“Beauty without virtue is like a rose without scent.” – Anonymous
Oh Anonymous, if you only knew how much further that statement could have gone. The benefits of this pretty face go much further than mere scent alone. It’s reign as the queen of flowers, a name given to it by Sappho, has stood uncontested for over 3,000 years. That shouldn’t be surprising, it does come from a family rich with beneficial properties.
The Diverse Rosaceae Family
One great way to begin to study the vast plant kingdom is to study plant families. Due to their shared chemical and physical characteristics family members often provide many of the same beneficial effects. Once you learn the generals of a plant family, it becomes easier to remember plant characteristics.
The main beneficial characteristic of the Rosaceae family is astringency. If you need an astringent this is your go to family. Apple cider vinegar, raspberry leaf, and rosewater are all prime examples. Rosaceae family members are also commonly high in antioxidants, and flavonoids. Raspberries, blackberries, and rose petals are prime examples.
Other Family Members
Most of the fruits we eat are in the rose family. Examples include apples, pears, plums, cherries, peaches, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, and even almonds. There are many medicinal herbs that hail from this family as well. Examples of these include hawthorn, raspberry leaf, meadowsweet, and lady’s mantle.
The Queen of the Flowers
Peggy Martin- One inspirational cultivar is the Peggy Martin rose, also known as the Katrina rose. It is a climber with pink blossoms that can reach 15 feet easily. After Hurricane Katrina, one Louisiana resident returned to her home to find it completely devastated. Her once prolific rose garden was decimated. Everything has been submerged under 20 feet of salt water for weeks. Almost all of her beloved plants had died. One tenacious climber managed to survive. No one could believe it, and once studied no one could figure out what species it was. This is how this one special species was discovered and received its name. This rose is a testament to the magic of plants and the everlasting power of nature.
A rose is a flowering perennial shrub in the Rosaceae family. With over 300 species and almost countless cultivars, roses have quite the variety. Some are woody shrubs, others can be climbers, and we’ve all seen the variety of colors and sizes they come in. For centuries roses have been a go to herb in folk medicine ranging throughout Chinese, Persian, Egyptian, Greek, Indian, Roman and Native American cultures. This is not surprising given the vast benefits roses provide to body, mind, and spirit. Many of the roses' beneficial properties come from its high concentration of antioxidants and bioflavonoids. Roses also contain an extremely high concentration of vitamin C. There are over 300 chemical components in the rose. Some of the main players are citronellol, phenyl ethanol, geraniol, and nerol. That’s fun, but what do these things do for you?
For Your Body
Rose is a very cooling, anti-inflammatory, and balancing humectant. The citronellol helps support healthy cellular function. This makes rose an ideal choice for skin care, digestive issues, fever, respiratory problems, and women’s reproductive issues.
Inflammatory skin conditions that bow down to rose include eczema, bug bites, and sunburn. Due to its antimicrobial nature it is a good choice to treat cuts and scrapes, cold sores, gingivitis and can be a powerful addition to your natural first aid kit. Rose stimulates circulation and will help speed the healing process. The humectant properties of rose make it a good choice for wrinkles, mature, or sensitive skin.
Rose is a hepatic. This means that it aids the liver and can increase bile production. For this reason rose has traditionally been used to ease digestive issues such as constipation and can help improve nutrient absorption.
Roses anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties help the respiratory system with sore throats, congestion, and flu. It’s cooling nature can help bring down a fever.
Rose is also a woman’s best friend. It can help ease the symptoms of PMS, like severe cramps, and balance out out of whack menstrual cycles. While not technically a hormone balancer, it can address mental and emotional trauma related to reproduction health. Which leads me to the next batch of benefits.
For Your Mind
When inhaled, roses can release endorphins. This will help promote relaxation and ease tension, stress, anxiety, panic attacks, and even insomnia. Some studies have even shown it can help with the symptoms of PTSD and help ease symptoms of depression. Rose is also a very sensual plant and is known as a powerful aphrodisiac. Valentines Day merchants apparently know what they are doing.
For Your Spirit
Rose is said to have a very high vibration of energy. This helps with healing of the energies of the heart. For people experiencing loss, or trauma, rose is an excellent choice to ease your grief and sorrow. Rose is not only balancing to the body, it is balancing to the spirit. It will help inspire wisdom, and aid indecision making. Of course its patron deity is none other than Venus.
How to use Rose
There are many plants that either have rose in the name, or look like roses but really are not. Some of these doppelgangers are toxic. Therefore, it is extremely important to only use plants you know. The best way to do this is to either grow a specific genus yourself, or buy from a reputable supplier in the form of rose otto, absolute, CO2 extract, hydrosol, or dried herbs. Most often in herbalism or aromatherapy the damask rose (Rosa damascena), or the cabbage rose (rosa centifolia) are used.
