The rose, often called the queen of the flowers, has more to offer than beauty. Medical Herbalist Karina Hilterman expounds its medicinal values.
Rose, a beautiful, fragrant flower whose blooms inspire many a poem of love and romance. But did you know a rose is more than just a pretty face?
Roses have medicinal properties, so they can be called a medicinal herb. Until the 1930s they were still considered an official medicine by doctors for both internal and topical treatments.
There are three main varieties that are grown for commercial use, particularly for the production of essential oil of rose and rose water. They are Rosa gallica,Rosa centifolia and Rosa damascena. Rosa canina is used for producing rosehip oil.
There is some variance in the constituents between the species; here is a general list. Overall, the character and therapeutic benefits are similar.
Described as sweet, astringent, generally either neutral or slightly cooling.
A wide range of flavonoids, fruit sugars (including fructose, glucose, maltose), a wide range of amino acids, essential oils including citronellol, geraniol, eugenol, nerol and phenyl ethanol.
Vitamins A, B1 (Thiamine), B2 (Riboflavin), B3 (nicotinic acid ), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (also known as niacin or Vitamin H), B9 (folic acid) C, D, E, and K. Minerals potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, sodium, copper, iodine, chromium, nickel. Also tannins and a wide range of enzymes, which assist digestion.
Essential oil of rose contains a range of volatile oils that include geraniol, nerol, citronellol, farnesol, linalool, Limonene, 1–p–menthene, myrcene, pinene, rose oxide, tannins, organic acids, beta–carotene, cyanin, resin and waxes. The constituents may vary with differing varieties of rose species.
Essential oil of rose is extremely expensive and is one of the least toxic of all the essential oils. If you find cheap rose oil most likely it has been adulterated with other oils, so read the labels carefully.
Rose hips (the flowers which have swollen to seed) are an excellent source of vitamins A, B3, C, D and E. They also contain citric acid, flavonoids (including quercetin, isoquercetin, lycopene, rubixanthine and phytoxanthine), fructose, sucrose and xylose, malic acid, tannins and zinc. Taken in the form of tea they are good for infections, particularly bladder infections. Rose hip tea is also used in the treatment of diarrhoea. It is an especially good source of vitamin C; if you are old enough you might remember rosehip syrup as a tonic from childhood?
Anti–depressant, anti-spasmodic, aphrodisiac, astringent, sedative, digestive stimulant, increases bile production, cleansing, expectorant, anti–bacterial, anti-viral, antiseptic, kidney tonic, menstrual regulator, and anti-inflammatory.
Preparations and Use
The modern hybrid roses do not have the full medicinal properties that some older species have but they are quite edible and can be used in salads, both sweet and savoury and crystallised as a confection or decoration.
When using roses it is most important that the plants you use for medical or culinary purposes are not sprayed with toxic chemicals. This will cause more problems in your body.
Using roses as a medicine is a tradition in all northern hemisphere countries, though the species used may vary. The North American Indians use wild rose flowers for colds and the seeds for muscular pains. In Europe, rose water was used as wash for skin conditions; the oil as an inhalation as a sleep aid, conserve of rose petals was eaten for colds, coughs, lung complaints and for infection and pain in the urinary system.
The Chinese use Rosa rugosa flowers to help regulate the liver and spleen meridians and Rosa laevigata hips to tonify the kidney, spleen and lung meridians.
The rose hips mostly used in the west are from Rosa canina (dog rose) and the petals of Rosa centifolia, Rosa damascena or Rosa gallica are used medicinally.
As rose is astringent, it is useful for treating diarrhoea. The parts used are usually the flowers or the seed heads or hips and can be used in a number of ways, either fresh or dried.
Use an infusion or a decoction for any of the therapeutic actions listed previously, 2-10 grams daily (dry, or fresh plant equivalent). A rose petal infusion can be used as a gargle for a sore throat.
Tincture dose is 3–10 ml daily.
Roses can be prepared as a tincture or a wine. Just imagine sitting down after work to a glass of rose petal wine. Not only relaxing but also a tonic.
It is safe for use with pregnant women and babies, and is used for digestive, skin and nervous disorders, including headaches, as well as menstrual irregularities.
Use rose water in your steam iron. The fragrance will transport you to foreign lands as you do the ironing!
½ cup grated soap
175 ml vodka
175 ml rose water, distilled or rain water
Melt soap in a pot on low heat add just enough water to blend to a soft paste. Blend rose water into the vodka and mix into the soap paste. Mix well and put into a wide mouthed jar, with a tight lid.
Use a shaving brush or fingers to apply to area to be shaven.
Over a double boiler, melt 2 tsp beeswax, 4 tsp almond oil, remove from heat and stir in 1 tsp rose water. Keep stirring until it starts to set. Place in glass jar.
Most important is that the roses you wish to use have not been recently sprayed, even with ‘safe’ sprays. Make sure that you know what has been used on the plants and when. Don’t use at all if systemic types of sprays have been used, eg organophosphates.
Rose Petal Jam (from the Canterbury Herb Society Cookbook)
900g red rose petals
1 litre water
Juice of 5 lemons
Simmer rose petals in water until tender. Add sugar and lemon juice, boil rapidly until the jam sets when tested. Pour into hot jars and seal. You could add food grade rose water to further enhance the flavour. (Non food grade may have potentially toxic preservatives, so check the labels.)
Rose Petal and Strawberry Jam
2 cups fragrant dark red rose petals
1 cup water
2 cups strawberries hulled & quartered
2 cups sugar
1 Tbsp lemon juice & ¼ tsp citric acid
¼ tsp cream of tartar
Pinch off the white bases from the rose petals and discard. Put water and sugar into a saucepan with the rose petals, strawberries, lemon juice. Bring slowly to the boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved then boil rapidly and add cream of tartar and citric acid until the setting point is reached. Pour into clean hot jars and seal.
Rose Petal Fritters
Dip rose petals in sherry or brandy, then into a batter mix, fry in hot oil quickly, drain well, dust with icing or caster sugar and serve.
Rose Petal Ice Cream (from the Canterbury Herb Society Cookbook)
1 large cupful of red rose petals
1 Tbsp caster sugar
175 ml (3/4 cup) rosé wine
1 litre vanilla ice cream
Allow the ice cream to slightly soften. While this is happening, place all the rose petals, rosé and sugar in a blender and whizz to a smooth paste. Fold through the ice cream to either be well blended, or swirled through, depending on your desired effect and taste sensation. Return the ice cream blend back to the freezer. Stir once of twice as it is re-freezing to keep its texture smooth.
*Advisory Note: This text is given as a general guidance. If any adverse reactions occur or symptoms persist, please contact a qualified medical herbalist or doctor immediately.