Medicinal and Magical Properties of “The Rose”
Written and Edited By Charlie Farricielli
Wild roses of many species (Oginiminaga wunj rose berries, in Ojibwe) are abundant on the western prairies, especially when water is anywhere nearby. They like sun. The ones I’ve seen in North and South Dakota all have pinkish blossoms, like this drawing, but I’ve heard there ar white, yellowish, and pale reddish-brown ones also. These roses, blossoming on thorny briar tangles, flower through June and begin to set their haws, hips or berries, which are ripe by early fall.
Rose hips have been an important food for all Native tribes where any kind of roses can be found. They are extremely high in vitamin C, much more so than oranges, for example. Dried, they keep well, and will always be available in winter. Most health food co-ops sell them (for $25/lb or so, another economic opportunity for tribal youth in late summers).
Dried rose hips need to be boiled about 10 minutes to make a tea of them; just pouring hot water over them results in a fairly tasteless brew. Use 2 tablespoons per pint of water, boil covered. The hips must expand, split, and let the water get at the soft seeds within. The resulting tea may be pinkish, depending on the type of roses whose berries are used. The hot tea is acid-tasting, but not as sharp as lemon juice. Some like it sweetened. A half-teaspoon of dried mint may be added to give it a different flavor. Purchased rosehips for tea you’ll find only the hardened dried shell of the berry. Boil that 15 minutes for your tea.
Native women didn’t brew a tea and throw away the cooked berries. These were used in soups and stews. The “leftovers” cooked out in a largish batch of rose-hip tea (the berries expand a lot) are a good dinner vegetable, with butter and salt. There is still a lot of remaining food value in the cooked berries. At $25/lb who wants to throw them away?
During World War II, when the government urged householders to grow food in victory gardens as part of the war effort, rose hips were stressed as a high-C food. At that time, there were plenty of recipes around for eating the actual berries, as “dinner vegetables” and as various kinds of preserves and jams. But they have gone out of fashion now, and the government would prefer you to buy ascorbic acid, for the quite inadequate C that it states as minimum daily requirement. (The body uses or excretes vitamin C; it is not stored. It is water-soluble, and no harm is done by “overdosing” if there is such a thing. All kinds of stresses appareently increase the need. Mega-amounts seem to promote good health and fight many diseases and effects of aging in a great variety of ways.)
It is now known that rose hips contain biologically valuable bioflavinoids. Citrus fruits — usually cited as the best natural source of vitamin C — have them too, but in the bitter white under-peel that is usually not eaten. Of course, you can buy bioflavinoid pills. A curious thing — when I was reading and researching for these plant pages, I looked at both “balanced nutritious meals, not pills” nutritionists’ books and at books by the kind of dieticians who want you to swallow $100-worth of vitamin and mineral diet supplements every day. Both types give long (meals) or short (pills) food lists for foods that are good sources for various dietary requirements. Nobody mentioned rose hips.
Yet they are quite popular among yuppie health co-op food buyers. By hanging around the big herb area at the neighborhood co-op I belong to and questioning people, I found that rose hips among these people are used only for tea — no one considered eating the berries! They were quite surprised when I mentioned it could be done.
Recently, I pulled the following table from the powerful AGIS ethnobotanical database of Native traditional plant food phytochemicals. It’s a chemical analysis, and doesn’t directly compare with USDA food nutrient analyses — no real way to compare the parts-peer-million reported with minimum daily requirements of vitamins and minerals in a certain amount of rose hip tea or cooked rose hips. Too, I think the analysis is old. The table generator does not pull a great manu minerals and compounds that nutritionists have found are important — and that are retrieved for other plants in this database.
What the table below shows is that rosehips are extremely high in vitamin C (ascorbic acid), have some beta carotene (plant form of Vitamin A), bioflavinoids, and considerable pectin — soluble form of fiber, which helps to prevent intestinal cancers. lowers saturated fats and triglycerides, helps to control blood pressure and good for the heart. But this table does not state the biochemical analysis in a way that is readily translatable into human nutrition. Disappointingly, it appears the fantastic phytochemicals database has been prepared more with the needs of the medical/chemical industry — looking for new sources for salable drugs and food supplements — in mind than of people (such as Native groups) interested in these plants for non-technical practical uses.
