Rosemary is one of the most commonly used essential oils, well known by new and experienced aromatherapists alike. But you may not know that this resilient perennial has developed many chemically different varieties, depending on where it is grown, and that each rosemary essential oil has a unique aroma and therapeutic qualities for the aromatherapist to explore.
Of these many “chemotypes”, and the perfect rosemary to choose for use in making skincare products is Salvia rosmarinus ct verbenone (syn. Rosmarinus officinalis ct verbenone). With a soft, yet vibrant aroma, the verbenone chemotype of rosemary essential oil is wonderful for waking up the skin and the senses with its gentleness and beauty reminiscent of its origins in Corsica and South Africa.
Let’s talk about Salvia rosmarinus!
Before we explore the verbenone chemotype, let’s chat about the shared qualities of the different rosemary chemotypes.
About names: Sometimes, as plant classifications are clarified over time, the preferred Latin name for a plant evolves. Within the past few years, the preferred name for the genus Rosmarinus has been updated, and absorbed into the genus – Salvia. So, you may now see rosemary referred to as either Salvia rosmarinus or its synonym Rosmarinus officinalis.
Able to thrive in a variety of climates, rosemary is a drought tolerant, woody stemmed evergreen shrub. It can withstand harsh, dry climates and less than ideal soil conditions. Even the leaves of this plant are specialized and adapted to use water efficiently. And, when the leaves are crushed, they are powerfully and distinctively aromatic. In a word, this plant, and its aroma are hardy!
If you haven’t yet used rosemary essential oil for its vibrant aroma, you are likely aware of it as a culinary herb. Rosemary is also a source of potent antioxidants, so the label-reader can find rosemary extract (not essential oil) as an ingredient used to extend the shelf life of skin care products or foods. If you love making aromatherapy products, you may even have used this extract as an antioxidant yourself!
Traditionally, Salvia rosmarinus has been used as a nervous system tonic, a decongestant, as support for the liver or cardiovascular system, and to treat arthritis or musculoskeletal pain. It has antiseptic and strong mucolytic properties (due largely to the presence of 1,8 cineole). Because of its stimulating nature, it has been used in scalp tonics or to support the mind and memory. Here’s where the chemotypes come in! Although all the rosemarys have shared gifts, when choosing rosemary for a specific intent, it’s a great idea to consider which chemotype of this invigorating essential oil most suits your goal.
Where does Salvia rosmarinus ct. verbenone essential oil come from?
When a plant of the same genus and species (Salvia rosmarinus, for example) produces plants of chemically distinct differences, these are called “chemotypes”. This happens when growing conditions such as elevation, soil and climate differ, affecting the chemical makeup of the plant. Rosemary has created many of these chemotypes, including 1,8 cineole, camphor, borneol, ɑ-pinene and verbenone, with their names identifying the chemical constituent that makes each one unique (even though it may not occupy a dominant percentage of the chemical makeup of the oil).
As mentioned above, Rosemary is a hardy plant which thrives and grows wild in many places around the world. The verbenone chemotype is sourced largely from Corsica and from South Africa.
What makes Rosemary ct verbenone special?
Along with its reputation for strengthening the memory and preventing hair loss, rosemary inhibits HLE, an enzyme found in the tissues of the skin. This enzyme is an important contributor to skin inflammation and the breakdown of collagen and elastin. So, inhibiting HLE is a good thing! And, since the verbenone chemotype is skin-friendly, it’s a great choice of essential oil to add to skin care products for supporting the health and vitality of aging skin. As a historical note, rosemary was the sole aromatic in the original Hungary Water formula said to preserve the Queen of Hungary’s beauty.
To inhale this particular rosemary feels like meeting an old friend. With a clear affinity for the breath, sinuses and lungs, this rich, vibrant and energizing aroma enters the nose with hints of lemon and floral. Awakening the senses and a feeling of emotional support, courage and cheer, this chemotype offers a gentler, more soothing experience than that of the more common 1, 8 cineole chemotype.
Here are a few of the chemical constituents in Salvia rosmarinus ct verbenone:
- Alpha-pinene – 17%
- Camphor – 16%
- Verbenone – 11 %
- Bornyl acetate – 10%
- 1,8 cineole- 8 %
Over 50% of the verbenone chemotype is made up of a variety of monoterpene molecules including alpha and beta pinene and myrcene. Generally, this suggests an aromatically potent oil that is likely to be drying or astringent (reducing mucus and constrictive). An essential oil such as this will tend to oxidize quickly, so be sure to store in a dark, cool location and use up within a year since oxidized oils can be irritating to the skin.
The ketones camphor and verbenone make up over 20%, suggesting that this oil may be a good topical wound healer and effective at reducing mucosal secretions. Cautions for the topical use of ketones are generally centered around potential liver toxicity or respiratory system spasms, so simply make sure to dilute this oil appropriately.
The ester 1,8 cineole is an excellent decongestant and expectorant molecule. Do avoid use of all Rosemary chemotypes with babies and young children due to the possibility of inducing bronchial spasms.
Lastly, bornyl acetate, an ester, is a stable, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and pain reliever, as well as considered to be very skin-safe.
Now that you know a little more about Salvia rosmarinus ct. verbenone (syn. Rosmarinus officinalis ct. verbenone), check out these five ways to love using this invigorating oil:
- In a respiratory chest salve, not only is the verbenone chemotype a great support for the entire respiratory system, it has a lovely, and more soothing aroma than the more commonly used 1,8 cineole chemotype. It blends well with the conifers, such as Hemlock Spruce, Pine or Fir, Juniper, Thymus vulgaris ct. linalool, and marjoram.
- Detox your skin by including this oil in a facial scrub. Try blending with fennel and mandarin in a chickpea flour base. Try 6 drops of synergy to 1 tablespoon flour. Check out Plant Powered Beauty by Amy Galper and Christina Daigneault for a complete Detox Facial Scrub recipe.
- Boost your memory and attention by diffusing or inhaling the verbenone chemotype. Try blending this oil with Lemon and Scotch Pine for lifting and cheering the mood while sharpening the mind.
- Relieve acne inflammation by including this Rosemary chemotype in a facial treatment gel, or try the lovely hydrosol of Salvia rosmarinus ct verbenone as a toner! (Hydrosols are the water byproduct of the steam distillation process that also produces the essential oil. Many aromatherapy suppliers also carry a few hydrosols. )
- Prevent and treat sun-damaged skin by adding the verbenone chemotype to a facial serum (low dilution of 1.5% of essential oil to 99.5% carrier oil/s).
I hope you are inspired to spend some time with this special chemotype of Rosemary – Salvia rosmarinus ct verbenone, and maybe even go on a journey to obtain and compare some of the many other Rosemary chemotypes to discover the unique gifts each has to offer. Enjoy your aromatic adventure!
Galper, Amy, and Daigneault, Christina, (2018), Plant Powered Beauty, Ben Bella Books, Inc., Dallas, TX
Tisserand, Robert and Young, Rodney, (2014), Essential Oil Safety, 2nd Edition, Churchill Livingstone, Edinburgh
Bowles, E. Joy, (2003), The Chemistry of Aromatherapeutic Oils, Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, London and New York
Peace Rhind, Jennifer, (2020), Essential Oils: A Comprehensive Handbook for Aromatic Therapy, Singing Dragon Press, London and Philadelphia p. 37, 419