Ok, this is not one of the more medicinally used herbs but it is one of the most deliciously fragrant. Roses have a long history as a source of perfum and a history that is worth knowing.
Part Used: Oil from the flower
In a Word: The Love Bud
Uses: Mind & heart refresher
At The Herbalists, we are into the entire herbal experience. That means we don’t just offer herbs as medicine, we show you how to use herbs to enhance your everyday life. One way we suggest enhancing your life is by adding ‘scentual’ time, whether just for yourself or to share with another. Your ‘scentual’ time could be simply using an essential oil infused room spray before relaxing with a book. Or perhaps you could accent your love life with an essential oil massage cream…
Out of our range of spa scents, perhaps rose is the only one with such a historically devoted following. From Shakespeare and King Solomon to Bette Midler, and from Valentine’s Day to Turkish Delight, the rose leaves an unmistakable mark throughout history. Even the Internet has been infiltrated by roses. My research unearthed the online home of the ‘World Federation of Rose Societies’ boasting 37 member countries. They even hold a ‘World Rose Conference’ every 3 years!!
As there are over 10,000 varieties of roses, we’ll try to keep your brain from being ‘over rosed’, by focusing on one, Rosa damascena. This variety is cultivated on a large scale for perfumery purposes, and it is the essential oil from the flower itself that we use in our spa products.
For those so inclined, even the mention of the rose brings romance to mind. Who among us hasn’t at some time walked down a flower filled side street and been filled with the memory invoking, magical scent of roses? If you’ve ever been the lucky recipient of a bouquet of roses, or have been the one to give the bouquet, you’ll know about the sudden rush of emotion or ‘rosey cheeks’ that can accompany the event. Roses have been used to bring on passion, ask forgiveness, celebrate marriages & anniversaries for centuries, and there appears to be no end to this tradition.
The ancient Romans, ever luxurious, were great rose lovers. Their feasts might have been confused with celebrations of the flower, as it was not only used for decoration, but the petals were strewn lavishly across the floors, and even sprinkled into their wine! Roman brides and bridegrooms were crowned with roses, as were images of Cupid, Venus and Bacchus. The petals were scattered into the paths of victors and beneath chariot wheels. Great bouquets of roses even adorned many a warship.
The 16 th Century herbalist Gerard gave the following praise: “The rose doth deserve the chiefest and most principall place among all floures whatsoever, being not onely esteemed for his beautie, virtues, and his fragrant and odoriferous smell; but also because it is the honour and ornament of our English Scepter.”
An old custom of suspending a rose above the dinner table was a sign that all confidences were to be held sacred. You can still see evidence of this tradition in dining rooms of older houses, where the plaster ornament in the center of the ceiling is known as ‘the rose’.
Although rose water has been used medicinally and cosmetically throughout history, it wasn’t until sometime in the early 1600s that the actual oil or ‘Otto of roses’ was discovered. Grieve’s ‘A Modern Herbal’ tells the story : “It was between 1582 and 1612 that the oil or OTTO OF ROSES was discovered, as recorded in two separate histories of the Grand Moguls. At the wedding feast of the princess Nour-Djihan with the Emperor Djihanguyr, son of Akbar, a canal circling the whole gardens was dug and filled with rose-water. The heat of the sun separating the water from the essential oil of the Rose, was observed by the bridal pair when rowing on the fragrant water. It was skimmed off and found to be an exquisite perfume. The discovery was immediately turned to account and the manufacture of Otto of Roses was commenced in Persia about 1612 and long before the end of the 17 th Century the distilleries of Shiraz were working on a large scale.”
Have you ever wondered why pure rose oil is so expensive? Grieve gives us further insight: “Five thousand rose trees will occupy about ½ acre of land and will produce about 2,200 lb. of flowers during the season. It is necessary to distil about 10,000 lb. of roses to obtain 1 lb. of oil.”
As for the medicinal uses of the rose, Culpepper states: “Oil of roses is used to cool hot inflammation or swellings and to bind and stay fluxes of humours to sores and is also put into ointments and plasters that are cooling and binding.”
Never one to pass up a medicinal opportunity, Gerard provides his own list of health benefits from our dear friend the rose: “The conserve of roses as well that which is crude and raw, as that which is made by ebullition or boiling, taken in the morning fasting, and last at night, strengtheneth the heart, and taketh away the shaking and trembling thereof, strengtheneth the liver, kidneys, and other weake intrails, comforteth a weake stomacke that is moist and raw, staieth the whites and reds in women.” He then goes on to say you must strip off all the leaves and boil them in water for 3 hours “even as you would boyle a piece of meat” . Now, if the love of your life takes to boiling the bouquet of roses you brought, it’s either a definite sign to move on, or they’re simply craving a heart strengthening jelly for their morning toast.
As pure essential oil of rose is quite pricey, there are a lot of manufacturers out there who will try to sell you cheap stuff, claiming it’s the real thing. Don’t be misled. It can look like rose and it can smell like rose, but that doesn’t mean it is rose. One way to know is to check the label of the product. If it only says ‘rose oil’ or ‘oil of rose’ or ‘perfume of rose’, beware…that is, unless you don’t mind paying for the fake product! There are also many products containing ‘rose water’, which, if prepared properly, is an excellent second choice for those not wishing to spend a day’s wages on the real thing.
As we’ve learned, roses can be used for a number of reasons. However, it is the refreshing scent of the rose oil itself that we at The Herbalists like to advocate. If you’re physically or emotionally tired after a long day, try soaking in a bath with some Rose Bath Oil or Gel. Better yet, if you feel extravagant, sprinkle some fresh rose petals into the water. The heat will bring out some of the oil in the petals, and your nose will thank you for it.
To put some zest back into your skin after a hot afternoon, keep some cooled rose water in a mister or spray pump and spray gently onto the face and skin when required. I once sent my mother some of our natural base cream mixed with rose oil, thinking she would find it an excellent facial moisturizer. She did, but she also began treating her feet to a regular rose cream massage! She claims it softens the skin on her feet better than anything else she’s tried. She may be walking around the house smelling like a Persian Princess now, but I think it will be a tough game to try and get dad to do the foot massaging!
Disclaimer: The author makes no guarantees as to the the curative effect of any herb or tonic on this website, and no visitor should attempt to use any of the information herein provided as treatment for any illness, weakness, or disease without first consulting a physician or health care provider. Pregnant women should always consult first with a health care professional before taking any treatment.