Phytochemicals of Rosa spp
Chemical Part Low (ppm) High (ppm) ASCORBIC-ACID Fruit 1,000 12,500 CAROTENOIDS Fruit 100 500 CATECHINS Fruit 8,000 9,100 CITRIC-ACID Fruit FLAVONOIDS Fruit 100 3,500 FRUCTOSE Fruit GLUCOSE Fruit ISOQUERCITRIN Fruit LEUCOANTHOCYANINS Fruit 13,500 17,500 MALIC-ACID Fruit PECTINS Fruit 34,000 46,000 POLYPHENOLS Fruit 20,200 26,400 QUERCETIN Fruit RIBOFLAVIN Fruit SUCROSE Fruit TILIROSIDE Fruit
More Studies and Properties of the Magical Rose Hip
The rose has always been valued for its beauty and fragrance. Cultivated for thousands of years, roses are an ancient symbol of love and beauty. The ancient Greeks and Romans identified the rose with their goddesses of love, Aphrodite and Venus. Today, pink and red roses are commonly given as expressions of love and admiration. Rose cultivation took off in Europe in the 1800’s with the introduction of roses from China that had an amazing ability to bloom repeatedly throughout the summer and into late autumn. Rose bushes have become one of the most popular garden shrubs bearing flowers in a variety of colors -red, white, pink, yellow, orange, and burgundy. Currently, there are thousands of rose varieties and hybrids that have been developed for their bloom shape and color, size, fragrance, and some even for their lack of thorns.
Since earliest times roses were important in hand lotions, cosmetics, and perfumes. Today, almost all women’s perfumes and 40 percent of men’s fragrances contain rose oil. Rose perfumes are made by steam-distilling the crushed rose petals. About 60,000 flowers are required to produce 30 grams (1 oz) of rose oil, a yellowish-grey liquid. Damask roses are typically used, and the main fragrant constituents of rose oil are the terpenoids, geraniol and citronellol. Today, about 70 to 80% of rose oil comes from Bulgaria, while the balance is mainly from Iran and Germany.
In the perfume industry in France, the variety of rose used is Rosa. x centifolia. The oil is popular in aromatherapy and is said to have mild sedative activity and is used to treat anxiety and depression. Rose oil also predominates in the anointing oil used in the coronation of British monarchs. Rose water, made from rose oil, is used to flavor candy, desserts, and syrups, and is also used to treat eye irritations.
In addition to producing oil, rose petals are commonly used in potpourris, and can be added to salads, jellies and jams. The dried petals of the rose varieties, Rosa gallica and R. x centifolia, which are rich in astringent tannins, are used in mouth rinses to treat mild inflammations.
Rose hips are the berry-like fruits of the rose bush left behind after the bloom has died. They are typically red or orange, but may also be dark purple to black in some species. Although nearly all rose bushes produce rose hips, the tastiest for eating purposes come from the Rugusa Rose. Rose hips have a tangy, fruity flavor similar to that of cranberries. The fruits are best harvested after the first frost, which makes them turn bright red and slightly soft.
There are many culinary uses for rose hips. They can be used fresh, dried, or preserved. Rose hips can be used in apple sauce, soups and stews, syrups, puddings, marmalade, tarts, breads, and pie, or made into a jam or jelly. Each hip comprises an outer fleshy layer which may contain up to 150 seeds embedded in a matrix of fine hairs. The irritating hairs should be removed before using the rose hips in a recipe.
Rich in Vitamin C
Rose hips of some species, especially the Dog Rose (Rosa canina) and Rugosa Rose (Rosa rugosa), are a rich source of vitamin C. With one to two percent vitamin C, by dry weight, rose hips have a higher content than citrus fruit. During World War II when imports of citrus products to Great Britain were limited, tons of rose hips were harvested there from the wild to make rose hip syrup as a vitamin C supplement for children.
In addition to their culinary uses, roses were also valued for their medicinal properties. In AD 77 the Roman writer Pliny recorded 32 disorders that responded to treatment with rose preparations. Medieval herbals contained many entries that tell of the restorative properties of rose preparations.