*** If you find a price on rose oil that is just too good to be true it is. Due to its expense this is one of the most adulterated oils on the market. Please be mindful of your distributor when buying rose oil. ***
Rose Otto is rose essential oil extracted via steam distillation of the petals. Unfortunately, about 60,000 roses yield around only an ounce of oil. This means that rose essential oil is extremely expensive. Running at an average of $1,200 - $1800 per ounce, cost prohibitive is an understatement. Thankfully, a tiny bit of the oil goes a long way as it is extremely potent. Plus, suppliers are not naive. Few suppliers even sell rose in quantities as vast as one ounce. Most rose essential oils come in little 5 ml (.17 oz) bottles. This still means shelling out $200-$350 for a 5 ml bottle.
Another popular way companies will sell rose otto, in a way that doesn’t require financing, is to sell it as a 3% dilution in jojoba oil.What this means is if you buy a 3 oz bottle there’s approximately .1 ounces of rose oil and 2.9 ounces of jojoba. If you are using it in formulations you should take this 3% pre-dilution into account. This is a great way to use rose oil, without breaking the bank.
Best use of rose otto: Obviously cost is the factor here. You should use rose otto acutely. One great way to benefit from rose essential oil is as an inhalation treatment. This is exactly what it sounds like. Use alone, or add to a blend and directly inhale from the bottle, or apply to a tissue and inhale from that. There are also aromatherapy inhalers on the market now. This will help you reap the mental and emotional benefits rose provides. It is both uplifting and comforting.
Absolutes are made through solvent extraction. These are primarily used in perfumery as it’s really hard to regulate which solvents are used to extract the oil and how much of that chemical is left over in the final oil. These are not recommended for aromatherapy. Rose oil can be used to consecrate sacred objects. This would be an appropriate use of rose absolute.
Rose CO2 Extract
CO2 extraction takes the best of steam and solvent distillation. Basically CO2 is liquified at low temperatures and acts as a solvent to remove the essential oils out of the plant. Once the temperature is raised the CO2 turns into a gas again leaving no trace of it behind. It is suitable to use in aromatherapy. While it is cheaper than rose otto, at around $986.58 per ounce it’s still costly. Also the consistency is more like a wax than an oil. Another benefit to CO2 extract is it is done at low temperature. This leaves more of the original chemical components of the rose intact. For example, in CO2 rose extracts there is a much higher percentage of phenylethyl alcohol than in rose otto does. This chemical gives rose and many other flowers their floral scent. It is also highly antimicrobial. Some prefer CO2 extract over rose otto for this reason.
Best use of Rose CO2 extract: Due to its expense, this would be similar to the uses of rose otto. It has a thick consistency, however, and will need to be gently heated prior to use. If you have an urgent need for your skin, or need a lot of love, you can use this while making a facial cream, or a spot treatment.
Hydrosol - Rose Water
Hydrosol is probably one of my favorite ways of using rose. Rose hydrosol, also called rose water, is the byproduct of steam distillation. It is the condensation that collects while the essential oil is distilled. While the final chemical component is not the same as rose otto or CO2 extract, many of the same benefits remain. It is widely available and very affordable.
Best ways of using rose hydrosol: A fun way to reap the benefits of rose internally is by cooking with rose water. For a treat I like Perisan love cake. Here is a divine recipe I found by Unicorns in the Kitchen.
Rose hydrosol is also wonderful to use directly on the skin. It is an ideal base for facial toners and mists due to its astringent, antimicrobial, anti inflammatory, and humectant properties. It also makes a good eyewash for conjunctivitis.
Please, never ever, ever use rose fragrance oil the same way you would products actually made from roses. If you just want just the scent, that’s one thing, but if you’re looking for the beneficial qualities outlined in this article nothing but real rose material will do.
Dried or Fresh Herbs
Another easy, and cost effective way to add a little rose love into your life is in herb form. Common preparations of roses are in tinctures (teas), and in infused oils. Parts of the rose that are commonly used this way are the petals, leaves, and the rose hips. Rose hips are technically the fruit of the rose bush.
Rose is an astringent so poultices made from petals and leaves can be applied to wounds, stings, cuts, sunburn. Rosehips are even more astringent than petals. Poultices of rose hips are good for eczema, hemorrhoids, wounds, and poison ivy.
When infused in a carrier, such as olive oil, or safflower rose petals add a lot of benefit to a massage oil. This is calming, soothing, and a very safe and effective way to soothe small children before bed.
Tinctures made from dried leaves or rose hips serve as a blood building tonic as well as a tonic for the immune system. Remember, rose is very high in vitamin C.
“If the rose puzzled its mind over the question how it grew, it would not have been the miracle that it is.” – J. B. Yeats
Roses have inspired art, literature, poetry, and been used in medicine for mind and body for centuries. They have existed for over 32 million years and have obviously used their evolutionary time wisely. This plant has evolved to do it all. Beautiful, fragrant, beneficial, and they even have their own defense system.
Whether you choose to benefit from the effects of the magical rose via rose ottol, absolute, CO2 extract, hydrosol, or as an herb depends on your specific need. Rose otto and CO2 extract pack a powerful punch, at a cost. Rose water is extremely diverse and cost effective. Rose petals, rose hips, and leaves are all beneficial in their own way. Roses really are a miracle that is there to you mind, body, and soul.