“When the sun fell low in the sky the apprentices gathered Rosa rugosa blooms from the hedge in the garden and the bushes around the cellar house. These they brought to her. She put her writing down and joined them in the herb kitchen. She took a good long look into the bags filled with roses; let her eyes soak in the soothing sight of the cool and colorful white and pink petals piled high. She took a long inhalation from one bag, taking the scent and essence of the roses deep into her lungs, and into her bloodstream. She believed part of the beauty of the herbs was in their subtlety. She knew that by taking the molecules of the herbs in through the olfactory system, she was in fact receiving the essence of the herb into her body, and that it was affecting her physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Of this she had no doubt. The essence of rose was also absorbed by their hands and fingers as they worked at chopping the petals into tiny pieces on the wooden chopping board. They placed these into small jars, and then covered them with pure honey. The light golden amber honey mixing with the slivers of white and pink rose petals was an absolutely mesmerizing sight, so beautiful. They all remarked on it as they stirred it all together with a freshly gathered ash stick. They put the jars of rose honey on a shelf behind a floral curtain, as they did with all their herbal extracts, to protect them from direct sunlight, and each returned to her former task.”

Rosa rugosa and other Rosa species, Rosacea family – Rose is a superlative and indispensable herbal ally. Rose…the name itself is such a beautiful sound. Almost like a purr. So soft and silky, yet strong and present, just like the rose.

Roses have prehistoric origins. Native to Asia, the rose is believed to have traveled to Egypt by way of Greece and Southern Italy, where the Romans cultivated it. The Italic peoples wore rose garlands, used roses to crown young couples, and decorated graves and funeral processions with roses. Roses still play a prominent role in Southern Italian culture and tradition today.

The remains of rose petals have been found in ancient sites throughout North America, some carbon dated twenty to forty thousand years old. American Indians used the rose both for its beauty and for medicine.

Mixed with bear grease, the fresh petals healed mouth sores. A powder made from dried petals was applied to fever sores and blisters. Iroquois ate rose hips to treat diarrhea and the Cherokee rid themselves of worms (and relieved dysentery) with an infusion of the bark. Roses infused in rainwater were used to bathe sore eyes.

People all over the world have known and used the rose as a soothing balm, a skin softening agent, an aphrodisiac, a hormone balancer, a heart tonic, an antidepressant, and a nerve tonic throughout millennia.

Roses are antiseptic, antiviral and antibacterial and the fresh petals can be used against infection. I sometimes use a few rose petals as a protective covering over a cut or sore. I use an infusion of dried rose flowers as a gargle to relieve sore throat and drink it as a remedy for diarrhea. Honey infused with rose petals is incredibly delicious and a very effective and soothing remedy against sore throats.

Smelling roses makes most of us feel very good. The aroma alone has a therapeutic effect on both women and men. One remarkable thing roses do for men is speed up their sperm motility, thus boosting male fertility. You may have wondered why roses have been offered universally as a symbol of love for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. One reason may be as deep as survival of the species.

Roses encourage procreation. They encourage, nourish and support fertility. Think about all the art you’ve ever seen with roses depicted. They are present as a symbol of health, vitality, sensuality, prosperity, abundance, fruitfulness, fertility and blessedness.

Roses are laid at the feet of the Blessed Mother, even today. In fact, they are called Emblem of Mary. Roses have long been considered a flower sacred to Great Mother; beloved by Isis, one of the flowers of Aphrodite, and said to have sprung from the blood of Venus. One ancient legend tells us that Cupid was responsible for the creation of the rose.

Throughout the ages, the rose has been considered the quintessential expression of love. When Mark Antony visited Cleopatra in her palace, the floors were reportedly covered knee-deep in rose petals. Roses are known the world over as an aphrodisiac. The ancients used both the Damask rose, Rosa damascena, and the Gallic rose, Rosa gallica, in erotic perfumes. R. gallica officinalis is the original apothecary rose, well known and used as medicine throughout Europe during the middle ages.

Roses are renowned for their tonic and regulating effects on female and male reproductive systems. The leaves, leaf bud, flower and fruit (rose hip) of the wild roses, Rosa rugosa, and sweet briar, are rich in phytosterols and bioflavonoids. These phyto-nutrients are especially necessary for us as we age.

Phytosterols act as building blocks for hormones. As long as we are supplying these essential nutrients, our endocrine system is able to do its job of producing the correct balance of hormones for our body, whether it is estrogens or androgens we need. For hormonal help, especially during menopause, I’ve frequently enjoyed infusion, tincture, or honey of rose.

Rose petal infusion relieves menstrual cramping and regular consumption of a simple rose infusion daily can be an effective guard against osteoporosis as roses are strengthening to the bones.

Bioflavonoids are biologically active, brightly colored substances found in plants. The bioflavonoids in roses and their fruits help maintain the health of blood vessels and are favorable to the production of estrogen. They are necessary for the absorption of vitamin C. With a toned and healthy endocrine system, both interest in sex and the enjoyment of it is enhanced.

The Chinese use the flowers of Rosa rugosa which they call mei gui hui, as a chi nourisher and a blood and liver tonic. Blood is the mother of chi, and chi commands blood, which is the essence of life. Healthy, well nourished blood means a healthy body/mind/spirit and good vital energy.

Recipe: A wonderful health building, sex nourishing tonic is a simple rose honey or syrup to which is added a few drops of pure vanilla, ginger, and a tincture of damiana or cinnamon. This elixir is most warming and nourishing, stimulating, energizing, aphrodisiac, and tonic.

Ayurvedic healers consider rose to be cooling and astringent, and so use the flowers to poultice wounds and inflammations. Roses strained out from an infusion can be used to poultice inflamed joints. Use the infusion as a wash over surgical wounds or incisions, or use it as a compress or apply the infused oil.

Rose water effectively eases acne and irritated skin conditions and is wonderful splashed on your face after washing. Roses are esteemed the world over for their nourishing and healing effects on all skin types and are especially kind to aging skin. Roses are a great addition to any kind of face cream, skin lotion, moisturizer, massage oil, after shave, antiseptic spray, or healing salve or balm.

Added to the bath, roses are cooling, refreshing, relaxing, and simply luxuriant. If I have some on hand, a few drops of essential oil of rose is wonderful, but a handful of dried blossoms tied inside a face cloth or piece of cotton muslin and soaked in the tub or basin also works fine. I like to mix sea and Epsom salts with roses and put some of this into a foot bath to relax my feet after working in the garden. It feels so good! I also like combining roses with seaweeds for an extra special body rub or soak.

Infused rose oil, used as a pain easing, nerve soothing, stress relieving, relaxing massage oil, can send the recipient straight to nirvana. Aromatherapists use essential oil of rose to ease anxiety and depression. Rose creates an aroma that is both sensual and relaxing. I like to use a cool poultice of fresh rose petals to help ease a headache, but even just a bit of tincture in a cup of water into which a rag is placed, soaked, wrung out and applied to the forehead will help.

Roses and rose hips possess antiviral properties and help to strengthen immune function, so I regularly add both to most of our winter time teas to help prevent colds and flu. Roses are an excellent, all-around, preventative medicine.

To stay healthy through midlife and beyond, enjoy a strong, fully functioning immune system, protect yourself from heart disease and cancer, and enjoy a mind as sharp as a tack, consider integrating roses and rose hips into your weekly herbal routine.

Rose hips are high in vitamin C, B complex, bioflavonoids, carotenes, vitamin E, and selenium. They also offer abundant chromium, niacin, phosphorus, protein and sodium. These nutrients make rose hips especially nourishing to the brain and help enhance focus, attention, and concentration. All those antioxidants and bioflavonoids help protect us from cancer as well as heart disease.

Rose petals and hips are nourishing to the heart and circulatory system. Try making a cup of rose petal/hip tea a few afternoons a week, or blend some rose petals with oatstraw, hawthorn and lemon balm and drink often to nourish and protect yourself from heart disease, or accumulated stress. Roses and the heart have a long history of working together.

Roses not only nourish our physical heart, but also soothe and heal a broken heart. If you are dealing with the pain of a broken heart, heart wrenching emotional pain, from any source, the pain of divorce, or the break up of a long term relationship, in the midst of menopausal depression, singing the blues, feeling down and out, lost, weary, tired, exhausted and feel you have nowhere to turn, turn to rose.

Rose will soothe your pain, ease your fear, and help restore equilibrium. Anoint your heart area with rose oil often. It encourages awareness of the many manifestations of love and beauty all around us. Keep a potted rose in your home or plant roses around the outside of your house to enhance your ability to love and to share that love in a joyful, open way with others.

Rose glycerite is an incredibly delicious way to enjoy the taste and subtle properties of rose. Glycerin draws out the hormonal precursors, and so a rose glycerite is a wonderful hormonal balancer for both women and men. Try a few droppersful in a quart of cold water.

Making and consuming rose mead is another fun and delicious way of welcoming the spirit of rose into your life. And it’s a great way to take your medicine! Rose flower essence helps us open our wild hearts to love in all its forms, and rose jams, jellies and honeys are fantastic!

I love roses! I gather rose buds and flowers as they appear all summer. When gathering roses, be sure to take only the petals, leaving the center behind to develop into the hip. I tincture fresh rose petals, leaf buds, or hips in alcohol or infuse them in glycerin, oil, or honey. I dry rose flowers and hips on screens and also enjoy stringing rose hips with needle and thread into long strands that we then hang to dry. They look so beautiful hanging in the kitchen, inviting their use.

Fresh or dried rose hips make a nourishing, delicious vinegar. A glycerite of fresh rose blossoms captures and enhances the rose flavor beautifully and a dropperful of rose glyercite in a quart of fresh spring water makes an awesome, delicious, cooling and refreshing drink after working in the garden on a hot summer day.

I find Rosa rugosa very easy to start from seed. I gather rose hips still on the bushes in late winter and break them open, separate the seeds from the pulp, broadcast them on the surface of my starting mix in flats, and gently work the seeds into the top layer of soil with my fingers. It takes two months for rose seeds to germinate in my cool spring conditions.

Seedlings go into a protected bed, placed fairly close together and kept well weeded. In the spring of their second year, they’re ready for a permanent home. They look so beautiful blooming in the garden and around the root cellar. Rugosa hips are big, bright red, and so delicious!

Recipe: Rose Water
Pick rose blossoms on a sunny day when their scent is at its peak. Put into a stainless steel or enamel pot and cover with fresh spring (or distilled) water. Cover and slowly heat to just below a simmer. Turn the heat as low as it will go, and continue heating for about ten minutes tightly covered. Steep overnight. In the morning, strain the beautiful, fragrant rose water off. I add a bit of organic alcohol or witch hazel as a preservative, bottle and keep in a cool dark place. I splash this fabulous rose water over my body to tone and refresh my skin. As a wash it helps heal acne.

Hint: Try rose water in your pound cake recipe, Incredible!

For rose glycerite and rose oil visit our online apothecary at Blessed Maine Herb Farm

May the roses share their beauty, love and joy with you!

About gailfaithedwards

Gail Faith Edwards is an internationally recognized Community Herbalist with over thirty years experience. She is the author of a number of books about herbs and has taught in India, Italy, Poland and Russia, at the Yale School of Nursing, the University of Maine and the College of the Atlantic, among others. She is the founder of Blessed Maine Herb Farm and Director of the Blessed Maine Herb Farm School of Herbal Medicine. She is the mother of four grown children and the grandmother of four grandsons. Gail leads sacred journeys and ancestral pilgrimages to Southern Italia twice a year.
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3 Responses to Roses

  1. Pingback: Roses | Ben Gurglebop

  2. Erin says:

    You’re blog is so wonderfully informative. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us.

  3. cyra says:

    Very detailed and beautifully written post…makes me want to run outside, to sniff and snip a few roses…to appreciate their beauty while I enjoy my tea and scone, with yesteryear’s rose-infused honey:)

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