The anti-inflammatory properties of rose hips have recently been shown to be useful in the treatment of patients suffering from knee or hip osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease affecting over 20 million Americans. It is characterized by the breakdown of cartilage in the joint, allowing bones to rub against each other, causing pain and loss of movement.
Scientists in Denmark reported that patients who daily consumed standardized rose hip powder (made from dog rose) experienced significantly less joint stiffness and pain, and an improved general well-being and mood after 3 to 4 months of treatment. The use of rose hip powder also enabled the patients to considerably reduce their standard pain medication. Rosehips contain high levels of antioxidant flavonoids with known anti-inflammatory properties.
Rose hips also contain carotenoid pigments, plant sterols, tocotrienols and a very high level of anthocyanins, catechins and other polyphenolics, known phytochemicals to protect against cancer and cardiovascular disease (CVD). They also contain up to 5 % by weight of pectin, a soluble fiber that protects against CVD. In clinical trials, rose hips were seen to reduce C-reactive protein levels, associated with a lower risk of CVD.
The rose hips of Dog Rose are a traditional diuretic and laxative. The rose hips are useful in the treatment of influenza-like infections, diarrhea, and various urinary tract disorders. No side effects are known when rose hips are used in the normal designated amounts.
Rosehips are also commonly used to make herbal teas, by boiling the dried or crushed rose hips for10 minutes. About 2 tablespoons of berries are used per pint of water. A half-teaspoon of dried mint may be added to give a different flavor, or the acid-tasting tea may be sweetened. Rose hip tea may also be improved by blending with hibiscus flowers.
The rose hips or fruits of different species of the rose plant have always had a significant place in natural medicine, as they are very rich in vitamin C content. The color of these rose hips varies from dark red to bright scarlet and their shapes differ too. While some of the rose hips may be ovoid in appearance, there are others that are pear-shaped. Basically, the rose hips are collected from the variety of rose plant called the dog rose or Rosa canina. However, herbalists prefer the larger rose hips of the Japanese rose called R. rugosa. Even other varieties of the rose plant, including R acicularis as well as R. cinnamomea, are also valued greatly. Incidentally, all these different varieties of rose plants belong to the Rosaceae family.
As mentioned earlier, the rose hips or the fruits of the different varieties of the rose plants enclose high quantity of vitamin C and hence are of great value to the practitioners of herbal medicine. In fact, the rose hips are used to prepare teas, purees, extracts, marmalades and even soups and all these are consumed as nourishments as they contain lots of vitamin C. Extracts from the rose hips are generally included in several natural vitamin mixtures like tablets, capsules, syrups and many other similar things. Interestingly, manufacturers of most such vitamin amalgams are always careful about never mentioning the proportion of vitamin obtained from rose hips and from artificial ascorbic acid. The rose hips are known to possess properties that help in preventing as well as healing scurvy (a disease caused by vitamin deficiency). In addition, the rose hips also have gentle laxative and diuretic effects which help in the movement of bowels and increasing the urine outflow from the body respectively.
Chemical analysis of the rose hips has shown that they contain 0.5 to 1.7 per cent vitamin C. However, the real content of vitamin C in the commercially available dried rose fruits varies depending on the accurate botanical source of the plant from which the rose hips have been acquired. For instance, the quantity of vitamin C present in these commercially available dried rose hips is influenced by factors like the place where the rose plant was grown, the time of harvesting the rose hips, the manner in which the fruits were dried, where and how the dehydrated rose hips were stored and other things like these. It has been often found that many commercial varieties of the rose plant material contain little or no traces of vitamin C at all. Even though we may take it for granted that the commercial varieties of the rose hips available in the market possess approximately one per cent of vitamin C on an average and the entire vitamin is available in the end product, at least one proposal does not seem to be convincing. As the present cost of vitamin C acquired from the rose hips is at least 25 times more than the artificial product, it is not feasible for the manufacturers to add enough of the natural substance in their products.
In addition to substantial proportions of vitamin C, the rose hips possess several other chemical amalgams which comprise 11 per cent of pectin and three per cent of a blend of malic and citric acids. Researchers are of the view that the presence of malic acid and citric acid contributes to the rose hips’ laxative and diuretic effects. As a consequence, physicians frequently recommend the use of rose hips or preparations with it to treat constipation and urinary problems.
