"Rosemary, that's for remembrance," Shakespeare wrote more than 400 years ago. Those words ring true today.
I just returned from a trip to southern Italy, where I fell in love with Rosmarinus officinalis. Rosemary, a fragrant herb related to mint that you can grow in your garden or buy at your local grocery store, has been the talk of the health world ever since researchers at the University of California, San Diego, announced new findings. They identified a small fishing village south of Naples inside the Cilento National Park that has an unusual concentration of citizens over the age of 100, with very low rates of Alzheimer's and heart disease. Many research studies are now under way to identify why these people live so long and so well.
I was able to visit Accioroli and see the markets, streets, and people of this picturesque city. A quick perusal of the crystal-clear waters and sandy beaches, the mountainous backdrop requiring climbing hills, the clean air and the produce-packed stores indicated that this town was a living history of the now famous Mediterranean diet. In fact, Dr. Ancel Keyes, honored for introducing the Mediterranean diet to the United States, had a home he frequently visited just a few miles down the road from Acciaroli in Pioppi. (I also visited that town, and the beautiful museum honoring Dr. Keyes’ career is worth a visit.)
"Living well, longer" is the phrase used by the Blue Zones to describe a decade of research on five areas around the world that are also packed with centenarians. Whether Accioroli will prove to be a sixth Blue Zone remains to be seen.
But what was reported to be unique in this town was the prevalence of the herb rosemary in the residents' diet. Rosemary showed up in almost every meal, and I saw the herb throughout the markets and stores. The healing power of spices to battle inflammation and promote healthy sugar levels, brains, and hearts is well-known. But rosemary may not be getting the attention it deserves based on these new findings in Italy. Here are some of the reported benefits of rosemary that you should know about: