Jesus pulled this one off.

So with that food for thought, lets bring this discussion to a close. Thank you for your time and your interest. Until next time, have a good time.

Bonus point; Have any of you noticed patches of scab on potatoes when you have purchased them?  You won't see it very often, but when you do.. that is directly linked back to a Boron deficiency. Food for thought! but it is a low level Boron deficiency. If it was a bad deficiency, then the spud wouldn't have grown at all. But it shows it is not an either/or situation but one of degrees.

End of Discussion. KK

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