Over the centuries, gardeners across the globe have admired and loved the rose flowers that are undoubtedly elegant as well as aromatic. At the same time, the gardeners have also held the hips or the fruits of the rose plant in high esteem for its numerous medicinal benefits. The rose hips vary from oval to round to pear-shape in appearance and they appear either in the latter part of summer or during the fall. Interestingly, in reality, the rose hips are not fruits, but receptacles or containers that enclose the actual fruits of the rose plant. The actual rose fruit is known as ‘seeds’ or ‘achenes’.
Long ago, people thought the rose hips to be sacred. This is corroborated from the fact that during the middle Ages, the rosary of the Catholics was made from rose hips and hence they were called rosary. These rosaries were used to count the prayers as they were also being said. Even today, the beads of the rosary used by the Catholics resemble the rose hips and like the fruits of different species of the rose plant, these modern-day beads are also smooth and elongated in appearance.
Here is an important point to note. Compared to the hybrids, it is generally easier to take care of the different original species of the rose plant. In addition, the original species of the rose also generate more tender and fleshy hips that are best for consumption. If you intend to use the rose for culinary as well as decorative purposes, you should go for the original species of the rose and cultivate them in your garden. On the other hand, if you fancy the climbing variety of the rose and also want them to fruit generously, never ever trim or prune the plants soon after their blossoming season in summer.
It may be mentioned here that if not harvested, the rose hips generally remain on the plant all through the early part of the winter or till the birds, rabbits and field rodents have either eaten them up or stored them somewhere for future use. Owing to the high intensity of ascorbic acid present in them, the rose hips stimulating tart taste that is very much fruit-like. In fact, fresh rose hips enclose as much as 60 times the quantity of vitamin C contained in the oranges and the rugosa roses. The rugosa rose bears comparatively large round shaped fruits and are known to contain rich proportions of vitamin C.
In addition to being a beautiful and aromatic flower, the rose is also beneficial as remedies for several disorders. The leaves as well as the petals of the rose plant provide a comforting effect and if ingested as a tea, can diminish body temperature during high fevers. The tea prepared with rose petals and leaves is also effective in cleansing toxins and heat from the body, particularly when they give rise to rashes on the skin and inflammatory (swelling and irritation) problems. Several researched have shown that the rose also possesses properties that increases the body’s immunity and helps to restrict all kinds of infections from becoming larger problems. This is possible owing to the rose’s cleansing or purification properties.
Infusion prepared with rose petals may be used to alleviate cold and flu symptoms. At the same time, the infusion is effective in treating sore throats, runny nose as well as congested bronchial tracts. On the other hand, infusion or syrup prepared with rose hips is beneficial in reinforcing the lungs to combat all kinds of infections and is especially useful for those who suffer from chest problems. At the same time, roses are also effective in combating infections in the digestive system and restoring the normal and essential bacteria in the intestines. The petals and seeds of the rose have a diuretic effect and are beneficial in relieving excessive fluids from the urinary bladder. This way, they also help in getting rid of the waste and toxic substances in the body through the kidneys. Hence, rose is also considered to be an effective cleanser and purifier.
Like the rose hips, the petals of the rose flowers also have numerous remedial uses. For instance, the rose petals are effective in relieving congestion in the female reproductive system. In addition, the rose petals may also be used to treat the excessive accumulation of fluid in the urinary tract and thereby alleviate pains and, in women, heavy periods. Physicians also recommend the use of rose petals to treat erratic menstrual periods, infertility as well as to perk up sexual desire in individuals.
Infusion prepared from the rose petals acts as a useful astringent and is effective for treating diarrhea, enteritis and dysentery. It may be noted here that tea prepared from rose petals may be used as a laxative to clear bowel movement. At the same time, the rose petal tea is also an effective medication for the liver and enhances flow of bile, invigorates as well as purifies the liver and the gallbladder. It also helps in alleviating problems related with lethargic liver like headaches and constipation.
