Rosmarinic acid is an ester of caffeic acid and 3,4-dihydroxyphenyllactic acid. It is commonly found in species of the Boraginaceae and the subfamily Nepetoideae of the Lamiaceae. However, it is also found in species of other higher plant families and in some fern and hornwort species. Rosmarinic acid has a number of interesting biological activities, e.g. antiviral, antibacterial, antiinflammatory and antioxidant. The presence of rosmarinic acid in medicinal plants, herbs and spices has beneficial and health promoting effects. In plants, rosmarinic acid is supposed to act as a preformed constitutively accumulated defence compound. The biosynthesis of rosmarinic acid starts with the amino acids L-phenylalanine and L-tyrosine. All eight enzymes involved in the biosynthesis are known and characterised and cDNAs of several of the involved genes have been isolated. Plant cell cultures, e.g. from Coleus blumei or Salvia officinalis, accumulate rosmarinic acid in amounts much higher than in the plant itself (up to 36% of the cell dry weight). For this reason a biotechnological production of rosmarinic acid with plant cell cultures has been proposed.