Rosa damascena - common pink petals grown for commercial production
Rosa canina - also called the dog rose or wild rose, used commercially for hips
Rosa californica - Nevada County wild rose, bioregional native
And more than 150 other species....
Rose ~ the botanical icon of the heart
Fossil records of Rose species date back to 35 million years ago. As civilization has grown, Roses have grown with it. The agriculture of Roses began about 5,000 years ago. While all of agriculture is roughly 10,000 years old, Roses have been cultivated for half of farming’s existence. Roses are associated with the height of emotional states, both cultural and personal. They represent historical archetypes of love, beauty, politics, and war.
As a botanical icon of the heart, Rose speaks to the wounds that live at the core of human experience. This deep seeded connection with Rose brings its medicinal applications into the very ‘heart of the matter’. Rose can heal wounds that reside on the surface of the skin, in the pit of our stomach, or in the fabric of our psyche. Roses are not purely soft, fluffy and fragrant. Rose thorns are meant to be sharp and protect when needed. Ultimately, they serve to strengthen the integrity of boundaries and invite us to intimacy within.
Rose as Medicine
The medical properties of Rose address nervousness, anxiety, anger, depression and emotional exhaustion. These are wounds of the heart as much as they are of the mind for their roots are in the nervous system. Rose helps us to create a safe container for our emotional states that allow for expression of vulnerability and the establishment of boundaries. I often reach to a preparation of rose tincture to address these kinds of mental states. A few drops are often enough to relieve nervous tension and regain a sense of center allowing one to feel supported and held by a container of safe space.
“When the heart is not healthy, the entire system is diseased.”
~ an aphorism of Unani medicine
The medicinal parts of the Rose are far from limited to the use of petals. The same aromatic and astringent properties are also contained in the leaves and whole flowers. After stripping Rose petals from the flower-heads, you can still smell the powerful fragrance of Roses in the empty receptacles. Also, there is the Rosehip, which is known for providing vitamin C and antioxidants. They are ideal as a tea, a powder, or made in to jam. The hips can only be gathered after the flower has been allowed to mature on the shrub. Every flower picked is one less fruit, or hip. I always add Rosehips to herbal formulas for people who are undernourished.
Botany Note: Occasionally one will come across uses for ‘rose root’ in herbal literature. This has no association with roses in the Rosa genera…
“Rose root is an adaptogen. Have you heard about the Finnish lady who, after hearing all the hype about rose root, went and dug up her roses? The tea wasn't very tasty, and she didn't feel at all more alert on it...But no, rose root is not the root of roses. It's related to the Sedums, and in fact, it used to be Sedum roseum. Its current name is Rhodiola rosea.”
- Henriette Kress, Henriette’s Herbal Homepage blog 30 September, 2005
Roses strongly correspond to retaining the fluids of the body. Rose is particularly helpful when things are leaky, such as excess blood loss, frequent urination, or profuse sweating. When constitutions or symptoms are too hot, irritated or infected rose is applicable. Rose is a wonderful blood tonic for the anxious type. It can relax one from nervous exhaustion and relieve signs of blood deficiency including vertigo. Rose is also very helpful in digestive formulas for treating leaky gut.
Much of the time we find this property as drying, but this is not always the case. As with Rose this astringent property helps to retain moisture. Reducing a loss of fluids is useful for damming up leaky things.
Roses are greatly known for their use in midwifery to reduce an unnecessary bleeding that can happen in postpartum. When menstruation flow is too heavy and results in fatigue and throbbing headaches Rose comes to the rescue quite nicely. Never underestimate rose in uses of wound care.
“A tea, made strong of these dried buds, and some of them given with it twice a day in powder, is an excellent medicine for overflowings of the menses”
– The Family Herbal, 1812, John Hill
I find it interesting that roses begin their blooming cycle just as the season turns toward summer and the weather starts to get hot. Rose energetics lower the thermostat in heated conditions, and even in normal ones. I particularly love using roses in states of summer dehydration and the inability to cope with hot weather: mix Rose with demulcent herbs and add splashes to drinking water.
As it is, Roses are cooling and astringent without being overly dry. This allows for Rose to sooth tissues not just by reducing temperature of a condition but in that holding of moisture within the affected tissues. It is in this way that roses are so fabulous for burns and assist with the fighting of infection. Roses can easily be considered vulnerary, which means for the healing of wounds.
Overly distraught emotional states can be gently alleviated with Rose. When tears continue to flow past their usefulness and you are just crying yourself into a state of emotionally raw physical exhaustion, then it is time for Rose. When tempers run high, or when vital force seems too low, Rose is the perfect remedy. Recent studies have indicated that both blood pressure and heart rate can decrease when a subject comes in contact with natural Rose fragrance.
Rose is probably best known as an ingredient in skin care, which is documented as far back as ancient Egypt 3500 BC. Rose water has been used for the skin for centuries by cultures all over the world. The Romans were one of the first to extensively document the medicinal and cosmetic effects of Rose water, much of which has been proved by science today. The Romans discovered that Rose water was an excellent moisturizer that kept skin soft and smooth, it reduced redness and inflammation, and helped with wound healing and skin rashes. Fresh or powdered Roses make and excellent poultice or compress for rashes. Apply to irritated and inflamed skin conditions that feel hot or burn such as diaper rash, eczema, dermatitis and hives. For poison oak or ivy, it is best to remove the oils of the poison oak/ivy by washing with soap before applying a topical Rose remedy to the rash.