Rose hips as well as the petals of the rose flowers possess inspiring as well as reconditioning affects on the nervous system. They are also capable of alleviating the problems of insomnia, do away with depression, drive out fatigue and also offer comfort in conditions such as tetchiness.
Different parts of the rose plant are useful for different purposes and hence they have different applications. The rose hips or fruits of the rose plant, flowers and even the petals are beneficial in some way or the other and used by people as tincture, syrup, essential oil, cream, lotion, rosewater, massage oil, gargle and decoction.
Rose hips – R. canina:
The rose hips (R.canina) or the fruits of the plant are used as tincture as well as syrup to treat different ailments.
TINCTURE: The tincture prepared from rose hips (R. canina) are ingested as an astringent (a medicine the draws affected tissues closer) to treat diarrhea, alleviate colic or stomach pains and is also blended with cough medicines.
SYRUP: The syrup prepared from the rose hips (R. canina) is used to provide flavor to other medicines, mostly the bitter and bland ones. The syrup is also blended in cough mixtures or may be ingested as a rich source of vitamin C.
Rose hips – R. laevigata:
Medications prepared with rose hips (R. laevigata) are normally ingested to treat stomach disorders. They may be applied as decoction.
DECOCTION: A decoction prepared with rose hips (R. laevigata) may be blended with other herbs like dang shen, bai zhu and Shan Yao and ingested to treat insistent diarrhea that is accompanied with stomach flaw.
Essential oil – R. centifolia / R. damascena:
The essential oil (R. centifolia / R. damascene) extracted from the rose hips or the fruits of the rose plant are basically beneficial to treat skin and stomach conditions. This oil is normally used externally and applied as a cream, lotion, oil and massage oil.
CREAM: A few drops of the oil extracted from rose hips may be added to creams to heal parched or irritating skin.
LOTION: One ml of the tincture prepared with another herb lady’s mantle may be blended with 10 ml of rosewater to treat itching in the vagina. Use the same blend to prepare a cream by following a standard base. Blend the rosewater with equivalent proportion of purified witch hazel and use it as a comforting and moisturizing lotion to treat skin that is inclined to be affected by pimples or acne.
OIL: Bathe with water containing two drops of the oil extracted from the rose hips to get relief from depression or melancholy, grief and/ or insomnia.
MASSAGE OIL: To avail relief from anxiety and fatigue add approximately two ml of rose oil to 20 ml of almond or wheat germ oil and massage the same on the forehead and other parts of the body. The same blend may be used to alleviate lethargic digestion.
Flowers – R. rugosa:
The rose flowers (R. rugosa) are helpful for treating menstrual and liver disorders and may be ingested as a decoction.
DECOCTION: A decoction prepared with rose flowers (R. rugosa) may be blended with another herb motherwort and ingested for treating heavy menstruation. On the other hand, when the decoction is blended with herbs like bai shao yao and xiang fu, it provides an effective medication for liver dysfunction.
Petals – R. gallica:
The petals of the rose flower (R. gallica) are beneficial in treating menstruation and stomach disorders. A tincture prepared with them may be used as a gargle for throat infections.
TINCTURE: Ingesting approximately three ml of a tincture prepared with rose petals thrice daily is helpful in treating diarrhea as well as sluggish absorption of food. When the same tincture is blended with other herbs like the lady’s mantle, white deadnettle or shepherd’s purse, the medication is effectual for treating erratic or intense menstruation.
GARGLE: When the tincture prepared with rose petals is diluted with warm water, it may be used as a gargle to heal aching throats. The tincture may also be blended with another herb sage for similar application.
• 4 cups bone-dry rose petals
• 2 cups dried rose leaves
• 2 Tbs. ground cinnamon
• 3 cups dried lavender buds
• 1/3 cup orris root powder
• 2 Tbs. ground all-spice
• 1/4 cup ground cloves
• 2 ground tonka beans
• 6 drops oil of roses
• 3 drops oil of lavender
Combine all the dry ingredients, mix well, and add the oils, a drop at a time, mixing as you work. Seal into a jar, and cure for 6 weeks in a dry, dark, warm place that is well ventilated. Shake the jar daily. When cured, turn the potpourri into a decorative container with a tightly stopper lid. Open only when the potpourri is in use.
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