This Herb Is a Super Source of Apigenin, the Anti-Inflammatory Plant Compound Linked to Brain Health and Better Sleep

Photo: Stocksy/Babett Lupaneszku
Rosemary is an easy, delicious herb to have on hand at all times—you can use it as a garnish for herb-studded recipes, sprinkle it into marinades or over roasted veggies, or infuse it into a warm cup of tea, like chamomile. Since it’s super versatile and can be used fresh or dried, rosemary is a no-brainer pantry staple: It pairs well with everything from citrus fruits to poultry, fish, bread, and broth.

But aside from rosemary’s delicious flavor, it’s also an herb rich in health perks: It's been shown to help boost your immunity, cognitive health, memory, and focus, as well as your sleep. Many of the above—particularly the latter—is largely due to rosemary's rich apigenin content.

Experts In This Article

What is apigenin?

“Apigenin is a form of flavonoid—a type of plant compound—which is often found in many herbs,” says registered dietitian Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD. “Flavonoids are phytochemicals, which are chemical compounds produced by plants. Once consumed, phytochemicals are able to provide protection against illness as well as many other health benefits."

According to Best, rosemary is among the richest food source of apigenin. When you consume foods with rosemary, its high apigenin content is able to provide antioxidant-like benefits: Think fighting free-radicals and inflammation in the body, which helps stave off chronic illness, supports your immune system, and boosts your mood. "Other top sources of apigenin include oregano, parsley, celery, artichokes, and chamomile," Best adds. "The great news is that all of these foods taste delicious with rosemary, so you can easily double or triple your apigenin intake by pairing rosemary with another one of these all-star ingredients when cooking."

The health benefits of apigenin

While more research is needed to fully explain the connection between apigenin content and improvements in health and wellness, emerging research shows high potential. “The nutrition science world is quickly learning more regarding the impact apigenin may have on chronic disease and health overall,” says Best.

There are several studies, conducted on both animals and humans, which show promising results regarding the link between apigenin content and improved brain health and cognitive functioning. “Rosemary has been shown to help protect brain cells from damage and death, thereby improving brain health,” says Best. Even its aroma can boost alertness, focus, and memory, for better productivity and working skills, as shown in recent research. “Rosemary is a known natural cognitive stimulant, meaning it can help to enhance alertness and improve your mood.”

Lastly, anti-cancer benefits may also make the list of apigenin benefits, with the help of research, in time. “The impact of apigenin on cellular health has been shown to help slow and reverse damage, which may lower your risk of chronic diseases, like cancer and type 2 diabetes,” says adds. Apigenin may also play a role in slowing and preventing tumor growth at a cellular level, as shown in a 2017 study.

Rosemary’s apigenin content may also help you sleep better

“Some studies have shown that rosemary may have a secondary side effect of improving sleep, which this is due primarily to the impact rosemary has on anxiety and stress,” says Best.

According to Best, new research suggests an association between apigenin content and improved relaxation and wellbeing, which may signify that apigenin has anti-stress and other holistic, therapeutic benefits that work to improve sleep quality and duration. “Rosemary can improve stress by dampening the body's production of cortisol, the stress hormone, as well as potentially—though mildly—slowing your heart rate” says Best. “These two impacts can result in better sleep, though more research is still needed to validate these findings."

4 delicious rosemary recipes packed with brain-boosting apigenin

There are many delicious ways to incorporate rosemary into your diet: Think meals, snacks, bevvies, and baked goods. Here are a few apigenin- and rosemary-rich ways to get you started in the kitchen.

1. Rutabaga and Rosemary Bread

Photo: The Candida Diet

This lovely savory bread recipe can be enjoyed as part of a protein-packed breakfast, lunch, or dinner. We love that it fits within a variety of allergen-free meal plans: It even has no added sugar. Try spreading avocado or almond butter on top, or make a sandwich with turkey or chicken and other fiber-rich vegetables as fillings.

Get the recipe: Rutabaga and Rosemary Bread

2. Rosemary Chicken Noodle Soup

Photo: Gimme Some Oven

Chicken noodle soup is our favorite form of immune-booster: What can't a bowl of this stuff fend off? It's also easy to cook in bulk as part of your weekly meal prep, and has a pretty long shelf-life (especially when you freeze it). “This soup provides the added antimicrobial and antiviral benefits of rosemary to get you feeling better fast,” Best says. BTW, rosemary tastes delicious when infused into the broth.

Get the recipe: Rosemary Chicken Noodle Soup

3. Roasted Garlic Mashed Cauliflower

Photo: Evolving Table

This mashed cauliflower recipe is a simple side dish packed with heart-healthy fiber and antioxidants. It is versatile and offers additional immunity benefits, thanks to its use of flavorful garlic, which provides anti-inflammatory properties to keep you healthy and strong.

Get the recipe: Roasted Garlic Mashed Cauliflower

4. Rosemary and Lemon Herbal Tea


Enjoy a warm cup of this citrusy herbal tea before bed or when you’re feeling stressed and need to chill. Try adding a little bit of sweetness in the form of raw honey, which is antimicrobial by nature, and thus may further help to improve immunity and overall health. Plus, for sleep benefits in particular, a warm and cozy cup of this tea before bed is the ideal bedtime ritual for inducing drowsiness to help you fall asleep faster.

Get the recipe: Rosemary and Lemon Herbal Tea

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