Recently I watched a television program concerning improving health for the over 40. One item really stood out to me and that was the herb Rosemary. Apparently it helps improve memory. So I decided to do a quick search about the use of Rosemary in the 19th century. There are many poems written that mentioned rosemary. Here are a couple of my finds.
Below is an excerpt from The Antiquary. Vol. 3 pg. 209 ©1873
Rosemary was also considered influential in making love,* was worn at weddings, and sometimes hung before the doors of houses as a charm against the plague and evil spirits, and used as a token of remembrance. Many of our poets allude to this herb in their works.
Below is a lengthy excerpt but there are many key points, this comes from The House and farm accounts of the Shuttleworths of Gawthorpe Vol. 46 Pg 943 ©1858
Rosemary. (Rosmarinum Coronarium.) Ger. describes and figures this, the golden rosemary, named coronal because women have been accustomed to make crowns and garlands thereof; the Ros sylvestre or wild, and the poet's rosemary or garderobe; so named because the people of Grenada, Montpellier, and Valencia use it in their presses and wardrobes. Rosemary groweth in France, Spain, and other hot countries; there is such plenty in Langucdoc that the inhabitants burn scarcely any other fuel; they make hedges of it in the gardens of Italy and England. Wild rosemary groweth in Lancashire in divers places, especially in a field called Little Reede, amongst the hurtleherries, near unto a small village called Maudsley [in the parish of Croston, eight miles south-west from Chorley] there found by a learned gentleman, often remembered in our history, and that worthily, Master Thomas Hesketh. Rosemary is spice in the German kitchens and other cold countries. The flowers made up into plates with sugar, after the manner of sugar-roset, and eaten, comforteth the heart, &c. The people of Marchia use to put it into their drink, the sooner to make their clients drunk; and also into chests and presses among clothes, to preserve them from moths or other vermin. (Ger.) It is not properly called rosemary, but ros marinus, as it were dew of the sea, for commonly it growith in places by the sea side. The floure of rosemaryis called anthos, and of it an electuary is named dianthos. The herb is called libramondos, or dendrolibanos;some call it liantis, others ycterycon, and others lerim. When rosemary is found in recipes, it is the floure, and if ye find libramondos or dendrolibanos, it is the leaves. (Grete Herball, 1516, which gives recipes ofrosemary for the heart, weakness of brain, throat as a gargarism, stomach, &c.) The oil, essence, or quintessence of rosemary is not much used in medicine, but very much by perfumers, to aromatise their liquors, wash-balls, &c. Some esteem it very greatly for the cure of wounds, as a specific balsam, which has given occasion to some strollers and mountebanks to make it a mighty commodity, when what they sell for it is nothing but oil of turpentine and pitch melted together and coloured with orcanet [alkanet]. The next merchandise we sell that comes from rosemary is " the Queen of Hungary's water," which has made such noise in the world for many years together, and is pretended to be a secret delivered by a hermit to a certain queen of Hungary. The great virtues of this water must be owing to the spirit of wine and rosemary flowers, from which two things only it is made ; but there are a thousand cheats imposed upon the world by those who pretend to have the true recipe; and these people generally spoil this medicine by making it of the worst materials and in coarse vessels. You have it described at large, and the best methods of preparing it, by Mr. Verni, master apothecary of Montpellier, in his " Pharmacopeia, or treatise of Distilled Waters," p. 829; and by Mr. Charas, in his " Chymical Pharmacopeia," p. 632. [Recipes for Hungary or rosemary water abound in the old books. Mark,gives one and says that a bath of this decoction is called the Bath of Life ; it maketh a woman look young, and hath all the virtues of balm, cleansing away the spots of the face and comforting the heart. Rosemary enters largely into some of his recipes for "aqua composita." Price makes Hungary water of rosemary flowers and spirit of sack. C. C. Die. uses 4 lb. of the former, and 3 quarts of well rectified wine, for " the Queen of Hungary's water."] We likewise sell the dried flowers, seed, and salt of rosemary ; we have likewise a liquid conserve of the flowers; besides which they bring us from Languedoc and Provence, oil of spike, which is made of the flowers of rosemary and the small leaves of a plant — the spike, male lavender, or bastard nard. This oil of spike or rosemary is proper for painters, farriers, and others, besides its use in physic. (Pomet.) The plant was considered a symbol of remembrance, and was so used at weddings and funerals. Shakspere uses it repeatedly. In Hamlet poor Ophelia says, " There's rosemary; that's for remembrance." In the Winter's Tale,rosemary and rue are beautifully put together, rue for grace, and rosemary for remembrance. Rosemary was stuck around the coffin of the dead, not only from its fragrance and funereal character, but perhaps also for some antiseptic qualities it was supposed to possess. So in Rom. and Jul. : —
Dry up your tears, and stick your rosemary
On this fair corse.
At weddings, it was usual to dip the rosemary in the cup and drink to the health of the new married couple. Sometimes it garnished meats, as in a play of Beaumont and Fletcher, " a good piece of beef stuck with rosemary." The custom of carrying it at funerals is noticed as late as the time of Gray in his " Pastoral Dirge." In an old play, direction is given that the mourners have
A sprig of rosemary, dipp'd in common water,
To smell at as they walk along the street.
Instances of the popular favour of this " herb of remembrance," might be greatly multiplied. (See Nares, Brand, &c.) In the Accounts, in Decemher 1608 at Islington, some rosemary was bought for 1 1/2 d. In November 1617, amongst spices and confectionary bought of Mr. Thomas Lever, confectioner, London, was one lb. rosemary comfits, 18d.