For those who develop long COVID, recovery could take a very long time. So many Americans who tested positive for COVID-19 months (and even years) ago still don’t feel like themselves — they battle brain fog, fatigue, persistent breathing, heart, and kidney problems, and a lost or altered sense of taste and smell. While no one knows exactly what causes long COVID and how best to treat it, research suggests that we revisit natural remedies. Namely, rosemary may be a powerful treatment for long COVID.
The news comes from a scientific review published last month in the journal Antioxidants. According to researchers from the Tokyo University of Technology in Japan, The Scripps Research Institute in California, and the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, rosemary has long been used as a traditional medicine in many cultures across the world. This study offers an explanation: Rosemary contains potent antioxidants with impressive health benefits.
Rosemary may reduce inflammation.
The authors of this scientific review didn’t test the effects of rosemary on COVID-19 infections and long COVID. They did, however, compile evidence that suggests how and why rosemary could treat long COVID and other inflammatory diseases. (The other illnesses they focused on in their review include Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.)
The researchers first cited rosemary’s ability to reduce inflammation. Rosemary contains carnosic acid and carnosol, two powerful antioxidants. The authors pointed to several studies that show how carnosic acid inhibits inflammatory cytokines. (Inflammatory cytokines are tiny proteins that act as “messages” between cells in the body. Those messages cause cells to mount an immune response against invading viruses and bacteria.)
This is important, because research shows that cytokine storms can create severe illness in people who have COVID-19. Generally, a cytokine storm occurs when an infection triggers your immune system to flood your body with cytokines — it’s an overreaction. Unfortunately, those cytokines can cause far more damage than their worth, hurting tissues and organs in the process.
That’s why anti-inflammatory medicines could potentially ease symptoms in COVID-19 and long COVID patients. As explained by the researchers, other studies have shown that rosemary reduces inflammation in the brain and protects brain cells from death caused by oxidative stress. This in turn could reduce brain fog, forgetfulness, and other related symptoms. Rosemary — specifically carnosic acid and carnosol — may also reduce damage to other organs and tissues caused by inflammatory cytokines.
With these benefits in mind, the researchers proposed that a pill made of carnosic acid could make for an effective treatment against severe COVID-19 and long COVID. They argued that carnosic acid is a safe ingredient and can pass through the blood-brain barrier (a barrier in our bodies that shields the brain from toxic molecules in our blood). Plus, the antioxidant suppresses inflammatory cytokines and could therefore prevent a cytokine storm. As a result, rosemary may effectively treat brain fog and other symptoms of long COVID.
Limitations of the Research
While this research could prove incredibly helpful in fighting severe COVID-19 and long COVID, it’s important to keep a few things in mind. First, the researchers did not test the effectiveness of rosemary against COVID-19 in any sort of clinical trial. As a result, they cannot definitively say that rosemary reduces COVID symptoms. While it may help alleviate a wide variety of ailments, including indigestion, muscle and joint pain, alopecia (which has been linked to COVID-19), and brain fog, no one knows for certain whether it alleviates ailments caused by COVID.
Furthermore, it’s not likely that natural remedies like rosemary will stop a COVID-19 infection or long COVID from developing. The researchers note that the severity of an infection depends on how much exposure a person had to the virus, and where the infection travels in the body. (If the virus enters your lungs, you will likely have a far more serious infection.)
In addition, it isn’t safe to ingest large quantities of rosemary or to take rosemary extract. Higher doses of rosemary leaves in supplement form can cause serious side effects, including vomiting and spasms. And rosemary oil is toxic and should never be taken orally. Rosmary may also interact with certain medications, including blood-thinning drugs, drugs for high blood pressure, and diuretics.
Still, it doesn’t hurt to incorporate more rosemary into your diet, as long as you don’t go over the recommended amount. Mount Sinai Health states that you shouldn’t exceed four to six grams of the dried herb daily. If you opt for fresh rosemary, one or two sprigs daily is more than enough. You can also add rosemary to your bath soap or your shampoo for additional benefits. At the very least, you’ll love the aromatherapy.