We are starting a new series of blog posts to highlight some of our botanicals, our most favourite ingredients. Now is a great time to nerd out just a little!
What better way to kick things off than with the mighty rose. Valentine's Day is approaching fast, and our Natural Rose Perfume might just be the perfect treat.
So let's take a deep dive into this beautiful flower!
Family: Rosaceae (Rose Family)
Latin Name: Rosa centifolia
Common Names: Cabbage rose, Provence rose
Parts Used: Flowers, roots, leaves, fruits (rosehips)
Energy & Flavours: Cooling, drying, and slightly constricting. Rose petals have a delicate flavour which is characteristically floral, often described as sweet tasting and reminiscent of green apples and strawberries
Biochemical Constituents: phenylethanol (63%), geranyl acetate, geraniol, linalool, benzyl alcohol, benzaldehyde, nerol and citronellyl acetate
Medicinal Actions: Anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiseptic, mildly sedative, antidepressant, aphrodisiac, and astringent
Medicinal Preparations: Bush bandage, hydrosol, infusions in water and oil, jam, jelly, syrup, tea/tisane
Habitat & Growing Conditions: The birthplace of the cultivated Rose was probably Northern Persia, on the Caspian, or Faristan on the gulf of Persia. Thence it spread across Mesopotamia to Palestine across Asia Minor to Greece. And thus it was that Greek colonists brought it to Southern Italy. (Source) Today, Rose centifolia is commercially grown in Bulgaria, Spain, France, Italy, Turkey, China, Egypt, Morocco, and India. Wild Rose (Rosa acicularis) is nearly circumpolar and grows in North America from Quebec to Alaska, south to New Mexico. It grows abundantly here in the wild in Northern Alberta along riverbanks and woodland clearings, and is the local variety we are most familiar with.
The History of Rose: The word rosa comes from the Greek word rodon (red), and the rose of the Ancients was of a deep crimson colour, which probably suggested the fable of its springing from the blood of Adonis. Romans made lavish use of the blossoms of the Rose at banquets, where they were used as decorations, to strew over floors, and to adorn their Falernian wine. Rose garlands were worn at feasts as a preventative to drunkenness. To them, Rose was a sign of pleasure, and the companion of mirth and wine.
Once the Rose became known to other nations, it was not only the theme of poets, but gave rise to many legends as well. Homer's allusions to it in the Iliad and Odyssey are the earliest records, and Sappho, the Greek poetess, writing about 600 B.C., selects the Rose as the Queen of Flowers (Source). Flowering plants first appeared some 100 million years ago, and the Rose is said to have evolved between 35 and 70 million years ago, existing before the dinosaurs perished. Images of Wild Roses have been found in the ancient Pyramids of Egypt.
Medicinal Uses: Rose petals can be applied to wounds and bug bites when out in the bush and in need of a "bush bandage". Due to the nature of rose being anti-inflammatory and cooling in nature, it can stop inflammation and take the heat out of wounds.
Similarly, on a hot day, drinking rose petal tea will keep you hydrated while also giving the body energy to better combat the heat. Cooled tea from rose petals can be used as an eyewash when eyes feel irritated. (Source: The Boreal Herbal by Beverley Gray).
Rosa centifolia has also been used in the management of inflammatory conditions including arthritis, cough, asthma, bronchitis, wounds, and ulcers. It has been used for the treatment of joint pain and rheumatoid arthritis (Source). According to WebMD, one study even showed that the anti-inflammatory activity found in rose powder was equal to that found in aspirin and ibuprofen. More studies are needed to prove the potential of roses as medicine for inflammatory conditions like these.
Regardless of whether the medicinal uses of rose are "proven" by science, rose petals have been added to herbal teas for both their aesthetic appeal and medicinal value by various cultures for thousands of years. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, rose tea is used for ailments such as stomach and digestive complaints, fatigue and improving sleep, irritability and mood swings, as well as menstrual cramps and menopausal symptoms (hence why we add it to our Red Death Tea!).
Research studies have been conducted on the health benefits of drinking rose tea, indicating that high amounts of Vitamin C are present, which can boost the immune system. A powerful group of antioxidants known as Polyphenols are present in rose tea as well, which have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and cognitive diseases. Lastly, when making that cup of rose tea, don't forget to stop and inhale the aroma before drinking as research shows it may reduce stress and anxiety.
Food Uses: The flowers and fruits (known as rosehips) are most commonly used, but the leaves, peeled thorny stems, and roots can be used as well. The flowers can be added to salads or adorned on top of cakes for beauty and nutrition. Rose petal jelly is a delectable treat and can be made with freshly picked petals in the summer or from dried rose petals when out of season.
I have made delicious pink rose sugar by blending rose petals with sugar in a coffee grinder and using the results in special baking projects or fancy cups of tea. Rose syrup is also delicious in cocktails, mocktails, and sparkly water. If you are feeling inspired to bake with rose petals, look no further than the British Columbian blogger Gather Victoria, who has a plethora of delicious rose-inspired treats such as rose brownies, rose petal pesto, rose cupcakes, rose pannacotta, and so much more! Rose water is also used in many recipes, especially sweet treats, in Middle Eastern, Chinese, and Indian culture. Click here for a good article by Taste of Home on using rose water in recipes.
Cosmetic Uses: Rose petals have a humectant effect on the skin, which means that they help to draw moisture from the environment onto and into the skin. This makes rose an excellent choice for dry, dehydrated, dull, and mature skin types. Rosewater (also known as Rose hydrosol) has been a classic beauty treatment for thousands of years, and for good reason! It can balance sebum (oil) production, reduce skin redness and puffiness, tighten pores, restore the skin's pH, fight acne, and assist various forms of troubled skin with it's gentle, antibacterial properties.
Just be wary that not all rosewater on the market is worthy of your purchase, and you must read the ingredient list to determine this. True rosewater is made by distilling rose petals and is simply made of roses and water. No more, no less. Some companies bypass the distillation process by simply mixing rose essential oil with distilled water to achieve a rose aroma, but then must add emulsifiers (like Polysorbate) to mix the oil and water together. Furthermore, preservatives are added to deem the product safe and extend the shelf life. It is my opinion that the use of these chemicals counteract the nurturing and beautifying qualities of pure rosewater.
A cleansing and astringent rose face toner can be made at home simply by infusing rose petals into apple cider vinegar, vodka, or witch hazel for a few weeks. Strain and apply to skin with a cotton pad. Don't expect a rose aroma, but you can expect that the therapeutic benefits of the roses have transferred into your liquid of choice. Rose petals can be strewn in a hot bath, foot bath, or used as a beautifying face steam. Similar to creating your own rose-infused face toner as described above, you can also infuse the petals into your preferred oil of choice for a few weeks, and once strained, use that infused oil for massages or the base of other body care products like creams, salves, lotions, etc. And of course, rose essential oil is the ultimate luxury for those willing to part with a few hundred dollars for a 15ml bottle!
Products We Make Featuring Rose Petals: Our very popular Red Death Tea is designed with roses and various herbs to help ease menstrual woes, while our aphrodisiac-inspired Love Potion Tea would not be complete without the addition of rose petals (amongst other classic aphrodisiac herbs). Our best selling Diaper Salve gets an extra dose of healing powers from infusing organic extra virgin olive oil into various herbs (like rose petals!) before using in this famous recipe. Mermaid Sands Cleansing Grains feature finely ground rose petals to exfoliate and nourish the skin, while our exfoliating Sugar Body Polish and Bath Salts have the addition of roses simply to make them beautiful! We also make Natural Rose Perfume for the true rose aficionado.
Safety Class: 1 (No known warnings, precautions or contraindications) (Source: Botanical Safety Handbook Second Edition by American Herbal Products Association)
Interaction Class: A (No known drug interactions) (Source: Botanical Safety Handbook Second Edition by American Herbal Products Association)
Pregnancy and Lactation: No information on the safety of Rosa species in pregnancy or lactation was identified in the scientific or traditional literature. Although this review did not identify any concerns for use while pregnant or nursing, safety has not been conclusively established. (Source: Botanical Safety Handbook Second Edition by American Herbal Products Association)
Sources: The Modern Herbal Dispensatory by Thomas Easley and Steven Horne, Botanical Safety Handbook Second Edition by American Herbal Products Association, A Modern Herbal by Mrs. M. Grieves, The Boreal Herbal by Beverley Gray.